Community Notes

Ann Hartstein, the Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs. — courtesy Massachusetts Department of Elderly Affairs

Declaring herself delighted to arrive on the sunny Vineyard after being delayed by fog at Logan Airport earlier, Ann Hartstein, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, praised the volunteer work groups for their efforts.

“If this is what you’ve done for the first year I can’t wait to see what is going to come,” said Ms. Hartstein.

According to the Aging Agenda, attention from an early age to health care, diet, exercise, education, developing work skills, planning for future needs, and staying engaged in one’s community all contribute to laying groundwork for a healthy older age.

“People who volunteer stay healthy longer,” Ms. Hartstein noted, “as do people who don’t have a negative view of aging.” She went on to say that even chronic disease is a natural part of aging that does not need to have severe negative impacts on a person’s life. In many cases, what is called for is management and making various adjustments.

Ms. Hartstein emphasized the importance of supporting the ability of people to remain in their homes and their communities as they grow older. She said that making sure people have access to a range of community supports is crucial in this, and transportation plays a big role.

“I’ve been in the field for 40 years and the number one issue that always came up was transportation,” she said.

She pointed out that even when it appears that plenty of public transportation is available, it often does not truly serve the senior population. When an older person stops driving, he or she may well be unable to walk to a bus or shuttle stop, or even climb the steps into the vehicle.

“Elders need supportive transportation,” she said.

Ms. Hartstein reported that Governor Patrick’s administration strongly endorses enabling people to remain at home and out of hospitals and nursing facilities. She said these efforts have led to a drop in nursing home admissions in the state.

She acknowledged that many of the Vineyard work group initiatives, from fall prevention to transportation planning, housing efforts, and others, will support the goal of enabling seniors to remain at home.

A lively, brief question and answer session touched on a variety of topics.

In response to a final question from Paddy Moore, the secretary described her efforts on behalf of those living with Alzheimer’s.

“Alzheimer’s is a family disease, it’s a community disease,” said Ms. Hartstein.

She has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Chapter, to form an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders State Plan Task Force.

Asked about potential state funds for the developing Healthy Aging Task Force projects, Ms. Hartstein responded with encouragement but regret, “You’re doing a great job of finding resources and we will help, but we don’t have a magic bullet.”

Related story on the meeting of the Healthy Aging Task Force is here.


A wellspring of energy and an “Elders Bill of Rights.”

The Vineyard population is aging rapidly, bringing an array of challenges and concerns, but Islanders aren’t taking the unsettling news lying down. When the Rural Scholars, students from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, reported last October that the senior population of Martha’s Vineyard would swell dramatically in years to come, Island activists formed the Healthy Aging Task Force (HATF) to strategize ways to head off the challenge. The task force was developed as a sub-committee of the Dukes County Health Council.

A public meeting in November drew some 65 participants from across the Island, representing several dozen service agencies and providers. That session saw the creation of seven work groups along with a 20-member coordinating committee. Each group was charged with researching and developing responses for a single aspect of senior living.

A morning-long meeting last Thursday, May 22, at the M.V. Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven brought the groups together along with other interested community members to share their findings and map out action plans for months and years ahead.

Facilitated by HATF chair Paddy Moore, who is also a Dukes County Health Council member, and Peter Temple, executive director of the MV Donors Collaborative, the fast-moving meeting was carefully organized and kept to a precise schedule, employing slide presentations to emphasize facts, figures, and findings.

Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann Hartstein capped off the 3½-hour session, offering acknowledgement and inspiration, answering questions, raising ideas, and conveying the assurance that state government supports such local healthy aging initiatives.

“This is a wonderful celebration,” said Ms. Moore with a bright smile as she welcomed the crowd of nearly 100, pointing to the “wellspring of volunteer energy” and the progress underway.

“I believe that timing is all.” she added, saying this is the perfect moment for Vineyarders to prepare for challenges to come as the percentage of senior citizens grows.

Ms. Moore set the tone by introducing the task force’s “Elders’ Bill of Rights.” The nine-point document calls for seniors to enjoy a life that includes appropriate and affordable housing and transportation, the ability to fully participate in community activity, the choice of living at home or in a facility setting, receive high-quality care and make other decisions in later years, all in addition to being respected and valued by their community.

