Aging-in-Place: Getting It Done

 This is the last in a series of four articles on the findings and recommendations of the Aging-in-Place Task Force. The author is Linton Stables, a member of the Task Force. This week he addresses “Getting it done: Implementing the recommendations of the Task Force.”

Swarthmore Borough Council established the nine-member Aging-in-Place Task Force to study the issues of aging in place over the course of a year, holding public forums, meetings, and interviews with residents and past residents. The results were 22 recommendations made to Borough Council in December, suggesting improvements in social engagement, health and safety, transportation and mobility, and housing. Many of those recommendations could be implemented at little or no cost, and with a modest amount of effort. Some will involve civic discussion and governmental action. Almost all of them call on the citizens of Swarthmore to get involved.

The Task Force recommended the establishment of a term-limited implementation committee to shepherd recommendations through the first stages of development. The report also recommended hiring an aging in place coordinator, who would serve much as the Town Center Inc. coordinator does, making the proper connections and disseminating information that will further Swarthmore as a great place to live as we grow older.

Planning and zoning are the main institutional tools for bringing about the changes recommended for transportation and housing (which will also require major investments by public agencies and private developers, perhaps in partnership with government agencies.) Revising the Borough’s master plan and/or the zoning ordinance will involve us in the political process, engendering a lively discussion among Swarthmore residents of all ages.

Another priority is the establishment of a structure for volunteering in the community. There are already many hard-working volunteer groups such as religious communities and service organizations, but a single coordinated effort is needed to match volunteers with needs. Media has a “Time Bank” into which volunteers “deposit” their hours of service and out of which seniors and others with needs may make “withdrawals.” An hour of service entitles the volunteer to one hour of someone else’s service, and accrued hours may be donated to others, such as your grandmother. Or perhaps grandma herself does taxes or is an attorney. Her donated hours accrue and can be collected later in the form of snow plowing or a lift to her doctor appointment. (Here is one case where an attorney’s or accountant’s time is worth the same as any other volunteer’s time.) Other models exist, and the implementation committee will review them and start the process of forming the organization.

The top recommendation involves you: What is your plan for retirement and living in Swarthmore (or somewhere else)? Beyond the financial aspects, what arrangements have you made for your home, for getting around to buy groceries, and for keeping in touch with your friends and family? This question is not just directed at those in their 60s or 70s who are about to retire. For those in their 40s and 50s, now is a good time to make a few early moves to make life better down the road. If you are involved in caring for your own parents, you already have some idea what the issues and opportunities are. For those in their 20s and 30s, retirement is far off, but it’s never too early to get involved in the borough’s planning to better serve its aging population. And for those who are 8 to 20, there are lots of opportunities: maybe volunteer to rake leaves or run errands for a neighbor, or lead a class project to help the Senior Center.

Everyone can get involved in making our town the best place to live throughout our lives. Speaking of which, Borough Council will review the findings and recommendations again on March 7. Come lend your voice to this effort.

Aging-in-Place Task Force members included Ann Torregrossa,Chair, Ken Carroll, Vice Chair, Sue Dawes, Kerry Hogg, Samina Iqbal, Carol Menke, Judith Neale, Linton Stables, Betty Ann Wilson, and Mayor Tim Kearney (ex-officio.) The Task Force worked with then-Council member Elisabeth Knapp and Borough Manager Jane Billings.

A copy of the presentation to Borough Council is available at and the full report can be found at

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