EAST GREENWICH—With the senior population quickly growing across the state, several efforts are underway to build age-friendly communities.
On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Dan McKee teamed up with the Age Friendly Rhode Island Coalition to kick off a series of community table networking events at Finn’s Harborside in East Greenwich.
The events are part of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council’s comprehensive plan to create an age-friendly Rhode Island by expanding social opportunities for older adults.
“It’s really a turning the tide initiative,” explained Andrea Palagi, communications director at the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. “It’s about contributing to that sense of community for seniors, making sure they feel included, making sure they have those social opportunities.”
Founded as a subcommittee of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, the Age Friendly RI Coalition was tasked in 2014 with gathering information about issues relating to aging.
“One of their goals and something they’ve been working on over the last few years is to create this age-friendly Rhode Island plan,” Palagi added.
According to projections from the Statewide Planning Office, the percentage of Rhode Islanders age 65 and older is expected to increase from 15.8 percent in 2014 to 23.1 percent in 2030. And with such a drastic increase comes concerns over how to support those seniors.
The Age Friendly RI Coalition’s plan envisions building “a community that enables Rhode Islanders to live independently with the care, support and resources needed to foster health, well-being, social connectedness and a meaningful life as they age.”
“[The plan] outlines a bunch of different areas that Rhode Island can address to make us more age-friendly and match up with other states that are maybe doing a little bit better than us on this metric,” Palagi said.
Among its various objectives is the creation of social opportunities for seniors. Out of that goal, the idea of community table events was born.
Palagi added the events could also help the Lt. Governor, who chairs the Age Friendly RI Coalition, understand more concrete issues facing Rhode Island’s senior population.
“It’s just one small portion of a much larger initiative to get into communities and make certain changes,” Palagi added.
The event at Finn’s was sort of a model for future community table networking events. Palagi said the plan is to organize several more events in locations around the state, but the next location hasn’t yet been chosen.
At a separate but similar event held in part by the Age Friendly RI Coalition last week, seniors were invited to the South Kingstown Senior Center to share their thoughts during a community conversation.
Organized in partnership with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the event last Thursday examined ways the state can support its seniors.
“We just wanted to hear the concerns of real Rhode Islanders about what they’re facing every day and how state services could better support them and which state services are already supporting them and helping them,” Ashley G. O’Shea, communications director of EOHHS, said Wednesday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane and Elderly Affairs Director Charles J. Fogarty each spoke to those in attendance about the state’s priorities regarding senior citizens. In Gov. Gina Raimondo’s 2018-19 budget, for example, appropriations for the senior centers in South Kingstown and Narragansett have been doubled.
“We expect that to pass,” O’Shea explained Wednesday. “And it’s looking like [the increase to senior centers] will stay in.”
On opening the floor to comments from seniors, O’Shea said the group spoke overwhelmingly about transportation being an issue. She said seniors pointed out for example that finding transportation from the Narragansett Senior Center to the South Kingstown Senior Center can be difficult.
The meeting was the first in a series of community conversations on caring for seniors and Rhode Islanders with disabilities. Another conversation geared toward veterans has been scheduled for July 14 at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol.
Learn more at agefriendlyriorg.