Age-Friendly communities of the lower Kennebec
Regional Survey Response
WHEN DID YOU ORGANIZE AS A REGIONAL APPROACH?
From the beginning. After public events on numerous topics including social isolation and loneliness Ruth Lawson-Stopps brought together community stakeholders to form a steering committee, United Way, Sheriff, City Council, SEARCH, Bath Housing, Town (1) Select Board Member, and residents.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TAKE A REGIONAL APPROACH?
The events at the Patten Free Library attracted participants from all six towns. The City of Bath is the hub for the five surrounding towns. The communities have a mutual aid system for emergency services. We knew that vulnerable residents were spread out, not solely in one community. Since every community has similar challenges, it makes sense to work together.
HOW MANY MUNICIPALITIES ARE INCLUDED IN YOUR REGIONAL APPROACH?
PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR REGION
Our age-friendly efforts evolved within the framework of our deeply connected communities. They differ in size and geographic location, access to local services and resources, population size, population density, and residents' ages. Each municipality has a fire department with all but Bath a volunteer department, who work together in a mutual aid emergency system. Some communities have general stores, amenities like eating places, community centers, libraries and walking trails, supermarkets, medical services, or schools, and others just have a town hall as their only meeting place. The City of Bath on the Kennebec River is in the center of our region providing many of the resources and services that especially older adults so heavily rely on like medical services, Bath EMS, a police department, and the Sagadahoc Sheriff's office, the Patten Free Library, Bath Area Senior Citizens Activity Center, and the Bath Area Family YMCA to name a few. It is not surprising that in a beautiful old ship-building region, more than half of all homes were built before 1940. As a result, the housing supply is often not very energy efficient, has bedrooms on the 2nd floor, and requires significant maintenance expenditures. Many residents are in housing that is too big - 54% of housing units have three or more bedrooms. Both young and older residents often find themselves cost-burdened as rents, utilities, and repair costs outstrip their incomes. Older adults looking to downsize from larger homes find a limited selection of potential rental units in a landscape dominated by single-family homes. We believe collaboration through AFCLK may help our region generate some new options to maximize the housing resources that exist here. A total year-round population of about 17222 (census 2010) covers a land area of 111 square miles. In 2016 twenty percent of our residents were over the age of 65 years. (Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census data https://factfinder.census.gov) Two bridged islands and long peninsulas challenge individual transportation and access to essential services as well as daily needs. The six towns encompass many acres of wooded areas, with storms frequently resulting in power outages, and lack of high-speed Internet challenging residents’ ability to access services.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE ORGANIZATION OF YOUR REGIONAL APPROACH?
IS EACH OF YOUR MEMBER MUNICIPALITIES AN INDEPENDENTLY ENROLLED MEMBER OF THE AARP NETWORK OF AGE-FRIENDLY STATES AND COMMUNITIES?
No. Only Bath and Georgetown have enrolled.
PLEASE DESCRIBE ANY KIND OF FISCAL RELATIONSHIP/CONTRACT
Yes, the City of Bath is our fiduciary agent.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE BENEFITS AND DOWNFALLS OF THE REGIONAL APPROACH?
We probably currently don't have enough active members to make in difference in the entire region. The process is slow. Most projects are visible in Bath. The small towns already rely so heavily on volunteers for committees, including filling Select Board seats and volunteering with the Fire Departments, that activities of a new group like ours take a while before they are noticed.