Last week, the Edgartown select board heard from staff at the Council on Aging’s Anchors’ program. A five-year planning committee brought their early findings to the meeting, including the challenges of operating out of a 100-year-old building that was meant to be a family home.
Although they agree that 10 Daggett Street is a scenic location, it’s no longer practical for their purposes. Think Chappy Ferry traffic in the summertime, nine available parking spots for five staff and the participants, elders driving around and around Edgartown trying to find parking so they can attend an event in the summer, construction at the Kelley House further hindering the parking options, flooding on Dock Street, and the list goes on.
Offices are on the second floor of the Anchors, in what would have been bedrooms, and there are many elders who cannot navigate the stairs to talk to staff about resources they may need or critical challenges they may have. Because of the historical nature of the Anchors building, it is even more problematic to consider making any changes to the structure.
The ramps outside the building entrances are made of wood, and extremely slippery from water and fungus buildup. The one in the back of the building is particularly troublesome, because the failing gutter system means water pools there, and then drops consistently onto that entrance. Anchors’ administrator Lyndsay Famariss said, “You have to really want to come here,” which sounds unfortunate for the hundreds of people who need their services.
We wonder how long the staff and the participants at the Anchors have dealt with these issues, and how unfortunate that it hasn’t been fully addressed before now.
The Council on Aging provides everything from case management, advocacy, hospital and home visits, to food delivery, exercise, and programming for Edgartown’s elderly population and their families. Thankfully, it appears that the select board is supportive of the Anchors, and willing to help them move forward in finding a solution, which more than likely involves a new location.
Town administrator James Hagerty says he’s met with the planning committee a couple of times, and one factor that needs to be considered is what kind of footprint is required for a new building. There is the possibility of the land and structure where the current Boys and Girls Club is located, which admittedly offers a great deal of parking space, or perhaps a different location altogether. (The Boys and Girls Club is currently fundraising for its own new, 25,000-square-foot building.)
Committee co-chair Marvene O’Rourke says they plan to go on field trips to visit other Councils on Aging across the state to see what types of facilities might work best. The problems with the current building, she says, even extend to staff unable to make it work because of flooding on Dock Street. O’Rourke says they do not expect this process to move quickly, but she also says she feels the town is supportive. Her greatest fear, she told The Times, was that they would go to the select board and be told no, it wouldn’t be feasible to move forward. Luckily, the opposite happened.
But we wonder, especially considering the slippery ramps and the availability of space for private conversations with participants, if both the town and staff at the Anchors could work together to come up with some short-term fixes that could help in the interim. They could find appropriate space on the first floor in another town building, with easier access for staff, to meet with family members and the elderly perhaps one day a week. The town’s highway department could come forward and take a look at fixing the ramps and failing gutters above the entrance.
A long-term solution to the Anchors’ situation may be a long time coming. In the meantime, these issues should be addressed by the town sooner rather than later for the health and safety of Edgartown’s elders.
Since Edgartown’s senior population reportedly grew 28 percent in the past 10 years, and the Island’s population as a whole is growing, it seems to us that all the towns need to take a closer look at how they support their Councils on Aging and what they can do to safely accommodate the Island’s elders. With more people come more challenges, but also the possibility of more creative solutions.