By BELLA LEVAVI
Staff Writer, Greenfield Recorder
Published: 8/5/2022 3:45:10 PM
Modified: 8/5/2022 3:42:04 PM
HEATH — Informed by an abundance of survey responses, the Selectboard voted this week to move the Senior Center from Community Hall to a room in the former Heath Elementary School that now houses town offices.
The Council on Aging brought the request to the Selectboard after a group of volunteers collected more than 200 responses by phone from senior residents to assess their needs. They divided the data into age brackets.
Council on Aging Chair Victoria Burrington said about 80% of the town’s seniors participated in the phone survey.
“The most surprising result of the survey is how many people participated,” she said.
With data in hand, the council then considered location options. The former school at 18 Jacobs Road and Community Hall at 1 East Main St. were weighed against each other.
Council on Aging and Selectboard member Susan Lively said there are safety and accessibility issues at Community Hall, which currently houses the Senior Center in the basement. The former Heath Elementary School, however, is fully accessible, which Lively said is vital to accommodate seniors who have mobility issues.
“The old school had more opportunities for growth and collaboration,” Lively added, noting that the third most-requested activity based on the survey of seniors is intergenerational activities.
The Council on Aging hopes to partner with the library, municipal offices or the Fire Department’s office for future activities. All of these entities are in the former school building, except for the library, which plans to finish its move in early September.
Burrington also said she favored 18 Jacobs Road because the Senior Center would have access to the cafeteria and a larger kitchen.
“The school is a much brighter location,” she noted.
The room at the former school that the Senior Center will move to is currently being used to store science equipment, small chairs and cubbies leftover from the school. The Selectboard is offering the equipment to nearby schools.
Once the room is cleared, the Council on Aging will start planning how to use the space for activities for seniors. A timeline for the transition is currently unclear.
Heath offers tai chi classes, a monthly community cafe and a foot clinic for seniors, and plans to expand programs now that a space has been chosen and the survey has been completed. With all members of the council being new to their positions, they say they are building programs back slowly following COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions.
Lively said the council received a grant to hire a Senior Center coordinator who would work five to six hours weekly planning activities.
“We are excited to have a place that people can get around,” Burrington said of the upcoming move to the former school, “and we will be looking back to the survey to see what activities to run.”
As for Community Hall, where the Post Office will be the only operating entity remaining, Lively said a fire safety evaluation was conducted and town officials plan to have an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance evaluation done soon. She said the town will seek grants to bring the building up to code once the evaluations are done.
Contact Bella Levavi at email@example.com or 413-930-4579.