Mattapoisett Council on Aging celebrates golden anniversary
MATTAPOISETT – If the Mattapoisett Council on Aging were a person, they would be nearly old enough to join the Council on Aging themselves. On Saturday, Sept. 10, the organization celebrated 50 years of supporting Mattapoisett’s elderly residents.
Jackie Seney, the council’s executive director, shared a letter from 1971, where members of the town requested the first “Study Committee” to determine the need for a COA. The Mattapoisett COA was then established the following year, in 1972.
“From that period on, there has always been a strong swell of community support for the COA in Mattapoisett,” Seney said. She added that many people who helped start the Council on Aging had children or other family members who participate in the council now, supporting future generations through the town’s history.
According to United States census data, the aging population of Mattapoisett is steadily growing, with 38% of residents age 60 or older, and the median age of residents as 53.4.
Town Administrator Mike Lorenco stated that among Mattapoisett households, 42% have a resident that is 65 or older, and that there is a significant portion of the aging population that lives alone.
Seney took the reins in October of 2011, when the council’s space had recently moved to adjoin Center School on Barstow Street. The Council on Aging has made many moves in the past 20 years to accommodate the growing elderly population. While they started as a small room in town hall, they later moved to the basement of the Knights of Columbus building on Route 6.
When Cheryl Randall-Mach took over as director around 2005, one of her tasks was to move the Council on Aging from the Knights of Columbus to the location within the Center School.
According to previous Town Administrator Mike Botelho, this was possible because the town originally predicted the younger population would grow, and made space for a growing school system. When this did not happen, there was space available in Center School for other resources.
Randall-Mach had been working as a grants manager for Coastline Elderly at the time, but as a lifelong resident of Mattapoisett, she felt motivated to throw her hat in for the position, especially because she had previous experience organizing a change in location at a previous job.
“When I saw [Mattapoisett] had a job opening for in the Council on Aging, I wanted to come back and help my own community,” Randall-Mach said.
She said that COAs help maintain an elderly population in the area. “The more friends and connections they have, the healthier they are and the longer they can stay in their community,” she said, stating this was important because elderly retired residents have a lot of knowledge and skills that they can still give back to their area.
Lorenco addressed the event’s crowd about the future of the COA. He said that the future of Mattapoisett is “very reliant on where the senior population steers the ship.”
He brought up a current study that the University of Massachusetts Collins Center is doing for the town. The study is examining the possibility of consolidating the town’s two elementary schools, Center School and Old Hammondtown, into one.
“I believe it is important that this group – a group that represents 40% of the town's population – get involved in that study. There will be public forums and online surveys in the coming months and I think it's very important for you to speak up,” Lorenco said.
The 50th anniversary event showcased all the resources available to the Council on Aging. Seniors can take regular classes in painting, pottery, or Shakespeare. However, Seney said their most popular offering is their fitness classes.
“Keeping active is extremely important as we age,” she said. Interestingly, Seney added, while the COA has a plethora of fitness offerings, Mattapoisett’s seniors have no interest in bingo.
Also present were the Friends of the Mattapoisett Council on Aging, a volunteer group that raises money by selling t-shirts and other merchandise at events, holds free events for COA members and assists the COA in any way they can.
“We do this because it's important for seniors to be involved in supporting seniors,” said President Denise Conton.
To get involved with the Friends or the Council on Aging itself, or learn more about what programs they have to offer, visit www.mattapoisett.net/council-aging or call (508) 758-4110 for more information.