Support the Supportive Day Program

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To the Editor:

I am writing to urge people in all six towns to vote in favor of the bond issue at your annual town meeting to secure a home for the Supportive Day Program. This is a program of Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living that has been part of the fabric of services for the elderly and most fragile of our older senior population since the mid-1980s. This adult day care program provides mental, social, and physical stimulation that helps keep our frailest elderly more mentally sharp and physically healthy. This program provides the participants with a reason to get up every day, and helps keep them from being isolated.

Just as parents of infants and preschool children need safe, stimulating, and affordable child care, families with elders need safe, stimulating, and affordable elder care. Day care, be it for children or elders, affords families the opportunity to be able to work and complete other obligations, knowing their loved ones are in a safe and nurturing environment.

I write as a caregiver. My mother is 95 years old, and has been attending the day program for six years. She has some short-term memory loss, is legally blind, and has a significant hearing loss, even with hearing aids. The professional staff and volunteers make her feel important and valued. She loves this program, and eagerly goes the four days a week it is available. If it was a seven-day-a-week program, she would be waiting for the Lift van operated by the VTA daily.

The Lift provides door-to-door service for participants. The drivers are fabulous with my mother, making them a very important part of this program as well. The staff help caregivers with community resources available to them, as well as understanding how to manage cognitive and behavioral changes faced by our elderly loved ones.

Martha’s Vineyard is very fortunate to have an adult care program. It is one out of only 27 adult day care programs in the entire state of Massachusetts. My brother and I have discussed having our mother spend some months in Macon, Ga., with him. Macon has no program like this, so we elected for her to remain on the Island. For our mother, we absolutely know that this program is the reason she is still alive and can still live in her home. Without this senior day care program, she would not have the mental, physical, and social stimulation that has enabled her to have a very good quality of life at 95.

The participants of the supportive day program receive a nutritious noon meal, prepared by Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Participants take part in activities to provide mental stimulation, daily exercise, games, crosswords, trivia, crafts, intergenerational programs with young children, visits from therapy dogs, music and singing, memory care, and more. Perhaps playing bingo seems frivolous, but this is an engaging game that requires focus and thought. Focus and thinking are activities that build and protect mental muscles. Getting out of the house, socializing with other people in a supervised setting, enhances the quality of life for my mother and others like her. All of us wouldn’t mind living longer if we can have “our wits about us” and can continue to live (somewhat) independently. Having embarked on this journey with an aging parent, I now definitely understand the saying, “If you don’t use it, you will lose it.”

Our Island continues to have a growing population of retirees. The Supportive Day Program needs a larger and dedicated space to be able to include more of our elderly, now on a waiting list. My mother gets confused about which day the program is at which senior center, and the time the van will pick her up varies by which town. I do want to also give a big thank-you to Tisbury and Edgartown, both of which currently give up space in their senior center two days each week for this program.

Please consider going to your town meeting and voting in favor of helping fund a permanent home for this program. Two-thirds of the voters in all six towns have to vote in favor of this proposal.

Rita Brown

Edgartown