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

A look at how the very small town is serving and protecting its older residents

Georgetown, Maine, is a rural, coastal town of about 1,000 residents. The median age is 49.6. Nearly 40 percent of the town's residents are 65 or older.

Staying Safe in a Sea Town

Georgetown, Maine

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Located northeast of Portland, Georgetown Island lies between the mouth of the Sheepscot River and the Kennebec River on the Gulf of Maine. The community is home to several boat builders, fishermen, retirees, summer residents and artists.

The town joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2018. Its age-friendly effort is called Age-Friendly Georgetown.

Community Representative: 

(Information provided to AARP on May 8, 2020)

The Challenge

“Our efforts during COVID-19 have focused on two areas: food security with an emphasis on isolated elders and the delivery of vital health and safety information to people who aren’t connected to regular communication networks. In a rural town, it can be difficult to reach every resident. Mainers are an independent and hardy lot, so even in times of need some people will defer support by saying that others need it more.”

The Response

“To support the nutritional and healthy living needs of our town, Age-Friendly Georgetown, community leaders and volunteers formed the Community Outreach Program, which raised more than $6,000 in a little over a month.

The Focus Areas

"To publicize the program and target residents who might need support, we spread word about program through a variety of local networks and asked people if they needed support or knew of someone who did. We consulted with our town office and local organizations that have many elderly members. We also worked with our elementary school guidance counselor and principal to identify families who would benefit from some support.

“The funds are available to help residents with basic needs, such as purchasing food and essential home supplies, including cleaning products and paper products. We don’t screen for eligibility, so if someone indicates they need help, we provide it.

“We’re also giving out homemade face masks. A local group formed to make the masks and the Local #40 of the Connecticut Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Union donated the metal nose pieces.

“A critical element of staying safe and healthy during these times is getting accurate and timely information. Many of our elders are not connected to the internet or they use it just for the basics and don’t have easy access to information sources. 

Response Partners

“Our goal has been to have a direct connection with every one of our neighbors. The Age-Friendly Georgetown network has extensive connections, which gives us the ability to share information that can help people stay safe and healthy. We share communications from government sources, such as the State of Maine, the Centers for Disease Control, our town government, the local fire department and EMS service, and other reputable sources, including AARP.

“By sharing information we can help sort through some of the complexities and the volume of information available. We use every communication method available, including email distribution lists, Facebook, website notices, our town periodical, posters throughout town and outreach through town organizations. However, as a small town, the most impactful method for sharing information about our support program is through family, friends and neighbor connections."

The Results, Thus Far

"The Community Outreach Program has supported more than 50 households, including many isolated elders. We’ve had a great deal of feedback along the lines of:

  • I can’t believe you are doing this.”

  • “Without your support I don’t know how I would have been able to get enough food to stay safe and healthy.” 

"We’ve been very thankful to be able to support our neighbors so they can stay safe and healthy during this crisis. The biggest aspect of our success has been the outpouring of support and volunteer services throughout our town. Georgetown residents quickly responded with money, time and compassion to help one another in any way they could. Whether they’ve helped by making homemade meals for neighbors in need or by packaging and delivering food, our residents are the backbone of our program.”

Research by Shosanna Preuss  | Article published May 2020

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