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Aging Commission has ideas for grant projects

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Members of the city of Roswell Commission on Aging want to start getting some grant funds to help the area’s senior residents.

Helen Wakefield, the new chair of the city of Roswell Commission on Aging (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The new chair for the commission is Helen Wakefield, a youth connections specialist with the Roswell office of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

Jesse Davis, an emergency medical services instructor at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, is also a new member of the group. Other members are Monica Duran, the Chaves County JOY Center’s executive director; community volunteer Bonnie Montgomery; and lawyer Robert McCrea.

Wakefield said she has done some research and talked with city officials, representatives with congressional offices and others and is aware that many funding opportunities exist, including through the Older Americans Act of 1965, which was reauthorized in March by Congress and President Donald Trump.

Wakefield also has several ideas that she thinks could help older residents in the area, as well as projects that would bring the youth and seniors together.

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One idea is to provide laptops to senior residents to reduce their sense of isolation, which she said can lead to serious health issues.

She said that Roswell was the site for a meeting of federal leaders who gathered decades ago to talk about aging issues and the Older Americans Act.

“One thing they spoke about that we all now are experiencing is social isolation,” she said. “Now look how all of us are experiencing some sort of social isolation because of COVID.”

Laptops would help seniors stay connected, she said, with technical assistance using the devices expected to come from home care workers or other care providers.

Other ideas Wakefield is considering are projects to create community gardens throughout the city to bring youth and seniors together and to develop affordable transitional housing for foster youth, urgently needed in this area, where seniors could work or volunteer, and perhaps live, as well.

“Why not start getting the people who are going to age eventually — the young people — involved,” she said. “What does it mean to be civic-minded and help seniors and be involved with seniors and work together with seniors?”

All these ideas would require money to come to fruition, and so the group will discuss how they might find someone able to prepare and manage grant applications to government agencies or nonprofits, with the city serving as the fiscal agent.

She said she encourages people in the area to participate in the discussion about these ideas during the commission’s next meeting at 3 p.m. on Sept. 17. Due to COVID-19, participation is by phone or online. The phone number is 872-240-3311, with an access code of 225-452-477. The online link is https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/225452477.

“We want their thoughts, their opinions, their ideas, all that,” she said. “We want them to weigh in on what do they need, what do they want.”

The meeting also is scheduled to include a talk by Elizabeth Sanchez, a regional coordinator for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program of the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department.

According to the website of the state department, the program provides information about government health insurance programs, including Medicaid and Medicare.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.