Committee: North Smithfield needs dedicated senior center

Linda Thibault

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The North Smithfield Senior Citizen Advisory Committee presented a position paper to members of the Town Council this month, again urging creation of a dedicated senior center in town.

“There seems to be some kind of reluctance for some of the members on the council to have a space designated to seniors,” said committee member Linda Thibault.

The paper comes as efforts to focus on creation of a, “multigenerational center,” continue in North Smithfield. It’s a distinction that has led to differing opinions – and some disagreement among those behind the potential project.

Over the past several years, Thibault and others have said that while other town organizations may end up using whatever space is created for seniors during off the hours, North Smithfield’s older residents ultimately need a facility of their own. The committee’s mission is to provide programs and services for North Smithfield residents age 55 and older so they can remain active and independent, and they first voted to provide a designated space for the programs in 2021.

Thibault read the position statement making their case.

According to the 2020 census, some 15 percent, or 1,876 North Smithfield residents were between ages 55 and 64, and another 22.61 percent or 2,821 were over age 65. The data showed that the number of seniors grew at four times the rate of the rest of the town’s population since the previous census in 2010.

The statement notes that when the Halliwell Review Committee conducted a community survey to solicit opinions for uses of the property, 41 percent of respondents said they wanted a senior center, while only 29 percent voted for various other elements, such as gardens, open space and business opportunities.

Still, the HRC, led by Chairman Jeffrey Porter, has emphasized their hope to create facilities for use by the entire community – including seniors. The “multigenerational center,” designation was also used in the language on a $4 million federal grant secured in 2022 that will ultimately be utilized to build a facility.

Thibault noted that with some 31 percent of North Smithfield’s population now over age 55, the town features four senior housing sites. But with no center of their own, town seniors have been using centers in neighboring communities, with 100 North Smithfield residents attending the senior center in Woonsocket, 89 going to Lincoln and 39 joining Glocester’s facility.

“This evidence, coupled with the mission of the North Smithfield Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, drives the committee’s directive to urge the North Smithfield Town Council to provide a designated space for North Smithfield seniors,” the statement concluded.

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  1. The funding language to secure the federal monies used the term, multi-generational center. Why Mrs Thibault continues this crusade and appears unwilling to relent is beyond me. While she has much experience in aging, I do not feel that her outlook and expertise defines all seniors.

    The survey, which was designed by the Halliwell Review Committee was flawed in that Ms Thibault secured every response she could garner within the four senior housing sites in the community, thereby inflating the results. Many of us saw those results and attended the initial meetings, noting this discrepancy.

    In the data provided by Ms. Thibault, town residents 55-64 account for 15% of the population, while 22% are above 64. The younger ages of the aging population are much more likely to belong to a fitness facility, the Y, often using their health benefit reimbursement as payment. Even those on Medicare and Blue Cross can access Silver Sneakers to engage the health fitness benefit. Head to any Planet Fintness, Maxx Fitness or the Y to view active seniors too. As a matter of fact, with the right center those benefits could be accessed in North Smithfield, whether that be a fitness facility, a pool, etc.

    Ms. Thibault is well intentioned but she does not speak for every individual defined as a “Senior.”

    As an individual that served the Senior community and their caregivers, in many ways, including serving as a grant review funder for best practice programs with the Administration on Aging, we need to look at a bigger picture. Healthy aging begins in youth. The opportunity to enlist corporate sponsorship, foundational and federal monies can abound if we build to benefit all, rather than limit ourselves to a few.

  2. The Texas city I live in freezes property tax (except school district) at the amount a resident homeowner paid the year they turned 65. All Texas residents also have a Homestead Exemption of $100,000.

    • NS should look into a tax stabilization program for seniors. Makes all the sense in the world. Those consuming resources more should pay a higher rate; minus the carve out for schools. I wonder if “DJ” would agree.

      • I agree with the user of more services should pay more for taxes but excluding schools makes zero sense. The education budget is 60% of the town budget and seniors should be given a discount for not using the school services. Second how can you stabilize other services such as police and fire, trash services, plowing, and road paving when all taxpayers utilize these services. And finally the town does have a senior tax stabilization program that very few take advantage. The program is very easy to apply and requires very little paperwork but it does have 5% of AGI limitation that makes perfect sense.

        • That’s the dumbest thing ever. Seniors shouldn’t pay the same for school taxes?? So let me ask you, should the seniors not be able to participate in their home values increasing due to a high performing school district. Why do you think families move here, it’s not for the quality of roads!! Can’t have it both ways.

