Finance Committee Hears Council on Aging Request for Community Assessment Survey

By Lizzie Seibert

At its February 16 meeting, the Finance Committee heard a presentation from Bedford’s Council on Aging’s (COA) Allen Morgan (Chair), and Alison Cservenschi (Director). The COA representatives presented their proposal for a community needs assessment.

The COA community needs assessment derives from Morgan and Cservenschi’s vision of the COA’s mission—to advocate for seniors and develop programs. Morgan calculated that 25% of Bedford is over the age of 60, and that by 2030 this will reflect 33% of Bedford.

Morgan noted that a facet of the COA is to help seniors with emergency situations and provide mental health resources to the aging population. He expressed that since most Bedford’s seniors are not involved with the COA, it would be beneficial for the department to assess what Bedford’s needs are as a basis for future planning, addressing crises among seniors, promoting an age-friendly community environment, and raising awareness of the council. He hopes that every senior in Bedford will benefit from the COA’s resources.

The community needs assessment would be contracted to UMass Boston, which specializes in surveying towns’ aging populations. The assessment would include a demographic profile of Bedford, a community survey, a focus group study with seniors in Bedford, and then individual interviews with selected seniors. The full-cost of this assessment is $35,000.

The Finance Committee acknowledged to the COA that this project would have to be approved by residents at town meeting and asked questions regarding the COA’s project goals. The Committee wondered if COAs in surrounding towns are taking on similar projects and if there are any success stories that Bedford could reiterate, at a lower cost, rather than this needs assessment. Cserenschi responded that each COA does things differently and that comparing Bedford to other towns would be like “apples to oranges.” She expressed that, “We want [the assessment] to get COA to where we need to be. Everyone’s going to need us at some point… We want people to think [we’re] about more than just bingo.”

Morgan stated that his main goal for this project is “to get to people before the crisis.” He hopes that the project will prepare Bedford’s community and senior population for challenges associated with aging.

The Finance Committee voted to recommend this project at town meeting.

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