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.