It’s hard enough getting older without the prospect of doing it alone. Human connections — from small talk at the checkout to time spent with loved ones — make toughing out another Maine winter more bearable.
But isolation is a problem for many seniors. Rural Maine is an especially hard place to live if you no longer drive. It’s not an easy place to walk either this time a year. Ice-covered sidewalks and parking lots pose serious fall risks. Loneliness and depression are natural consequences of being virtually trapped inside.
In Hancock County, at least 13 municipalities have made the commitment to making their communities a better place to live for all ages. Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Bucksport, Castine, Deer Isle, Ellsworth, Penobscot, Sedgwick, Stonington, Sullivan and Surry have all become part of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The state has also joined.
Fulfilling that commitment to being “age-friendly” will take the coordinated effort of local and state government, nonprofit agencies and individuals. One such effort is the Neighbor4neighbor Fund offered by Healthy Acadia. The program offers mini grants of up to $500 for seniors in Hancock and Washington counties who are facing unexpected expenses such as the need for dentures, medical equipment or emergency household repairs.
The program’s philosophy is that a small sum can make a large impact in someone’s life. So can a small act. Mainers have a long history of looking out for their neighbors. Helping shovel an older neighbor’s porch, salt the driveway or just checking in once in a while can make a difference.
It’s nice to see so many Maine communities taking action on behalf of their aging residents. Residents should support and build on these efforts, and other communities should emulate them.