MassDevelopment Vice President for Devens Operations, George Ramirez was asked last week about senior services on Devens.
He said MassDevelopment is looking into what it would take to set up senior services such as transportation that Councils on Aging provide in the communities they serve. Devens, not being a town, has no COA.
The issue came up at a recent Devens Committee meeting, when Chairman Tom Kinch said MassDevelopment was "committed" to solving the problem, perhaps by contracting with a local COA to provide senior services or by creating a council for Devens.
Ramirez said the issue was brought to his attention about three or four months ago by Shirley COA Director John Oelfke. Oelfke serves as a Shirley representative on the Devens Enterprise Commission, or DEC, the Devens community's state-appointed permitting authority.
Oelfke said someone called him about an elderly Devens resident needing a ride, Ramirez said.
Councils on Aging, funded in part by government grants and functioning within the parameters of state law, provide rides to local medical and dental appointments and offer Meals on Wheels programs as well as outreach and referrals.
Such services are separate and distinct from programs and activities offered at senior centers, which Devens residents are welcome to attend. They cannot, however, avail themselves of transportation and other COA services.
Acting on Oelfke's recommendation, a group was assembled to "discuss senior needs," in Devens, Ramirez said. It consisted of representatives from the Devens community and MassDevelopment, Shirley and Harvard COA directors and a Harvard selectman, among others. And the Executive Office of Elder Affairs participated in the discussion via conference call. He thought it was a good idea, Ramirez said.
They concluded that except for an "occasional call" about a ride, there didn't seem to be a "volume" of need in Devens. To find out more, they sent out a survey to all Devens residents. "It's a basic questionnaire," Ramirez said, asking about transportation needs and whether seniors want to be included on an emergency contact list.
The group is still collecting data, with a couple of responses so far. The next step will be to form a working group to assess the need and look into options such as area van rentals, Ramirez said.
Asked how the information would be conveyed to the public once a plan of action is established, Ramirez said it would either be through his regular emails to all Devens residents or by meeting with Kinch and the Devens Committee.
No deadline date has been set to complete the process.
Finally, Ramirez was asked about recent changes at MassDevelopment Headquarters, 33 Andrews Parkway, Devens, where a large first-floor conference room has been subdivided into smaller sections and the agency has moved most of its offices upstairs.
Ramirez said it's part of a "sustainability" effort.
The agency leases space from developer Robert Walker, who owns the building, he explained. "We moved the majority (of MassDevelopment offices) to the second floor, which created space downstairs" the landlord can now lease to others. As for the downsized first-floor meeting room where DEC, JBOS and other groups meet, he said the larger space was needed at one time but the smaller area is sufficient now.