Working together to make town more elder-friendly


 


SHARON – The Sharon Association has planned a forum Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. to discuss plans and solutions for dealing with an aging population.

The discussion will center on whether the community can be made more accommodating for an aging population, said Lawrence Kurland, president of the association.

"There are people who are in their 70s or 80s who are quite well but will still have to adjust to changes," Kurland explained. "The Northwest Corner is geared toward a driving population, and Sharon doesn’t have a big shopping center for people to walk around and run their errands. So we may want to look at instituting a modest public transportation system to address these needs so that they elderly can get around to have coffee or do their shopping."

The first segment of the forum will look at the legal and planning aspects of helping an aging population cope. It will be presented by Dwight Merriam, a partner at the Hartford-based Robinson and Cole law firm.

Merriam has served as a director for the American Planning Association and is a former president of the American Institute of Certified Planners. His portion of the forum will deal with the technicalities related to state and town statutes, laws, the town plan and zoning regulations.

The second component of the forum will deal with the possibility of adding new "hardscapes," such as shopping centers, sidewalks and public transportation. Glenn Chalder is a town planning consultant and a principal at the Avon-based firm Planimetrics.

"Planimetrics is the best planning group in the state," Kurland said. "They are the gold standard."

Chalder helped Falls Village create its Town Plan of Conservation and Development and then helped revise the town’s planning and zoning regulations.

Sharon’s social service agent, Ella Clark, will be the third speaker and will talk about services already in place to aid the elderly, here and in other towns.

"Ella is very knowledgeable, she really has her finger on the pulse of what is available to the elderly," Kurland said. "She’s terrific."

For instance, she will describe an experimental project that is now being conducted in New Fairfield and Boston: citizens in their 80s contribute annually to a fund that provides them with support.

Some of the services include food programs, in-home and out-of-home exercise, and bus service. The project is affordable and relies on the commitment of those who participate.

Kurland hopes that such advances could help make Sharon a more vibrant community, ad one that would see a more intermingled population in terms of age groups.


Seeking support, volunteers


"This is something that cuts across all socio-economic and political lines, the problems faced by those of lower income will be similar to those faced by the affluent," Kurland said. "We are hoping for broad community support, this is something that will benefit everyone."

Kurland also hopes that the forum will raise community awareness and produce further discussion with the possibility of the creation of a volunteer, non-governmental task force for each of the three components.

"A source of information would be extraordinary," Kurland said. "It would allow members of the community to see what other towns are doing."

Kurland also discussed the possibility of adding a second ambulance crew to Sharon.

"We have an excellent volunteer ambulance squad, who receive the vast majority of their calls for people who are ill," He said. "Those calls will increase as the population ages."

Each presenter at the forum will have 20 minutes to speak. The presentations will be followed by an hour-long question-and-answer session.

The Sharon Association is planning another forum, on economic development, later this year.

 

 

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