CAPE ELIZABETH — A new ad hoc committee is studying the needs of the town’s senior citizen population.
The Town Council in January unanimously approved creation of the Senior Citizen Advisory Commission to review how the town can best serve residents over the age of 60. The commission has until at least the end of the year to submit a report to the council.
The commission will also recommend whether it should disband or become a permanent body, identified in the Town Charter, like the Conservation Commission or the Fort Williams Advisory Commission.
“We want our folks to be safe,” said the commission chairman, Brett Seekins, who works as a health-care consultant for accounting firm Baker Newman Noyes. “We want to make sure they have access to health care and they’re not living in isolation, because isolation leads to fear, to depression, to malnourishment.”
The creation of the commission was spearheaded by Town Council Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan.
“I understand that Cape Elizabeth, like Maine, is aging,” Sullivan said. “The seniors in Cape Elizabeth are under-served and, as a group, they don’t seem to have a voice in town. So it’s going to be really fascinating to see what this committee comes up with.”
Sullivan, too, stated concerns about isolation among segments of the senior community that lack access to social, recreational and informational opportunities.
Nearly 30 people applied for the committee’s seven seats, three of which were required to be filled by seniors. Besides Seekins, of High Bluff Road, the appointees are Elizabeth Baillie, of Fessenden Road; Patricia Bredenberg, of Fox Hill Road; William Marshall, of Wildwood Drive; Bruce Nelson, of Shore Road; June O’Neill, of Clinton Road, and Barbara Page, of Starboard Drive. Councilor Jim Walsh is the commission’s Town Council liaison, and Town Assessor Matthew Sturgis is its staff liaison.
At its initial meetings, the commission stressed the need to look at state reports and national research and interview local experts.
“The seven of us can’t just sit in here and talk for eight or nine months,” Seekins said. “We need to give some meat to this report and really strengthen it. I want external folks coming in so we can learn from them, and then we’ll add value through white paper research.”
The commission plans to reach out to groups including the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, the Maine Alzheimer’s Association, and the state chapter of AARP. This week, at the group’s third meeting, Cape Elizabeth Police Officer David Galvan discussed the South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Triad program, which works to bring together law enforcement, businesses and residents to improve the the quality of life of seniors.
The Senior Citizen Advisory Commission, which meets at Town Hall on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month, has no budget, but Seekins said it doesn’t need one to accomplish its goals. Moreover, he hopes to produce a report that won’t require much financially from Cape Elizabeth.
“It doesn’t have to be the town coming up with another budget line to solve these problems,” Seekins said. “We do have to identify the problems, but then maybe we let business come in and take a look and try to resolve them. That employs people, it helps pay on the tax side, and it fills a really big social need.”