Mr. Temple recapped the warning from the Rural Scholars that the percentage of Island residents over 65 is growing rapidly. According to these projections, from 16 percent in 2010 the Island population of seniors will rise to 32 percent in 2030. The Island’s increase in older population is much more rapid than that of the U.S. or Massachusetts.

Projections show that the Vineyard’s percentage of elder residents will soon be surpassed only by that of Cape Cod, an area called by one observer, Mr. Temple reported, “Medicare by the Sea.”

Many of these older residents have low incomes and are living in homes that are isolated and not well designed or appointed for potentially changing needs and abilities.

Impacts will be felt everywhere, from the increased pressures on medical and mental health care to town services such as senior centers and EMTs. Adding to the challenges, Mr. Temple said, it is difficult to attract health care professionals and home care workers to the Island due to high living costs and limited housing options.

Before the worrisome predictions could cast a pall over the crowd, Ms. Moore introduced the work group presentations, providing varied responses to the challenges raised. Representatives of each work group outlined updates on findings and progress. Reports were clear, concise, rich with detail and optimism.

Reports made recommendations as common-sensical as exercise tailored to seniors, as useful as a centralized information system, and as ambitious as building a new, revolutionary type of nursing care facility and campaigning to change town zoning.

The work groups discovered, as the Rural Scholars did, that the Vineyard already possesses numerous services and programs that address seniors’ needs. In some cases, recommendations were for coordination, education, and adjustments so existing services would be better used.

The Community Engagement and Prevention group honed in on preventing falls, which are prevalent among older adults and can have far-reaching negative impacts on health and well-being. The group plans to institute of “A Matter of Balance” trainings on the Island. The peer-lead programs aim to lessen fears of falling, teach fall prevention and exercises to improve balance, strength, and confidence.

“Falls are the fourth biggest cause of death among the elderly, and our evidence-based workshop training on Matter of Balance can actually save lives,” Ms. Moore said.

Citing the importance of exercise, especially walking, and working with MV Commission staffer Chris Seidel and with support of the MV Chamber of Commerce, the group will soon make available online maps of all walking trails and pedestrian-friendly ways titled “Getting Around Martha’s Vineyard.”

A proposed “Seniors’ One-Stop Referral Service,” a centralized, web-based system, would provide comprehensive information on resources to guide and support elders, providers, and caregivers. Along with gathering and posting complete resource information online, the plan calls for establishment of an office with a staffer available full time to respond to telephone inquiries.

“Transportation is the thread that ties everything together,” said Leslie Clapp reporting for the Transportation Work Group. “If you’re isolated and lonely you’re not going to be very healthy.”

After surveying every mode of Island public transport and some on the Cape, the group aims to educate seniors on what is available. They also will strive to remedy several gaps that exist, such as travel to certain off-Island specialists and veterans’ services.

The Aging in Community group explored a new and promising model for small scale, personalized nursing facilities designed to look and feel like private homes. Fitting into residential neighborhoods, the Green House model offers private rooms, care based on a patient’s wishes, frequent direct staff contact, and could alternatively accommodate rehabilitation or assisted living programs.

According to the report, the Town of Edgartown has raised the possibility of including a Green House in a pending affordable housing development. With the aim of allowing seniors to remain at home whenever possible, the work group also will promote use of existing volunteer programs.

The Affordable Elder and Workforce Housing group intends to consult with town boards across the Island and push for zoning changes to allow accessory or “in-law” apartments which could accommodate an elderly family member, or a caregiver to help an aging homeowner.

Work is also underway to find ways to educate contractors on several simple design adjustments (e.g. wider doorways and halls, easy no-threshold doors, first-floor living potential) which could make new or retrofitted homes accessible, safe, and livable for older, wheelchair-bound, or handicapped residents.

More than one-third of Vineyarders now provide care on an informal basis to an older family member or friend, a number projected to rise to 55 percent by 2030. The Caregiver Support Work Group is exploring how to provide varied resources for those informal helpers from skills development to medical oversight and respite opportunities.

Funds will be needed to bring many of these ideas to fruition, but progress is underway. Ms. Moore announced a $5,000 M.V. Hospital Community Health Initiative grant towards the One Stop program. Anonymous gifts include: $2,500 for the Green House Feasibility Study; $1,750 for Matter of Balance Training; and $10,000 to fund a two-day consultation with the Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness. The MV Donors Collaborative has contributed time of its executive director and other proposals are pending.

