Commission on Aging
September 8, 2021
Members: Mary Dale Lancaster, Kathy Brandt Jean Rexford, Randi Hutton, Hilda Rhodes, Ruth Moran, Sarah Cummings, Ingrid Heller
Staff: Angelica Fontanez, Margherita Pilato, Michelle Stillman
First Selectperson: Julia Pemberton
Meeting commenced: 9:02 am on the patio of the Heritage Center
1) Minutes approved: Jean Rexford, Randy Hutton
2) Director of Social Services Report (July & August): Angelica Fontanez
Food pantry use consistent. (Per handout, 18 visits over 2 months, or, 9 visits a month, so 2 families a week)
More families applied for Park & Rec discount. (Numbers not provided)
Big problem re: folks trying to find rentals. 3-4 seniors are in this situation; many more younger families are affected as well. Angelica tells them to go into shelter program in another town. We have nothing in Redding for affordable housing. Even Weston has a two family that is affordable. (But only the 2 apartments).
New intern this year is Kayla Seftner.
Van grant application has been submitted.
Found a new helpful computer software system (electronic record keeping, Charity Tracker).
Wellness visits continue. (Numbers not provided.)
We are clearly not meeting the needs of these people who have to go into shelters in other towns.
An issue for our Selectmen and Board of Finances. Has become worse this year as landlords want to sell in a hot market. Many of the seniors have no family members – “Orphan adults.”
3) Program Director: Margherita Pilato
August is a slow month at the Heritage Center. Some classes go on pause.
Big issue now – the school needs more space to run its after school programs and at the Heritage Center which would in effect cut off Senior programs at 2:30. Young unvaccinated children would displace seniors in rooms typically used for senior activities.
Not all instructors required to be vaccinated, nor are attendees required to be vaccinated.
Need to look into these things. There is no general town employee vaccine mandate as of now. There is a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces. Julia needs to consult legal about vaccine mandates, et al. Much discussion regarding masks and vaccinations.
Low attendance for excellent Medicare talk. Margherita hopes to run that program again.
Current events remain strong, but still on Zoom with many wishing to remain on Zoom, and many wishing to meet in person again.
Rescheduled Norwalk cruise for the 24th. Bartlett Arboretum tour scheduled in Stamford the prior week.
Julia: lots of activities to look forward to in Town. 9/25 Church Fair. 10/3 Georgetown Day, then planning a fall festival; then a town tag sale. Fall festival will be simple, will include tag sale and a pumpkin patch and pie. 10/16 or 10/23
Jack ‘o Lanterns on the green will run again the weekend of Halloween. Ruth has offered to do a workshop here for seniors to carve pumpkins.
Haunted Graveyard tour is another idea the town is considering. We have historical abandoned graveyards. Not sure it will come off, but great ideas. Optimistically, COVID on the wane. Over 80% of 60+ vaccinated; lowest rate among 45-60 year-olds, and of course kids 12 & under.
Mirrors will come this week for the community room to use for classes.
Yoga for the rest of us by Jean Rexford starts on the 16th.
Flu clinic at the end of the month. Margherita will forward an informational link about the prevalence of health problems by town. Redding, for instance, has a high rate of osteoporosis.
Discussion was had on making senior programs open to everyone in town – how to encourage attendance without losing the unique nature of the Heritage Center.
Problem discussed at length about having children take over our facilities at 2:30 to 3:00. Issues include: we already have too little space and that has caused a huge limitation in our ability to create programs at times accessible to all, AND, children are not vaccinated, their use of our facilities creates a clear and present danger to our seniors.
Julia explained that the afterschool programs requested Heritage Center space because classrooms are not ideal for such activities. Possible solution: Having gym partitioned into various activity groups. Possibility of a trailer for after school activities discussed.
Vigorous discussion ensued.
4) First Selectperson: Julia Pemberton
Report on getting architectural evaluation of Senior Center. Julia requires an official letter from the committee with specific requests, including the space issues, the computer situation, whatever needs we have must be delineated to qualify for the money the town has for COVID relief. So, the wording should be related to COVID, broadband requirements, and water issues. The proper language is essential, so that a Request for Qualification can be formulated. What exactly do we want the architectural firm to do? What do we want the laptops for? I.e., because of COVID, we have to spread out to 6 feet apart, we have to limit participants, we have only one big room. Selectmen meet on the 3d Monday of every month, we should keep that in mind.
COA members should email Mary Dale with their ideas for this letter.
Julia reminded the group that if needed, it could make use of the large conference room in town hall for certain events.
Re: Gilbert & Bennett: Still have to go through more hoops to be able to apply for grants to develop the property. One assessment has just been made this past week, which was an assessment of the retaining walls and the dam holding in the Norwalk River to avoid grievous flooding such as occurred some years ago. Other assessment have to be done before a grant for a planning committee can be secured.
RE: no housing for displaced seniors and others: there are some rules regarding rentals in town. No more than 5 unrelated persons can be rented to in one single family dwelling. There are additional rules as to building an accessory building on the property of a single family home. Aimee Pardee knows all these rules and will be invited to come to the next meeting to explain them to us.
5) Programming Committee: Hilda Rhodes
Church Fair, 9/25, 9 to 4:30. Hilda needs volunteers to staff our table as well as items demonstrative of our programming to put on the table to raise awareness of the activities here. A suggestion was made of a free raffle with the prize of coming to a program of one’s choice free of charge.
Volunteers are also needed to bring table and tent from the senior center to the fair.
The next meeting of the Program committee will be on the 16th at 2 p.m.
Decorating is a bit stalled with summer slowness and raising money for slipcovers. With some town funds and several private anonymous donations, we are just $100 shy in funds to refurbish the couch – might any commissioners wish to contribute? Angelica requires invoices to secure the towns portion
The “lounge”/“library” area is loaded with food pantry items, Not conducive to meetings. A suggestion was made for a trailer (could this be added to letter for COVID funds?)
6) Chair’s Report: Mary Dale Lancaster:
George Cohen has resigned for health reasons. He will be sorely missed. Ruth will move from alternate to regular members in order to retain the proper statutory political balance. Garner Lester remains an alternate. We need 2 more alternates – only one can be a Democrat so that the proper statutory political balance is maintained.
K. Brandt will serve as vice-chair, as Sarah Atwood has stepped out of the position but will remain active with the committee. Huge thank you to Sarah for past service, and to Kathy for stepping up with gusto to this important job.
For next month, we should review the bylaws, and the duties of chair. A draft of the annual report was informally approved for submission to the town.
KLB will type membership list.
Other business: New Years Eve grab bag for seniors, as done in New Canaan?, is being investigagte by Margherita & Randy.
Jean & Kathy plan to work on grant writing with Angelica. Need to meet with our controller, Steve Nydack (sp?) to discuss some of the issues therein.
7) Old Business: None
8) New Business: None
9) Meeting Adjourned at 10:30 a.m.