In 2017, Salem Council on Aging saw much change

Terry ARnold

Teresa Arnold, new executive director of Salem’s Council on Aging.

 

Salem seniors have much to look forward to in 2018.

In September, Salem not only broke ground on the Mayor Jean A. Levesque Community Life Center, but also appointed Teresa Arnold as Salem Council on Aging’s executive director.

“Terry is very highly qualified and has a wonderful reputation,” said Lynda Coffill, chairman of the Council on Aging Board of Directors. “She’s already established relationships with some of the seniors and has done a terrific job of communicating with the board.”

Mayor Kim Driscoll picked Arnold based on the Gloucester resident’s reputation, qualifications and management style amassed over a 25-year career, she said.

“Terry brings the kind of positive and supportive attitude that is so important for a COA director who interacts daily with our senior population,” said Driscoll. “I’m especially excited that she will be at the helm of the COA when we move into the new building this coming year.”

The city anticipates a 2018 completion for the 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building on Bridge Street. The facility will house the COA, Veterans Services and Park and Recreation departments.

Arnold is delighted with her new job.

“I am very pleased to be part of a solid city with excellent leadership,” she said. “While I live in Gloucester, I’ve always been fond of Salem and its incredible history, not unlike my own hometown. However, I can help serve seniors and people living with disabilities, I certainly will.”

The same night the Salem City Council confirmed Arnold, councilors also voted to move the executive-director position under the mayor’s supervision.

Revolving turnover

Salem City Councilor President Elaine Milo said she has seen a trio of COA executive directors come and go over a three-years time span.

“High turnover in any organization is not healthy,” she said.

Milo added she believes Arnold will bring a professional, positive atmosphere to the Council on Aging.

“My sense is that she will work hard to cultivate outside relationships with community organizations that have much to offer seniors and vice versa,” said Milo. “I look forward to working with her.”

Arnold is aware of worries over the revolving-door of leadership and expressed a confidence in current COA staff.

“I can understand the concern of the community not wanting to see a lot of turnover. I hope that my tenure here is lengthy and that we can move forward toward the new Community Life Center,” said Arnold. “We have some good opportunities ahead to make the center a vibrant hub.”

Arnold possesses experience across program and business development, operations, advocacy, government and board relations and clinical and quality management. She holds a master’s degree in management from Lesley University.

Before arriving in Salem, Arnold headed up the Greater North Shore Link in Danvers, an aging and disability consortium. She also worked in several senior-serving outfits from Caregiver Homes to SeniorCare.

In her appointment letter, Driscoll wrote: “Throughout her career, Teresa has been dedicated to leading programs that preserve the dignity and independence of seniors.”

Over the years, Arnold said she amassed a bag of successful programs to pull from. One in particular that she mentioned: Providing an enhanced evening-and-weekend schedule of medical rides for seniors.

“Transportation needs never go away,” she said.

Ensuring seniors, including those with disabilities, maintain a high quality of life and independence are top priorities, said Arnold.

“I’ve been able to provide seniors — as well as individuals living with a disability and their families and caregivers — the resources they need to access long-term supports and services in order to stay as independent as possible and to hopefully age in place,” Arnold said.

Nothing could make Andrew J. LaPointe, president of the Friends of the Salem Council on Aging, and Shubert, his seeing-eye dog, happier.

“Our seniors are Salem’s most valuable assets,” said LaPointe. “Terry will also work with me to include the many seniors with disabilities, so they can be a part of all the great programs that are offered.”

At-large Councilor Thomas Furey was the sole vote against Arnold. He argued for hiring someone who possessed institutional memory and a familiar face among local seniors, especially in light of turnover.

“There has been a revolving door of outside COA directors who come in and out. They leave it in a vacuum of leadership,” said Furey, “so I voted against the outsider from Gloucester. We need continuity and stability. There are several people inside the COA who could take over very easily.”

Filling the post came after a six-member search committee executed a lengthy vetting process: Advertising the open position, ranking qualified applicants, conducting initial interviews and sending the mayor an appointment recommendation.

Arnold ultimately rose to the top, and the committee supplied Driscoll with her name. The mayor performed the final interview and sent the Arnold appointment for the City Council’s confirmation consideration.

Arnold now leads a city agency annually serving more than 2,000 seniors, to whom the COA an array of services and support “to ensure all seniors can maximize of their lives,” according to council’s website.

During just one week in December, the COA will offer 34 activities: Meditation, quilting, creative writing, water aerobics, drum class, line dancing and trips to North Shore Mall and, for an evening concert, Salem State University.

