Senior task force floated

BAR HARBOR — A group working to support senior citizens got a boost last week when the Town Council agreed to consider forming a task force to work on issues facing seniors.

Resident Bonnie Lundquist of the group “Aging in Place Bar Harbor” presented a request to councilors to consider forming a committee addressing the needs of resident seniors. She said an official committee or task force recognized by the town would help the group qualify for grants and other support.

They hope to do a community survey based on a model from AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) of “Age-Friendly Communities.” The survey and focus groups would identify needs which the group could then address.

“Keeping our seniors in Bar Harbor is vital to our community and our economy,” Lundquist wrote in a memo to the council. “Goals of the committee would be to identify, discuss and recommend actions … to help senior citizens live easily and comfortably in Bar Harbor as they age.”

Half of the population of the town is 55 and older, she said at the meeting. A growing number are over 70. “11 percent of Bar Harbor seniors over 65 are below the poverty level. The other 89 percent of us can pay for what we want and need, but it needs to be made available.”

She hopes the group can involve more senior citizens in work that affects them, she said.

The difference between a standing town committee and a task force, Town Manager Cornell Knight said, is that creating a committee requires an ordinance change. The council may appoint a task force.

“In the past, we’ve started with a task force and turned it into a standing committee later, if needed,” council Chair Paul Paradis said.

Earlier this month, councilors voted 5-1 to direct Knight to work with Lundquist to develop bylaws for a new task force. The council is set to vote on the proposed bylaws within 60 days.

Councilor Clark Stivers dissented. “AARP is not a government entity; they’re a lobbying organization,” he said. “I’m not sure a standing committee within the municipal government is the place for AARP.”

Lundquist responded that the advocacy organization provides grant funding and “mentoring,” but does not exert control over local groups.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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