Vermont Press Releases

Older Vermonters Speak Out

News Release — Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging
May 30, 2017

Janet Hunt

Winooski, VT:
Wednesdays are vital days in Morrisville, Vermont where friends come together for a delicious and nutritious meal at the Meals on Wheels site in Lamoille County. The site is located at 24 Upper Main Street in Morrisville in an old church with beautiful stained glass windows, a large pipe organ, several clothed tables and chairs where pews once sat, archways that open into other areas of the building, and last but not least, a hand painted wall mural of the Vermont countryside with a scroll messaging “The Beauty That is Vermont”. This is a work of art signed by Tara Goreau.

Nicole Grisgraber is the Executive Director of Meals on Wheels and engages with the many volunteers and participants throughout the lunch time. Not only does the program offer a Wednesday meal on-site, but delivers hundreds of meals throughout Belvidere, Cambridge, Eden, Elmore, Hyde Park, Jeffersonville, Johnson, Morristown, Stowe, Waterville, Wolcott, and Worcester.

Bob Harter is a volunteer director for the meal program. He and his wife moved to Vermont several years ago and dedicate much of their time by taking on as many as nine routes shared with other volunteers across central Vermont, offering nutritious meals to over 190 individuals.

I ventured to Morrisville to meet people, to learn about what older Vermonters do about supports they may need, and to talk about the Area Agencies on Aging. Sheila Reed who works for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders joined me on this visit on a very hot day in May. Sheila quickly made the rounds to introduce herself to individuals and hear specific concerns they had. Sheila shared her contact information with a couple of people who had questions about housing regulations or other health care issues.

Both Sheila and I took turns talking to the large crowd as they were served their lunch. The month of May is a celebration of Older Americans Month established by the Administration for Community Living to raise awareness about critical issues concerning older adults. The theme for the month was “Age Out Loud”. I asked the audience what the theme means to them. A few people responded, “talk to our representatives”; “get together with one another”; “be empowered”.

To stay active in advocating for oneself no matter how young or old we are is critical. We move from the month of May to emphasize Older Americans Month to the month of June where we will bring awareness to abuse of older adults. Indeed, it is groups like these folks at the Morrisville Meals on Wheels site who look after one another and speak-out with care and concern. Nicole and Bob are examples of hard working staff and volunteers who support our older population with very little funding.

Sheila shared with the group how Senator Sanders is leading a request for a 12% increase in the Older Americans Act. That request would have been filed last week hopefully with many co-signors. The Older Americans Act provides funding for programs at our Area Agencies on Aging and services like Meals on Wheels and Senior Centers. It is the major federal vehicle for the delivery of social and nutrition services for more than 11 million older Americans. With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, this increase is vital. It is critical that individuals write letters to our local, state and congressional representatives about keeping and strengthening these programs. Sheila concluded her speech to the group with these words, “This is not an easy time, but as Bernie says, despair is simply not an option”.

When you need help for yourself, a neighbor or a family member, reach out to one of the five Area Agencies on Aging located throughout Vermont. The toll-free helpline will connect you with the right resource at 1-800-642-5119. All of the Area Agencies on Aging provide information and assistance, long-term care counseling, nutritional counseling, assistance with Medicare questions, family caregiver options, supports for Veterans to live independently in their own homes, exercise and wellness programs including falls prevention opportunities. Now more than ever, it is important to keep these services in place with the increased growth of the older population in Vermont. We all must speak out and advocate to strengthen the capacity of our Area Agencies on Aging so that all Vermonters age with health, independence and dignity.

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