As the meeting ended Ms. Moore urged participants to share all they had learned with neighbors and friends, offer ideas, and consider volunteering.

“There is a lot of work to do,” she said.

Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, Ann Hartstein, spoke to the group, and her remarks are here.

For complete slides from the May 22 presentation and additional information visit:


For information or to volunteer, contact Paddy Moore: or 508-693-1627.


Oak Bluffs resident Roberta Hurtig, executive director of Samaritans, helped celebrate a milestone in the organization’s history, its 40th anniversary.

More than 500 people attended the Samaritans’ “Breakfast for Hope” benefit in Boston, helping to raise more than $150,000. Attendees included daughter of founder Monica Dickens and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, according to a press release.

“So many lives have been saved and individuals comforted during our 40 years of service, and it is a real celebration that these free services are still being offered because of the generous communities we serve,” Ms. Hurtig said.

Since 1974, more than 2.5 million phone calls have been answered by Samaritans. As the culture has changed, shifting to a mobile and online generation, so have Samaritans’ services. Each year, more than 400 volunteers answer more than 120,000 calls, 10,000 texts and 1,000 online chats through Samaritans crisis services; providing more than 300 workshops and trainings on suicide prevention to more than 10,000 people each year; and comforting more than 1,000 people impacted by a loss to suicide through support groups, community meetings and one on one visits.

For more information regarding Samaritans services, to volunteer or to donate, visit For any reason at any time, Samaritans can be reached at 1-877-870-HOPE.


Updated 2:06 pm, Monday, May 19, 2014 to reflect correction, below.

Martha’s Vineyard’s changing demographics — residents aged 65 and over are projected to comprise one-third of the Island population by 2030 — represent an unmet challenge that is the focus of the recently formed Healthy Aging Task Force which will present the findings from seven work groups at a public meeting on Thursday, May 22, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven.

Among the findings, more than 25 percent of Martha’s Vineyard residents are active caregivers to Island elders in a community where 47 percent of age 65 and over households have incomes of less than $30,000 per year.

The Island’s population is aging more rapidly than the state and the nation. The work of the task force has attracted the attention of Ann Hartstein, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, who will attend the session and address the state’s 2014-2017 Plan on Aging.

The meeting will be held between 9 am and 12:30 pm, and is designed to update residents, Island service providers, and town officials on the findings from Healthy Aging work groups on topics that include transportation, workforce and affordable elder housing, caregiver support, community engagement and other prevention resources and the challenges in health care, mental health and delivery of human services, including a one-stop referral directory.

Task Force meetings last October attracted more than 80 people from more than 50 Island service agencies and service providers. The task force evolved from findings presented in a Rural Scholars report on Island aging completed in 2013 by medical school students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

“Each group has been researching and mapping what’s in place currently, and developing plans for the future,” task force co-chairman Paddy Moore said this week. “It is exciting, and to learn the number of caregivers on this Island is shocking, but it allows us to know how much we rely on volunteers.”

Ms. Moore is also a member of the Dukes County Health Council. She defined a caregiver as a person who spends 20 or more hours a week providing care to others. “The average length of caregiving is 4.5 years, but some care giving situations have a 10- or 15-year duration,” she said.

“To date, the housing work group, working with Island affordable housing groups, have developed changes to housing bylaws in our towns,” Ms. Moore said. “Proposals will be ready to be heard at annual town meetings next spring. Housing is not just an elder problem. We need (to attract) younger people who can provide medical and home care.

“We have received an anonymous gift for a feasibility study to look at two ‘Green Houses,’ independent group living homes. That study will be completed by next spring. We also have grants for self-care programs for topics like improving sense of balance, the fourth leading cause of senior death, for nutrition and other self-care initiatives.”

Ms. Moore said that task force members have been working on the initiative since November. “We invite everyone to share their findings with us,” she said.

Correction: The story as published on May 15, 2014 contained an error: Paddy Moore is a member of the Dukes County Health Council, but not an executive director. Dave Caron is the executive director.


Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) will offer a ServSafe Sanitation Training certification class from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May 6 to May 20 at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).

Longtime educator and food specialist Alice Robinson will offer five classes for certification, and a review and exam on May 21. Space is limited and preregistration is required.