Community Life Center

The new facility will be called Salem’s Community Life Center, a name that better reflects the diversity in age the COA serves. Currently, the COA seeks programs that broaden its appeal to a cross-generational age range of seniors.

“We go from 60 to 100 years old,” said Coffill. “We have to make sure we have activities geared to all age groups.”

Reaching out to younger seniors to pull them in the COA constitutes another priority on Arnold’s docket.

“Terry wants to introduce new opportunities for 50 and 60-years-old to join older adults at the new Community Life Center, to make it a central gathering place for all,” said Salem for All Ages Task Force Co-Chairman Pat Zaido.

The 14-member task force was formed the AARP and the World Health Organization certified Salem as an “Age Friendly City.” Members are currently executing a five-year action plan to ensure Salem remains age-friendly across transportation, social participation and social inclusion.

Arnold, in her role, sits on the task force, and she and Zaido have already had four or five meetings. She has been impressed by Arnold’s maturity, experience and passion.

“With 25 years of experience working with seniors and the disabled,” said Zaido, “it is obvious she is committed to this population.”

Advertisements

Creating intergenerational bonds the old fashioned way: by writing letters

by Shelley A. Sackett

 

 

Stanley Elementary School fourth grader Drew Hause couldn’t wait to go to school last Wednesday, June 7. Since October, he and 21 other students in Mrs. Sami Lawler’s class have corresponded with pen pals from the Swampscott Senior Center and today was the day they would finally meet them face-to-face.

 

The seniors were just as excited. For many who live far away from their own grandchildren, gaining a peek through the keyhole of a nine-year-old’s life over the course of the school year was a welcome treat during the long slog of the New England winter. Meeting them in person would be icing on the cake.

 

The intergenerational program was started years ago by Marilyn Cassidy as a way to connect seniors and young school children. For the first few years it was at Hadley Elementary School, then Clarke Elementary School, and this year its home base was Stanley.

 

 

Hause and Sackett

Pen pals Drew Hause and Shelley Sackett get ready to try their luck at bingo.

 

 

“The kids loved writing. They poured their heart and soul into their letters and I learned things while I was proofreading with them that I would otherwise not have known,” Lawler said, adding, “It was pretty special.”

 

 

Mello-Lawler-Fray-Kerr-Glynn

Mrs. Ami Lawler (second from left) and fourth grade class mom chaperones at the Swampscott Senior Center pen pal lunch.

 

 

Norma Freedman, of Swampscott, chaired this year’s Senior Center pen pal program. She has had a pen pal for many years, and even wrote to one girl throughout the summer while she was away at camp.

 

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s good for the kids. They know there’s someone in the world besides their immediate family that cares for them,” she said.

 

The biggest challenge for her? “They draw a lot on the envelopes. I’m not an artist and I don’t draw, but I tried to, to keep it interesting for them too.”

 

The students arrived at the Senior Center by van (courtesy of the Senior Center) clutching handmade decorated envelopes, presents and lunch. Their senior pen pals were already there, and squeals of delight filled the lunchroom as hugs, presents and — of course — letters were exchanged.

 

Thomas Mello presented his pen pal, retired social worker Bill Foley, with a last letter in an envelope covered with colorful drawings of his pets, a guinea pig and an aquarium full of fish. Unsurprisingly, his favorite part of the pen pal project was “drawing on the cards.”

 

Mello-Foley-Jaeger-Kerr

From left: Thomas Mello, Bill Foley and Caleb Jaeger-Kerr get to know each other over lunch.

 

 

After lunch, seniors and fourth graders played four rounds of bingo, bonding even more over lessons in frustration and good sportsmanship. Freedman reminisced how her pen pal won one game last year and hugged and kissed her. “He was so happy. It was like I gave him the world,” she said with a smile.

 

Holly Mello, Thomas’s mother and one of the class chaperones, touted the scholastic benefits of teaching kids to communicate the old fashioned way — through letters. “It’s a great way for the kids to have an applied experience to practice their writing during the school year. They have grandparents, but they see and talk to them often on the phone,” she said.

 

Even though he didn’t win at bingo, Drew Hause had a big smile on his face as he hugged his pen pal goodbye and enthusiastically invited her to continue the correspondence after school lets out for the summer.

 

He offered parting words of advice to incoming Stanley fourth grade students. “When you guys are in Mrs. Lawler’s class, and she asks if you want a pen pal, you should say yes. You’ll be so happy because then you’ll meet them and it will be so much fun!”