BURRILLVILLE/GLOCESTER – Two northern Rhode Island communities have been working to improve quality of life for older residents, and are collaborating with a Providence-based organization to create permanent systems of community support for local seniors.
Glocester is working to create a, “village,” a process that began four years ago in Burrillville, collaborating with The Village Common of Rhode Island, and has been recruiting members of the community willing to lend a hand to the town’s older citizens with chores such as prescription and grocery delivery.
In Burrillville, meanwhile, the program is nearly ready to transition from a pilot into an official outcrop of the “village” concept, with an organized structure to provide residents with ongoing assistance, as well as socialization.
And a separate, municipal effort to provide Burrillville seniors access to resources and services has received a needed boost through an $18,000 federal grant.
Burrillville Parks and Recreation Andrea Hall said she applied for the grant, an appropriation in the federal budget, secured with help from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed. Hall said the funding will be used to continue the town’s successful, “Lunch & Learn,” events, which have attracted hundreds to Wright’s Farm Restaurant for free meals and information about local resources over the past few years.
Hall helps to organize the events through Park & Recreation’s Senior Services division, and also secured grant funding to run a free series of classes for seniors at The Lodge.
She’s also been a driving force behind the town’s collaboration with The Village of RI. That program, which began in Burrillville in 2018 with a focus on transportation, saw some delays during the pandemic, but is now approaching full launch, with help for senior residents with everything from technology to household chores.
“The residents love it,” Hall said of the program. “We have quite a few who use it frequently for all kinds of different things.”
The main change coming with the full launch is that participating seniors will now pay a membership fee.
“During the pilot, the program was free, but when you become a full village, there’s a fee,” Hall said. “It is on a sliding scale.”
The town of Glocester announced the launch of their village program last year through a collaboration between the Glocester Senior Center and Glocester Human Services. The town has formed a Village Steering Committee – and has also been taking tips from the neighboring community.
But unlike in Burrillville, where some services began under a pilot program, Glocester has not yet begun offering the help.
“Glocester is a little behind us in terms of where they are,” Hall said. “We’re just kind of keeping in touch and sharing our experiences back and forth.”
First launched in Rhode Island in 2015 by a group of older adults living on the East Side of Providence, The Village of RI’s mission is to allow residents to age in their community, and remain independent for as long as possible. The organization now has active programs in Barrington, Edgewood, Providence, and Westerly, and soon, Burrillville will be added to the list.
Village volunteers will help area seniors with things such as home organization and clean up, set up of electronic devices and creation of, “Neighborhood Circles,” that connect members who live near one another.
“The thought process is ‘it takes a village,’ so it’s neighbors helping neighbors,” Hall explained.
The statewide village effort also received some help in the recently passed federal budget through a $152,000 grant.
It’s funding that will boost initiatives in northern Rhode Island and beyond, allowing seniors to continue to live comfortably in their homes. The Burrillville Town Council voted to officially support and endorse the concept last October, but more volunteer help is still needed, particularly in the area of transportation.
“The rides are a big demand,” said Hall of the town’s senior community.
Volunteer drivers help to supplement the limited transportation available to seniors with rides to doctors appointments and other locations within a 25-mile radius. Drivers set their own days and hours, and their personal car insurance is supplemented by agency umbrella coverage. Seniors who need a ride simply call a number for a dispatcher.
And for everything not covered by The Village, Hall’s office will continue to provide help, wherever it’s needed. The recreation director has kept a separate list of volunteers who wish to help out in a less structured way, but would like to support older members of the community. That help could include anything from installing an air conditioner to writing a will – a task Hall help one resident with during the pandemic.
“That is still in place,” Hall said. “I have found some of my people to do things that couldn’t be done under The Village. Some people don’t want something so rigid.”
Those interested in volunteering in any capacity are asked to contact Hall at (401) 710-7429 or ahall@Burrillville.org.
To learn more about The Village program in Glocester, call Melissa Bouvier, director of the Glocester Senior Center at (401) 567-4557 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.