Georgetown is an island community of 1,000 near Bath and Boothbay Harbor. Consisting of eight separate villages, the town is classic Maine— home to boat builders, seafood shacks, retirees, and artists. Maine has the highest concentration of older residents of any state in the union, and the median age in Georgetown is 49.6. The town joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2018— its local effort is called Age-Friendly Georgetown.
Age-Friendly Georgetown’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic focused on two missions: maintaining food security, especially for socially isolated elders; and providing vital health and safety information to people who aren’t connected to regular communication networks. “In a rural town, it can be difficult to reach every resident, says James Peavey, co-chair, Age-Friendly Georgetown Committee.
“Mainers are an independent and hardy lot, so even in times of need some people will decline help by saying that others need it more.”
To support the community’s nutritional and health needs, Age-Friendly Georgetown volunteers helped raised $6,000 in little more than a month for a Community Outreach Program.
They spread the word about the program through a variety of local networks, asking almost everyone if they could use some support or know of someone who did. Elected leaders and citizens groups joined the effort to locate older residents in need, and school officials identified families who would benefit from some assistance.
Emergency funds were made available to help residents meet basic needs, such as buying food and essential home supplies. A local group came together to sew and hand out face masks, using metal for the nose pieces donated by Local #40 of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Union in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.
“Another critical element of staying safe and healthy during these times is getting accurate and timely information,” Peavey notes. “But many of our elders are not connected to the internet.” So it became the goal of Age-Friendly Georgetown to make a direct connection with everyone in the community, using their extensive connections to share health information from the CDC, State of Maine, town government, local fire department, and EMS service, as well as other reputable sources, including AARP.
“We use every communication method available, including email distribution lists, Facebook, website notices, our town periodical, posters, outreach through local organizations,” Peavey says, noting that in a small town the best method for sharing information is through family, friends and neighbor connections.
This story is being shared through the AARP-NLC COVID-19 Older Adult Response Initiative. Share your story with NLC and AARP here.
The Results, Thus Far
The Community Outreach Program is supporting more than 50 households, including many isolated older residents. They’ve won warm words from the recipients, despite stereotypes about New Englanders’ reticence: “Thank you so much!”; “I can’t believe you are doing this.” “Without your support, I don’t know how I would have been able to get enough food to stay healthy.”
Peavey is quick to return the praise. “Georgetown residents quickly responded with money, time, and compassion to help one another in any way they could.”
Town of Georgetown
Georgetown Fire and EMS
Five Island Second Baptist Church
A full-length interview is available on AARP.org/Livable at this link.
Reporting, writing and editing by AARP (Shoshana Preuss, Melissa Stanton, Jay Walljasper, Mike Watson)
This story is being shared through the AARP-NLC COVID-19 Older Adult Response Initiative.