Cumberland committee seeks drivers to transport seniors

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CUMBERLAND — The Aging in Place Committee is seeking more volunteers to help carry out its mission of keeping seniors in their homes and helping them maintain active and fulfilling lives.

Now in its third year, the group offers services to the town’s oldest residents, as detailed at aipcumberland.org. Among the offerings is the Cumberland Area Rides program, coordinated by group member Lisa Crowley and sponsored by the Cumberland Congregational Church. 

With nearly 40 seniors benefiting from the program, and only 13 people so far available to give rides, “it’s growing so fast that we need volunteers,” Councilor Tom Gruber, the Town Council liaison to the Aging in Place Committee, said in an interview Monday with group Chairman Dale Denno.

Those who want to help, or need rides, can email Crowley at cumberlandrides@gmail.com or call 829-3367.

The committee also offers seniors help with medical equipment, food, keeping warm safely during the winter, and fuel assistance.

Denno said Cumberland has one of the oldest demographics in the country’s oldest state. Given the way houses outside Cumberland Center are spread out, seniors can become isolated if they have difficulty driving he said.

“If you can’t drive, there’s no place to go,” Denno explained. “… It’s not like living in a place where you can walk around and find places.”

The AIP committee’s overall goal is enabling residents to stay in their homes as they grow older, but the group also hopes to prevent the social isolation and loneliness that can accompany loss of a spouse.

“We’re trying to look at that reality, and not just enable them to stay … but enhance their quality (of life), make for a better life,” Denno said, adding that the group also aims to enhance connections between the generations, and better establish a community where all members value and look out for each other.

“We all need it,” he said. “Sometimes you need an older person to look out for you, and sometimes they need you to look out for them.”

The AIP group has forged partnerships with several organizations in the community in addition to the Town Council: the recreation, fire and police departments, churches, Prince Memorial Library, School Administrative District 51, the Lions Club, and the Cumberland Historical Society.

“The Town Council … could not be more supportive,” Denno said.

Cumberland now also has an Aging in Place coordinator, Susan Gold, who works with the Southern Maine Agency on Aging and has, Denno said, been “fabulous … she’s been such a huge add-on.”

Along with a rides program driver, AIP seeks volunteers for its Friendly Visitor program who can make regular visits to the elderly to offer friendship and companionship. More information is available at aipcumberland.org/friendly-visitor, or by calling 245-8033 or emailing AIP@cumberlandmaine.com.

As it did last year, the group plans this October to hold a forum on aging in place. The 2015 event drew 150 people, educating them on what services are already available to seniors. The panel’s fourth community survey will take place in June.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Cumberland Town Councilor Tom Gruber, left, council liaison to the Aging in Place Committee, and committee Chairman Dale Denno.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.