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Age-Friendly Bowdoinham, Maine, Responds to COVID-19

How the very small town is serving and protecting its older residents

Like many communities in the state, Bowdoinham, Maine, is small (population: 3,000 at most) and older (median age 43.7). Roughly 25 percent of the residents are age 65 or older.

Staying Safe in a Small Town

Bowdoinham, Maine

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Located about an hour north of Portland, Maine, Bowdoinham sits on the banks of the Abagadasset, Cathance and Kennebec rivers and Merrymeeting Bay. The town is 14 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

Bowdoinham joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2015. The town's age-friendly effort is referred to as Age-Friendly Bowdoinham.

Community Representative: 

(Information provided to AARP on May 14, 2020)

The Challenge

“During the first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, our main concern was access to food and medication. After that, we focused on identifying residents who have unmet needs that don't typically raise their hands to ask for help and to find a way for people to remain socially connected.”

The Response

“We first worked on ensuring that residents had access to necessities by extending our volunteer driver Rides in Neighbors Cars program to the delivery of food and medications. Older residents and people with a compromised immune system can order groceries and prescription medications and a Bowdoinham volunteer will pick up and deliver the order to the resident. This is all done without any in-person interactions.

The Focus Areas

“The Rides in Neighbors Cars program also facilitates the delivery of goods from local farm stands for people of all ages who cannot leave their home. People can purchase freshly made sourdough bread, yogurt, butter, freshly milled flour, milk, goat cheese, eggs and a variety of vegetables from several un-staffed farm stands. For those struggling with food security, volunteers work with the town’s food pantry to make deliveries of fresh food. Still, we knew there were probably many residents whose needs were not being met.

“Working with a local legislator, the age-friendly team and other volunteers began telephoning all of the older residents of Bowdoinham, Bowdoin and Richmond to make sure they had what they needed to be comfortable and were socially connected. These calls could be a one-time event or the person could request regular wellness check calls.

A Box of Groceries

Courtesy Age-Friendly Bowdoinham

A box of fresh, healthy foods ready for delivery by a volunteer driver.

“We also shifted our in-person programming to remotely engage residents. Before the onset of COVID, we had scheduled a 2020 Census party, in collaboration with the Bowdoinham Historical Society and Bowdoinham Public Library.

Since it couldn’t host the party, the historical society is including a paragraph in its weekly newsletter about completing the census. The section also includes fun facts and a trivia question from the 1820 Census. The answer to the trivia question and a reminder to answer the 2020 Census are posted on the Bowdoinham Friends and Family Facebook page.

“Lastly, we started some fun programming to increase social connectedness. A few volunteers encouraged people throughout the town to ring bells, honk horns, etcetera, each night. It creates a kind of musical and cacophony of solidarity. We’re also facilitating two remote book clubs sponsored by the Bowdoinham library for people to socialize, check-in and share how they’re doing."

The Results, Thus Far

“Age-Friendly Bowdoinham has strengthened existing partnerships and developed new ones to help meet the needs of people of all ages in the community. Coordination, partnership and intergenerational solidarity have been key to our impact. Our solutions have been community-based and driven with all of the organizations in the community working together. Specifically, we’ve seen success by the number of people our programs have helped.

Response Partners

"The Rides in Neighbors Cars program has provided access to food, medication and medical appointments for 32 residents who have a compromised immune system and/or can no longer drive. All of our older residents have received a check-in call to make sure they have what they need and our volunteers are now calling residents of all ages. More than a dozen older individuals are also receiving regular social calls from volunteers.

"Other impacts may not be as quantifiable but are still very important. The local farm stands have been hugely successful, both in providing fresh food for residents and growing a strong consumer base for the local farmers. In addition to increasing the number of people who complete the 2020 Census, our census outreach sparked a round of wonderful story-telling by older residents on the community Facebook page."


Research by Shosanna Preuss  | Article published May 2020

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