Ms. Robinson will also teach a one-day Food Safety Sanitation Mini-Coursethrough ACE MV from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm on May 22 at MVRHS. This class is designed for anyone serving non-hazardous food in places such as the Farmer’s Market, street fairs, bed and breakfasts, etc.

For more details and registration, go online to (under professional development), call ACE MV at 774-310-1131 or e-mail


Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has reorganizedits clinical intake function at the Island Counseling Center (ICC) in order to more quickly respond to requests for counseling and medication management services, according to a press release.

As of Tuesday, the regularly scheduled hours of operation to receive telephone referrals will be from 9 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday. Calls received within these hours will be answered immediately or returned by the end of the business day. Calls outside these hours will be returned within 24 hours. Intake forms will also be available online at Online submissions will receive a response within 24 hours, according to MVCS.

Once all required information is collected, the referral will be reviewed and scheduled for orientation and assessment. The clinical assessment will be completed in one to three sessions by a Clinical Assessment Specialist. Once completed, this person will initiate a disposition in consultation with the adult or child/adolescent clinical supervisors. Assignment to an ICC clinician or access to a suitable community-based clinician will follow.

“MVCS expects this internal change in procedure will create much more timely access to services,” MVCS said.“This reorganization is just one of multiple changes ICC is initiating to better serve the mental health needs of the Island community.”

For more information, contact Rick DeTucci, Program Director, at 508-693-7900, ext. 383, or


Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Services (DVS) Coleman Nee plans to visit Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday, April 10. He will be available to talk with veterans from 10 am to noon at American Legion Post #257 at 34 William Street in Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Nee, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Operation Desert Storm, started as the Undersecretary of DVS in 2008. As Secretary, he leads a department focused on strengthening operations and service delivery to veterans and their families; working with federal, state and municipal partners, veteran service officers and organizations to more effectively and efficiently provide benefits to veterans and families; expanding the Massachusetts Women’s Veterans’ Network; and addressing the issue of homelessness among veterans, according to a press release.

In addition to meeting with veterans on April 10, Secretary Nee is interested in talking with Island town officials, veterans organizations, and anyone else who works with veterans or has an interest in helping them, according to Dukes County Director of Veterans Services Jo Ann Murphy. For more information or to set up an appointment with Mr. Nee, call Ms. Murphy at 508-693-6887.


Dukes County officials will hold an open house from  to 11 am on Thursday, April 3, at the county administration building “for a presentation of all county services and programs,” according to a press release. In addition, residents are invited to visit the Dukes County Courthouse from 1 to 3 pm to learn about the building and the services offered there or drop into the Vineyard Health Care Access Program building on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs between 12 noon and 4 pm to find out about the assistance they offer to Island residents. For more information, contact county manager Martina Thornton at 508-696-3840 or email

Edgartown Elementary School enrichment teacher Sue Costello and some of her students will participate in a multi-generational project to locate, photograph, and research all the historical plaques in Edgartown. Once completed, they will publish their final report and develop a community scavenger hunt.

Members of the Edgartown Free Public Library, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and the Edgartown Council on Aging (Anchors) will also participate. Presently, about 20 historical plaques in Edgartown have been identified and photographed.

Island residents may help by reporting the name, location, and any background knowledge of historical plaques in Edgartown, or by helping students research information related to each plaque. Anyone interested in participating is asked to contact Edgartown Library Director Jill Dugas Hughes via or phone at 508-627-4221. Questions may be directed to library trustee Herb Foster, 508-627-7456 or e-mail


Martha’s Vineyard Hospital announced that Rosemary Silvia, RN, MS has joined the hospital’s senior management team as chief quality and compliance officer.

Ms. Silvia has extensive experience in the field of quality and risk management, having served as director of quality, risk and medical staff offices at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, and as executive director of quality and risk at Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island, according to a press release.

Ms. Silvia received a bachelor of science in social and health services from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and a master’s of science in healthcare risk management from Finch University in Chicago.

She began her career in healthcare as a staff nurse at the Methodist Hospital in Lubbock, Texas and quickly moved up to charge nurse and then head nurse where she supervised a 48-bed critical care unit.

Ms. Silvia will work with the entire hospital staff on quality improvement education and development. Her other responsibilities include acting as the hospital’s liaison with the Patient and Family Council and the Dukes County Health Council.