What Brookline is Doing For Their Senior Community: Featuring the Brookline Community Aging Network

The origins of the Brookline Community Aging Network date back all the way to 2010, when JF&CS joined a gathering at the home of Frank and Carol Caro in Brookline's Crowinshield Road area to discuss the creation of a neighborhood support system that would help them to remain in their homes as they grew older. The group then invited Ruthann Dobek to offer her perspective as director of both the Council on Aging and the Brookline Senior Center. Upon learning of the offerings available from the Senior Center, the group concluded that the best way to pursue their objective was to combine forces with the Center. The committee that was formed solicited input from Brookline residents, asked for the involvement of residents, and learned from each other to see how other communities approach the "Aging at Home" initiative. The Brookline Community Aging Network was launched as a result of this committee, to always ensure that the older generation was fully supported.

The principal purpose is to ensure that older Brookline residents remain a vital part of the town's social, cultural, and civic life. To make this happen, the organization works with town departments, businesses, and other organizations to make the community a better place to live for not only seniors, but all Brookline residents.

Why is Brookline a Great Place for Seniors to Live?

"Brookline is an outstanding place for seniors to live because of the transit oriented development of the Beacon Street corridor", says Frank Caro, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee. The particular area of North Brookline has large residential buildings (with elevators) that are close to shopping and restaurants (especially Coolidge Corner), rich cultural opportunities, a public library, a senior center, and health services. The fact that everything is nestled into the same area makes it the quintessential space for a senior to live successfully without an automobile. With an MBTA bus stop or train station on every corner, the city is just a few minutes away!

The amount of cultural offerings for residents is another desirable point of the town- conveniently being near several colleges, universities, and several cultural organizations. The option to stay involved with music is certainly not lacking, with Coolidge Corner Community Chorus, the Brookline Music School, Brookline Symphony Orchestra, etc. Other stops like the Coolidge Corner Theatre and multiple museums also help keep seniors of the community entertained. If residents of Brookline are still curious of the offerings available, they can sign up for their monthly newsletter which calls attention to the many services at their fingertips. Recently, Brookline was even accepted as a member of the World Health Organization's International Network of "Age Friendly" cities. Although the WHO network includes over 100 cities in 18 countries, only eight other cities in the U.S. have been selected to join. Brookline is the first municipality in New England invited to join the network. Take a look at the acceptance of the award above.

Getting Support from the Community

Over the years BrooklineCAN has continued to gain support from the residents of Brookline by calling attention to the needs of seniors and providing information about the many resources available. They have gained an enormous amount of respect with their advocacy efforts over the years. Frank Caro shared an example with us about the maintenance of sidewalks during snow storms (which must be a nightmare for seniors to navigate during snowfall).
"We have made friends, for example, through our advocacy for better maintenance of sidewalks in commercial areas after winter storms. As a result of our initiative a year ago, Brookline established a winter sidewalk task force that was remarkably effective in preparing Brookline for the winter 2015 record snowfalls."

Another little, yet surprisingly important, example of how the community gives their support is the recent addition of seven restaurants to the town's list of public restrooms. The list, now containing 24 establishments around the city, permits BrooklineCAN members to use the bathroom even if they are not customers. Little things like this are constantly being done to help make Brookline an even better place for seniors to live.

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