Town, volunteers work to make Keene more age friendly
KEENE — A few years ago, the town of Keene undertook a communitywide strategic planning process that involved over 80 volunteers spread across five priority areas. It was a process in many ways inspired by the establishment of the all-volunteer Keene Clean Energy Team, which resulted in shifting town buildings to energy-saving lighting, and the same for power pole lighting, among many other initiatives.
One of the five priority areas — focusing on the need for improved child care and preschool services — has resulted in a radical expansion of Little Peaks, creating a new facility that provides both preschool and day care and increasing the number of children served more than five-fold.
Making Keene the best place to live, work and play as we age is another priority that resulted in nearly a dozen volunteers, including town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson staining new accessible and stroller-friendly picnic tables on Saturday, May 20 at the town pavilion.
Before that, Keene became the first, and thus far only, town in the Adirondack Park to join AARP’s Age-Friendly Communities initiative. The town and its Aging in Place Committee have been able to tap into AARP’s research and resources, including planning models and examples of best practices, such as modivfied picnic tables. Next, they reached out to Essex Industries, an integrated workplace that involves people with developmental disabilities, such as, in this case, making the desired picnic tables. The Cloudsplitter Foundation, the Keene Valley Congregational Church and several individuals provided funding.
“This project is part of Keene’s age-friendly initiative,” said committee chair Jeannie Cross. “Keene is already age-friendly, but we thought we have a lot of public spaces where it would be nice to have some wheelchair-accessible tables near the Holt House and the farmers market in Marcy Field, at Rivermede and Veterans Park, and here at the town pavilion. In addition, they allow parents to pull up a stroller next to them when they eat and easily participate in whatever is going on. And then, working with Essex Industries expands the benefit by providing meaningful work for people with developmental disabilities; this project becomes a win, win, win situation.”
“Coming out of our master plan process, we had a large group of people that wanted to make the town more age-friendly,” Wilson said. “This is just one of the great projects they’ve accomplished that benefits residents and visitors. Every single priority coming out of our master planning process has a group working to put that vision and its goals into practice through implementing the ideas; it’s remarkable and what makes Keene such a great place to live.”
In addition to the picnic tables, Aging in Place Committee members Peg Wilson and Milton Dudley developed an in-depth resource guide for seniors, which is now online on the town’s website, www.townofkeeneny.com.