1. What is Elder & Human Services/Council on Aging (COA)?
The Elder and Human Services Dept has two major components- we are a Senior Center, providing services and programs to Littleton elders, and we are a full-function social service agency for people of all ages in Littleton- a town of 10,000.
Senior Centers are important because they reverse or delay the need for more intensive services! Our mission is to identify and serve the social, recreational, health and educational needs of all residents in the community regardless of age, income, or circumstances. We strive, to the greatest extent possible, to maintain dignity, independence and support for their role as members of the community. To this end we provide opportunities for residents to build physical, emotional, intellectual and social wellbeing.
The COA represents an important entry point into the aging system and into the continuum of aging services. We are often the first stop on the road to healthy aging. The EHS/COA provides social services to families and elders in town. We work with a wide range of organizations and through these links provide residents appropriate referrals to the resources and benefits they need.
2. What does the EHS/COA provide to residents?
During FY2020, the Littleton EHS/COA was seeing over 1,000 program check-ins per month, logging over 300 social service outreach contacts per month, and providing nearly 400 rides per month to seniors and disabled residents. We also offer:
Meals on Wheels
Supportive Adult Day Care
Art & Culture Classes
Blood Pressure Clinics
Tax Relief Programs
Rental & Mortgage Assistance
Addiction Support / Resources
Fuel Assistance, Food Stamps
Home Repairs Assistance
Veterinary Care Assistance
Outreach Case Management
3. What is the need, and how have the services and programs for Littleton’s population evolved as the town has grown?
There are currently over 2,200 Littleton residents over 60 years old and another 1,200+ in the 50-59 age bracket. According to the Needs Assessment for Littleton by UMass Boston, the number of seniors in Littleton will rise to almost 40% of the total population by the year 2030. They forecast that number to be about 3800 residents over the age of 60. The next 10 years will be critical as we will need to continue to expand to provide services to a new generation of seniors.
We currently actively serve 37% of Littleton’s seniors; more than 1 in 3 seniors use our services. The number of unduplicated seniors we served pre-pandemic from FY2018 to FY2019 increased by 41%. EHS is also responsible for providing services to all residents, regardless of age. The number of unduplicated residents served under age 60 has increased a monumental 154% since 2016.
According to the UMASS Boston Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging Gerontology Institute’s Needs Assessment for Littleton, we have also found that:
• 40% of Littleton seniors over age 75 have at least 1 disability
• 38% of age 65+ households have annual incomes under $25,000
• 8% of those over the age of 80 have contact with friends or relatives less than once a week
•49% of 50-59 year olds have provided caregiving to a person who is disabled or frail
4. How much space would EHS/COA need, and what other options have been explored?
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs recommends a Senior Center have 4-6 square feet per senior resident. Based on our projected growth, Littleton would need approximately 19,000 sq ft to meet our needs in 2035. We are currently operating within a shared 3,800 sq ft, limiting our capacity to assist our residents.
We need to plan for a significant increase in the use of our services in the near future. In the 2015 Needs Assessment for Littleton Elder and Human Services and the Council on Aging, 60% of Baby Boomers and 70% of Seniors who did not currently participate in Senior Center activities indicated they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to participate in the future.
Much time has been spent researching the needs of a modern “senior center.” The COA Board and EHS/COA Director began gathering information nearly a decade ago. It included: a professional Needs Assessment of the EHS/COA that included a town-wide needs assessment survey yielding 1087 responses, 4 focus groups, site visits to 6 newly built senior centers, research and analysis of modern Senior Center programming trends, current senior center participation data, and review of Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs guidelines. We also collected data from other town surveys to inform our work and plans including the Town Master Plan. We have also seriously considered and explored the opportunity to move into existing buildings that proved to not be feasible or adequate for our needs.
5. Will this building be a “senior center” or be viewed as a “multi-use center/community center”?
There are many factors to take into consideration on this topic. The Council on Aging’s primary mission is to advocate for the needs of the seniors, and this will always take precedence. Our expanded vision of the space includes the entirety of the Elder and Human Services Dept. which includes adults and families in need of social service support. We must take into consideration building management, scheduling of space, space priorities, and definition of multi-use programming/space. The opportunity to be an adult center for community use is something we encourage community input and feedback on, and we will proceed accordingly.