$63,000 to make NH more ‘livable’ for 50-plus crowd – and everyone else

By ANNMARIE TIMMINS

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 07-07-2023 1:23 PM

This year, the Claremont Opera House prioritized getting kids back to the theater after the pandemic kept them away by hosting field trips, giving them free tickets to shows, and holding no-cost activities every Friday morning. 

Now it’s turning its attention to the other end of the age spectrum. That effort will include technology to help attendees better hear performances and movies. The new system will automatically connect to an attendee’s hearing device, though there will be headsets available too. 

Board president Felicia Brych Dalke said it’s possible thanks to a $6,860 “livable community” grant from AARP New Hampshire.

“We know that it can make a difference for people who would not otherwise go to an event or who are watching their granddaughter’s play but may not be able to hear the spoken word well,” she said. 

It’s one of seven awards AARP New Hampshire announced last week, each intended to make community activities more accessible to people over 50 who have hearing, vision, or mobility challenges. The state Commission on Aging shares that goal, as do a group of North Country towns that developed an “age-in-place” plan intended in part to guide government investments. 

Though, advocates who work with older people note that the accommodations benefit people of all ages.

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“AARP New Hampshire is committed to working with local leaders to improve residents’ quality of life through tangible changes,” said state director Christina FitzPatrick. “We are proud to collaborate with this year’s grantees as they make immediate improvements in their communities to jumpstart long-term change, especially for Granite Staters 50 and over.”

AARP New Hampshire has awarded 25 grants since 2017, worth approximately $237,400, said Pamela Dube, associate state director of communications. This year’s grants, totaling $63,000, will support projects ranging from an accessible gazebo to raised garden beds.

The Littleton Community Center, which hosts family parties, club gatherings, and town government meetings, is using part of its $24,000 grant to modernize its 125-year-old building. That includes installing high-speed internet and a video and audio system to make remote attendance an option. 

It’s the first grant volunteer board member Kathleen Smith has ever written, so she was not expecting to get it. Now she’s thinking about the people who come to the center for the quilting and gardening club meetings and families hosting reunions who want to include relatives who live hundreds of miles away.

Smith also hopes the town will agree to allow remote access to its meetings.

“We hope that this will let (the public) participate in civic government,” she said. “You get less and less able to do that (in person) as you get older.”

Maps of biking routes in the North Country will become easier for everyone to read thanks to a $5,000 grant Tri-Town Bicycle received. 

The nonprofit, whose mission includes expanding accessibility to cycling, will use the money to enlarge maps of biking trails and put routes in bold, said Bruce Caplain, founder and executive director. The map is a community guide too – with locations of breweries and coffee shops, lodging, and gear and repair stores – that will also become easier to read.

“The older population likes and uses maps more than the younger generation, who tend to use their phones,” Caplain said. “Given that there are so many retired people moving to and visiting the area and using the cycling resources, it makes sense to ensure that they’re accessible to everyone.”  

Hopinkton is putting its $2,500 grant into an audit of three local walking routes to identify where crosswalks or sidewalks would improve safety and access. It will also promote the social and health benefits of walking. 

Wilton’s $17,000 grant will allow it to create a shaded, accessible gazebo for wildlife viewing. Gather, a food pantry in Portsmouth, received a $2,500 grant to create a community garden with raised garden beds and vertical gardens to enable older residents of local senior housing communities to grow their own food. 

The Gibson Center for Senior Services in North Conway, which led the creation of a multi-town age-friendly plan, will educate older residents about technology that would allow them to age at home with its $5,750 grant. They’ll hold an event in town but also take the project on the road for those with transportation challenges.

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