When the call came to meet about the needs of Woodbury’s older residents, even the local grocer showed up.
The concerns were many. Requests for fuel and food assistance by the town’s older people had never been higher, social service caseloads were climbing and more resources were needed to help people age at home.
So, at the public invitation of the Woodbury Senior Center for a “Town Conversation on Aging,” 62 people streamed in: clergy members, realtors, insurance brokers, physical therapists, the First Selectman, town commissioners, librarians, social workers and many older residents of Woodbury.
Loryn Ray, director of senior services for Woodbury, framed the questions. What were the needs of the town’s older residents? What was Woodbury doing right—or not? What might be needed by the town’s older residents in the next five, 10 or 15 years in order to remain living in Woodbury—where most of them had lived for decades?
Funded by Connecticut Community Foundation’s East Hill Woods Fund, the town’s 2018 conversation on aging was Woodbury’s second in six years. The Foundation’s grants covered the costs of convening the community for a structured conversation and undertaking one or more action items that emerged from the discussion.
According to Ray, Woodbury’s initial conversation on aging, held in 2013, “ended up guiding our work for five years. It gave us direction; a bit like a strategic plan. It told us, ‘this is where our efforts are needed’ and where we could begin to make a dent in the issues.”
Three key needs emerged from that 2013 discussion: to increase on-demand transportation options, broaden affordable and suitable housing and create sustaining social ties to the community.
All of that didn’t surprise Ray, but the creative solutions that bubbled up did.
Woodbury rolled up its collective sleeves and got to work following its first town conversation—with impressive results. Some faith communities established transportation networks to drive people to worship services, an in-depth housing study was completed, and a comprehensive guide to services in Woodbury supporting older people was published.
The booklet is chock-full of useful information, such as which stores deliver groceries and prescription medications, locations of local bereavement groups, where to find rental properties, and even how to get free eye exams and glasses.
In 2018, the Town Conversation on Aging again revealed transportation and housing to be the top challenges for Woodbury’s older residents (“We are constantly working on those,” said Ray), and the town’s residents are thinking creatively again.
An “Aging in Place” series will include teaching older people how to use Uber and other driving services, and digital displays at the senior center will soon convey news and information to better inform older people about local resources.
Another boon for Woodbury’s older residents: Ray credits Connecticut Community Foundation for providing pilot funding to bring the National Council on Aging’s acclaimed Aging Mastery Program® to Woodbury’s Senior Center. The 10-week evidence- based series gave 58 participants an invaluable “deep dive” into issues pertinent to aging well—medications, fall prevention, sleep, financial fitness, relationships, and more. Classes are ongoing.
Woodbury’s residents, with a boost from the Foundation, are planning to make the most of their longer lives.
Photo at top: Loryn Ray (middle) shares Woodbury’s resource guide for older people at the Woodbury Senior Center. [Photo by Regina Melo]