Age-friendly communities in spotlight


Lori Parham will be at the Jesup Memorial Library on Oct. 30. She will lead a discussion about the Village Concept alternative to institutional care for the elderly. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JESUP

BAR HARBOR — The economic and social benefits of creating age-friendly communities where people feel comfortable staying in their homes as they get older will be the focus of a presentation this week.

Maine AARP executive director Lori Parham will share her group’s “village concept” and ideas for implementing it in Bar Harbor when she speaks at the Jesup Memorial Library on Oct. 30. The event begins at 7 p.m.

“There are a lot of conversations going on now about the future of Maine and the need to bring young people to Maine, but what we also need is a safety net to care for older people,” Parham said. “So we are looking at how we build our towns so that they are places that people want to stay and places people want to come.”

Parham, who owns a home on MDI and plans to retire here herself, said that implementing the village concept in towns such as Bar Harbor is not so much about remaking the wheel as finding a way to complement and grow existing services.

“There are a lot of folks doing this work. But it’s how we make sure that all of the resources are coordinated and that individuals know that these resources exist that is the challenge. To do this, the village concept engages younger people and older people,” Parham said. “We’re really not thinking of it just as an issue for people that are home bound.”

AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities, which launched in 2012, is affiliated with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. The WHO program has gathered over 500 participating communities from around the world since it began in 2006.

“The Age-Friendly Communities program provides a framework in which to engage local officials and other stakeholders in the discussion about how to prepare for an aging population,” according to AARP materials.

The village concept is focused on creating communities where people can stay in their homes as they grow older without sacrificing the care and services that might be available in a nursing facility. This includes access to home-health services, wellness programs, transportation, social and cultural events and safe recreational facilities.

Creating such communities can have vast social and economic benefits, Parham said.

“It’s good for local economies because people are there. And it’s good for the state because most middle-income people end up spending their assets and relying on Medicaid for long term care. And that gets very expensive,” Parham said.

A group in Southwest Harbor, where Parham spoke earlier this year, is working on developing a village concept model for their town. In Bar Harbor, Bonnie Lundquist is planning a similar group. She plans to use Parham’s talk as the jumping off point for establishing a village concept steering committee.

Parham said her talk will focus on options for Bar Harbor while also looking at the full scope of resources available across the island, and ways that these might be shared in the future.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

Latest posts by Robert Levin (see all)