Pittsfield native Al Farmer wants to give caregivers sympathetic ear and place to learn

Monitor staff
Published: 10/9/2019 4:55:18 PM

Al Farmer, a computer scientist and community builder, graduated from Pittsfield Middle High School 30 years ago and has since settled in California.

Farmer, however, hasn’t forgotten his roots and what his hometown meant to him growing up.

To give back, Farmer is recruiting members from the Suncook Valley, starting with Pittsfield, for what he calls ExtendaTouch, his free online service “for family caregivers to connect with others like them around America and share caregiving experiences and support,” according to a detailed planner, sent to the Monitor, introducing Farmer’s new venture.

Farmer is looking for what he described as his first All-Star Team of helpers, the building block for what he hopes will be a growing movement. He wants this foundation to begin with participants from his hometown.

“We must get the word out and register as many as possible before we launch this to the public,” Farmer said in his memo. “This is a Pittsfield sneak peak at our new platform for caregivers.”

Farmer lived at three Pittsfield residences after his parents’ divorced in 1978, near places like Dustin Park, Carpenter Library and Batchelder’s Dairy Farm.

Life’s simple small-town pleasures stayed with Farmer, who lives with his husband in Sausalito, Calif. The local park’s repaved roads, freshly painted grandstands and newly cut grass all had an impact on his childhood and how he sees life today.

“Downtown became my front yard during the week,” Farmer wrote, “and the forest and dairy farm continued to be my playground during weekends and summertime.”

He filed away memories from Old Home Day, visions of its parade and communal setting on Main Street. He never forgot the History Museum of Pittsfield, nor the warm nights with family, sitting on a blanket and watching the 4th of July fireworks.

“In many ways,” Farmer said, “growing up in Pittsfield gave me the preparation I needed to succeed out in the world.”

He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in computer science. He completed an internship in California at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working with supercomputers.

He was influenced by what he saw as the selfless nature of Pittsfield, remarking, “Simply put, in the time I spent there before I moved, I had a community and community space to use freely, and that had value. I want to return some value. It is my turn to give back for what was provided without anything being asked of me in return.”

Farmer said Baby Boomers - those born between 1946 and ‘64 – have reached or will soon reach the age in which their parents need help. These caregivers, thrust into a role that might be unfamiliar to them, are the gist of his program. Farmer says the U.S. has 76 million Baby Boomers.

“These people are turning 65 at the rate of 11,000 a day, and they are often caregivers for parents, aunts and uncles in their 90s,” Farmer wrote. “Since the wave of people from the Baby Boomer generation is already upon us, we need to act now to mobilize assistance for people stuck with the surprise of needing to become a family caregiver.”

As Farmer sees it, Pittsfield, with the charm and the innocent impact it had on him, is a great starting point for giving back.

“Our free service,” Farmer wrote, “is a place where caregivers can go to find a person who has more experience than they do in a caregiving subject, or just wants to support and chat with them instead of searching the internet for information.”

To register, visit Extendatouch.com.




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