Somerset Public Health & Senior Strong in Somerset County Committee

Covers: Somerset County

Start Date: September 01, 2015

Mission, Vision & Goals

The goal at Somerset Public Health is to make Somerset County a healthier place to live and work for the families we serve. We strive to make this happen by:

  • Improving nutrition
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Stopping tobacco use
  • Preventing drug abuse
  • Promoting the responsible use of alcohol

In addition, Somerset Public Health (SPH) recognizes the importance of having the supports in place that our older residents need to stay safely and comfortably in their own homes and engaged with their communities throughout their lifespan. The average age in Somerset County is higher than any other county in our state—and Maine has the highest average age in the nation. SPH has developed several initiatives to address the public health concerns faced by our older residents and their families.

Broad Overview

In 2013, Somerset Public Health (SPH) began working with the Jackman area residents on a MeHAF supported aging project to study, plan for, and implement strategies to ensure access to health services and other supports for older people in that area. In 2016-2018, SPH helped 10 communities establish “healthy aging social gathering places” to address concerns about the effects of social isolation on healthy aging. The ten communities are spread throughout the county. Each gathering place has a unique personality based on the interests of the attendees. Activities range from coffee socials, pot luck meals, and game socials to healthy living education including self-care, nutrition, and physical activity. In working with both projects, SPH identified a number of barriers to healthy aging and is working with local municipalities to address these needs.

One strategy is to provide technical assistance for municipalities to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The first in Somerset County are Skowhegan, Madison, and Jackman. Each town has made a commitment to an age-friendly planning process where residents take an active role in making their community a better place for people of all ages and abilities. Somerset Public Health is assisting each community in conducting a baseline assessment of their age friendliness and developing an action plan. Older residents are deeply involved in both the planning and monitoring progress to bring the action plan to life. The network will expand as more Somerset County communities make a commitment to age-friendly planning.

How is your age-friendly initiative structured?

Somerset Public Health is a member of and facilitates Senior Strong in Somerset County, which was formed in 2013, and has grown into a committee with 50-plus representatives from more than 20 agencies, organizations, and businesses who have older residents of Somerset County as patients, clients, consumers, or customers. Meetings are held bi-monthly on the last Thursday of odd-numbered months to network, coordinate service delivery, and jointly address barriers to healthy aging. Members include older residents as members at-large. The agenda includes updates on programs and services, informative guest speakers, and an anonymous wrap-around referral process. Referrals are made by committee members to focus on a difficult situation that a specific older Somerset County resident is facing that may not have an easy solution.

Describe any partnerships you have developed?

AARP Maine
Maine Health Access Foundation
Associates for Training & Development (A4TD)
Fedcap Skowhegan Office
Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County (HVOSC)
KVCAP
Maine COA
Unity College at the Moose River Valley Center & Sky Lodge Redington-Fairview General Hospital (RFGH)
RFGH Rehab & Fitness
UMaine Center on Aging Senior Corps of Maine Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion Programs
Healthy Living for ME
Catholic Charities
Somerset County Association of Resource Providers (SCARP)
Somerset County Sheriff’s Department
Somerset regional Communications Center
Spectrum Generations
Bridges Home Services
Rite-Aid/Walgreen’s
The Senior Planning Center Skowhegan Office United Way of Mid-Maine

What is the role of volunteers?

Our services are provided by AmeriCorps members who are volunteers within a national service program.

Strategies that have contributed to your success? Barriers you have encountered?

Communities have enumerated many barriers to aging-in-place many of which are amplified by their rural settings.

Types of funding that your initiative has received

Somerset Public Health is funded by Redington-Fairview General Hospital and various grants.

Community Initiatives

Transportation

KVCAP runs the Somerset Explorer public transportation between Skowhegan, Madison and Norridgewock, and a volunteer driver program for eligible riders to get to medical and social service appointments. Communities regularly cite transportation as a barrier to aging-in-place.

Chores, Handyman & Upkeep

As of early 2019, both the Jackman and Madison communities are working to address this area and are considering elements of various models from other age-friendly initiatives.

Health & Wellness

The Maine Health Access Foundation funded Achieving Better Health in Jackman, Maine: The Aging Project. This project has focused on strengthening a community coalition and expanding services to meet known needs including transportation, home care, palliative care, and hospice, volunteer community supports, and evidence-based programming to prevent or manage chronic disease. Successes are shared with the Senior Strong Committee to inform and support the work in other communities.

The Betterment Foundation supported SPH in the establishment and expansion of 10 community locations where older people socialize, learn, and connect. These communities are Canaan, Cambridge, Fairfield, Jackman, Madison, Mercer, Moose River, New Portland, Skowhegan, and Smithfield. Maintaining quality relationships with friends, neighbors, and other members of the community is important for good health and longevity at all ages. Lifelong learning helps keep the mind sharp. Gathering places provide a convenient location for delivering evidence-based prevention and healthy living programs as well as connections to support services.

Outreach & Resource Information

Somerset Public Health and its Senior Strong in Somerset County partners work together to distribute information through our individual print and electronic media channels to reach our target populations.

Accessibility & Walkability

Accessibility and walkability vary by community and is impacted by low population density and the rurality of the area.

Communication

See outreach and resource information.

Other

We have a special focus on connecting seniors with primary care providers, food support service and opportunities for social engagement like volunteering.

Region

Contact

Deb Casey
Community Health Educator
Somerset Public Health
20 Madison Avenue, Skowhegan, ME 04976
dcasey@rfgh.net
207-858-8458