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Seniors' needs inspire 'Conversation on Aging'

Updated 9:40 pm, Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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The needs for an assisted-living facility and more transportation for senior citizens in New Milford were highlighted when 50 seniors sat down in November for a "Conversation on Aging."

The event was at the New Milford Senior Center in the Richmond Citizen Center. It was funded by a grant from the Community Foundation for residents 65 and older.

Senior Center staff, senior service partners, town officials and Mayor Pat Murphy, as well as Commission on Aging members, joined the discussion.

The main theme was linking seniors to programs, resources and activities.

Carolyn Haglund, the town's senior services director, said the top priorities for seniors are more transportation, more senior housing, awareness of resources available to seniors and the town's knowledge about individual seniors' needs.

"Transportation is the No. 1 barrier for independence among seniors," Mrs. Haglund said. "We are far ahead of other towns in addressing that.

"We are doing a good job, but with the number of seniors and the size of the town, we need more transportation services," she said.

The Wheels program, with volunteer drivers transporting seniors to doctor appointments, is well used. The Senior Center is in the process of procuring a new second senior bus.

A grant that pays for the two buses has been managed so a second, substitute driver is now in place.

Related to housing, a lack of affordable and suitable senior housing in the town was noted during the forum.

New Milford offers Chestnut Grove, Butterbrook and Glen Ayre housing for seniors, but the waiting lists are long.

The community lacks a mid-price ranged senior living community or options. And there is no assisted-living facility in the town.

Mrs. Haglund plans to go before the town's Planning Commission to discuss those needs.

She also expects to go before the Economic Development Commission to request marketing the town as a site for an assisted-living facility.

First, she is gathering more facts, and plans to take a trip to Hartford Jan. 14 to attend a forum called "Livable Communities for All Ages."

"The concept is that if you improve services for those aging in a community," she said, "it benefits the entire population."

The Hartford workshop was sponsored by the Connecticut Commission on Aging and Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

Frank Wargo, chairman of New Milford's Economic Development Commission, said last week he welcomes Mrs. Haglund's input.

"The key to locating an assisted-living facility for a loved one is the facility's proximity to relatives," Mr. Wargo said. "We have a large population in New Milford that I think would make it a good site for such a facility."

Mr. Wargo noted Southbury has two assisted-living facilities located there due to the "ready market" of some 1,500 senior living units at Heritage Village.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322