BURRILLVILLE – An organization that works to improve conditions for Rhode Island’s aging population has turned their attention to Burrillville, and at meetings over the past several months, community participants have focused their efforts at developing a comprehensive list of services for the town’s seniors.
Age-Friendly Rhode Island held their first meeting in town in September of last year, and has started the conversation about growing older in the state’s northwest corner, with input from all who have a stake in the topic.
The group’s fourth meeting is coming up at the end of this month, when a growing contingent of around two dozen participants will gather at Ashton Court in Harrisville.
AFRI is a grant-funded non-profit coalition based at Rhode Island College that was started around four years ago, with the goal of creating partnerships and building communities that support and empower Rhode Islanders as they age. Founded as a subcommittee of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, in its first few years of operation, the organization gathered data and addressed major issues for seniors statewide.
Now, the goal is to improve quality of life for the growing demographic, with conversations that start at the community level.
In Burrillville, conversations have focused on existing services, and how to help those who need them to find them.
“A group of residents, town representatives and interested leaders collectively set a goal of gathering information about the wide range of services that are already available to older adults in the northwest corner of the state and more specifically in the town of Burrillville,” said AFRI Executive Director Jody Shue.
In addition to the bi-monthly meetings, town department heads have been meeting independently to compile a list of town services already available, and have committed to adding this information to the library’s website as well as making sure everything is up to date in the Burrillville Bugle.
Next, involved volunteers hope to compile a similar list of services offered by independent groups.
“It was discussed at the last meeting that one of the next steps this group would like to focus on was to start compiling a list of local, non-governmental services that could complement existing town services,” said Shue.
Everyone is welcome to attend the events and participate in the ongoing conversation.
“We hope that by engaging residents and town representatives and providing a welcoming setting where all are heard, we can jumpstart discussion of the programs and services that are most important to residents of all ages, celebrate and raise awareness of existing services and programs, and identify gaps where community collaboration could foster livability across the board,” said Shue.
The organization, Shue notes, serves to provide information and a forum, but it’s the community itself that dictates the results, and levels of participation vary.
“Age-Friendly RI is really pleased to be able to serve as a convener of this group,” she said. “It’s clear that people love living in Burrillville and we are so impressed with the level of engagement across the town.”
“Some communities really just run with it and Buriillville was one of those communities,” agreed Age-Friendly’s Susan Bouchard, another participant.
Bouchard notes that programs in town – such as one offered by Jesse Smith Library, where books are delivered to elderly housing complexes; or a grant-funded free exercise program offered twice a week to older adults by the Parks and Recreation Department – are underutilized.
“Some of these programs are in place but maybe people don’t know that they’re eligible for them,” Bouchard said.
The group hopes to create a centralized resource and place a list on library website, which can also be accessed at Jesse Smith.
Age Friendly Rhode Island will hold a fourth meeting on the topic of growing older in Burrillville on Wednesday, March 27 in the Ashton Court community room starting at 10:15 a.m.
It’s a topic, that Shue says, affects everyone, young or old.
“As we like to say to anyone who will listen: an age-friendly community is one that is good for all ages,” she said.