          And every easily, you can have a carve out rate that everyone pays for the school system. And then a true rate for homeowners of non senior age and then a stabilized/frozen rate for seniors for all other services.

          It sounds like, per your comment below, that seniors are already being given a break on their taxes, but yet you claim a lot of seniors are struggling. Lots of double talk “DJ”

          • When the school is high performing let me know. Also if you read the comment correctly the town does have a senior tax stabilization program but not many seniors take advantage of the program. So you want taxpayers under the age of 65 to pay more for non school services but the same for the school spending. Sounds like you are a senior who was part of the low performing school system. And please do not compare the schools test scores with other RI communities because RI as a state is high cost and under preforming.

            • How do you know many seniors don’t take advantage of it? What facts are you referencing? So now, north Smithfield, which is a top ten school in RI can’t be deemed as high performing relative to the other cities and towns just because you say so? Lots of hollow rhetoric with nothing of substance backing it other than foolish opining.

              • So let’s talk about my verifiable facts and the anecdotal items stated above. First I was at town hall a few months ago and asked the tax collector how many taxpayers take advantage of the senior stabilization program and I was told 14. So this is how I know not many take advantage of the program. Second according to US news and world report, North Smithfield ranks 17th in RI, not in the top 10, and 38th in the metro Providence area which includes some Massachusetts schools. Also note that RI ranks 24th in the country and dead last in New England with the second highest per capita in New England. So I guess I will see you twist the facts to prove your point but high performing is not 17th in a poor performing state.

                • So you asked a tax collector clerk ? Sounds like it’s the seniors fault themselves for not taking advantage of this program. The town shouldn’t progress because you / they can’t afford it but don’t take advantage of a discount. Very logical! Also, you conveniently failed to mention that your US news ranked the NS HIGH SCHOOL as 17. Just a ranking of high schools. Many other studies show NS in top 10, some top 5, as a WHOLE district. That’s called cherry picking data and twisting data.

                  So why do you live here if incompetence is rampant in our officials, the schools are so bad, taxes are so high, you’re getting no return on your investment and no one can execute according to your standards? Enlighten the readers “DJ”

                  • What study and website did you find your so called facts. I used a reputable site and stated the factual study and website. Also the high school is the flat ship of a school district. You have sited no source and speak just like the typical zero analysis done by the political leaders and the school department but you just let people believe I know NS is in the top 10. Let’s face the facts NS is not a top performing school and also only has an 88% graduation rate compared to the whole state of Massachusetts at 90% (per the Mass education website). Some day everyone will realize that spending more money on education does yield better results, just look at the NY Yankees payroll and results.

  3. How do you know all seniors are struggling ? Just because you are, maybe not everyone is ? I think Mrs T. Has a good pulse on what’s going on with our senior population.

    Its the right thing to do. Invest in both our youth and the seniors in town.

    • Not on my dime because the investment in the youth is failing, just look at the test scores. The senior center will also fail because town government is incapable of running any program. Low taxes is attractive to home buyers not excessive taxes with high cost poorly run services. I also do know seniors are struggling as it was a topic of great discussion during the failed police station bond.

      • Sounds like you are just against any form or progress in town. This is about a senior center and you managed to take shots at the school system, our elected officials and now the police station. Seems like you might be the problem.

        Perhaps you should move “DJ”, get involved or stop complaining.

        Solutions; not whining and opining.

        • How are you going to pay for this? Second how do you call this progress. When I invest in something I expect a return. So far my constant increase in taxes has yielded negative return. Maybe you should get involved and actually practice some fiscal responsibility not what 70% of Americans do is live paycheck to paycheck.

          • Taxes aren’t an investment, municipalities aren’t businesses.

            Also, you’re aware that if you want to increase the tax base, you can’t count on retirees, correct?

        • Correct, taxes aren’t an investment. And that’s your opinion that you’re getting negative return for what you pay in taxes.

          Sounds like you get your talking points from the same person that absolutely wants ZERO progress in town and has done so much damage in this town. “DJ” you either get your talking points from him or are him.

          Such a joke!! You think you would support your fellow senior constituents.

  4. Ms. Thibault seniors are currently struggling to pay current town tax. So, if NS was to have a senior center how would seniors afford the increase in taxes to build and fund the annual operating costs. Sounds like a problem as the town population ages. The only logical way to make a senior center work financially is to reallocate school spending as the population ages to the seniors. So as the student population is falling at just under 1% annually for the last 20 years it is time to relocate town funds to support the majority of the population and not the minority.

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