Local COA’s Plan 50th Anniversary Celebrations

by Debra Lawless
The Chatham Council On Aging has adopted a special logo for its 50th anniversary. The Chatham Council On Aging has adopted a special logo for its 50th anniversary.

It’s time for a birthday celebration — a few celebrations, in fact.

Fifty years ago, in 1974, legislation was passed allowing Massachusetts municipalities to create councils on aging (COA).

Today, 350 COAs operate in the Commonwealth to provide services such as fitness classes, transportation, social gatherings, meals, health screenings and much more to the state’s over 1.3 million adults age 60 and above through their local senior centers. COAs may be particularly vital in Barnstable County where the median age is 54.5 years, as compared to 39.8 years statewide, according to datacapecod.org. The populations of all four towns in our area — Chatham, Brewster, Harwich and Orleans — are older than the statewide average. Chatham, whose median age is 64.2, has the oldest population, a distinction it often swaps with Orleans.

Fiftieth anniversary events for the COAs kick off in Chatham on Thursday, June 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. when an open house is planned at the Chatham Center for Active Living at 193 Stony Hill Rd.

Judy Hanlon, vice-president of the Friends of the COA, a private non-profit group that raises funds to support the COA, put together a timeline of the Chatham COA over the past half century that will be on display. Light refreshments will be served, and door prizes handed out. “It’s going to be pretty nice,” Hanlon says. “We hope people will come and visit.” The event is open to all ages.

In addition, “we also plan to march, for the first time ever, in the July Fourth parade,” Hanlon says. A Friends board member will drive his convertible along the parade route, perhaps transporting one of the town’s oldest residents. Members of the COA’s group “Wellness Warriors” will march along the route bearing a large banner.

A town-wide picnic is also planned for Saturday, Aug. 24. It will be held at a time to-be-arranged in the field behind the Chatham Community Center and feature an old-fashioned theme with attractions such as a dunk tank and pie eating contests.

For 50 years the COA’s mission has been “to make the lives of people over the age of 60 as comfortable as possible,” Hanlon says, adding that the group has been “very successful.”

For more information, call the COA at 508-945-5190.

In Brewster a celebration of the COA’s “major milestone” will be held on Saturday, June 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sea Camps Bay Property at 3057 Main St.

“This community celebration is just that — it’s an opportunity for Brewster residents of all ages (age 1 to 105 in this case) to celebrate how we as a community continue to positively support one another and our quality of life here on the Cape,” says Elton R. Cutler, director of the Brewster COA. For the past 50 years the Brewster COA and Senior Center has “supported and advocated for older adults and their families by providing meaningful programs, services and resources that promote independent living and enhance overall quality of life.”

The Living Legacy exhibit under the main tent will feature a display about 10 local residents. “Many of their stories express and illustrate what Brewster means to them, growing up and looking back over the years, and how Brewster developed into what it is today,” Cutler says. A tribute will be paid to the town’s oldest resident, Barbara W. Mahoney, who is 105.

In addition, the Brewster Historical Society will display 400 continuously running slides of historical Brewster in the arts building. Adding to the day’s festivities, rock and blues music will be performed by the local musicians Brother Phil and Schuyler Grant. The mobile barbecue truck X-Grill will serve grilled hamburgers, hotdogs and veggie burgers. Also on tap will be popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones. Lawn games will be organized by the Brewster Recreation Department. The celebration is billed as a great chance to “meet your neighbors and enjoy the vibrant community spirit.”

The Brewster COA’s anniversary is officially June 10. Its original purpose was to keep the town’s 834 citizens over age 59 living in their own homes.

Registration for the event is required through the Brewster COA at 508-896-2737. The Brewster COA is at 1673 Main St., Brewster.

A motto of the Orleans COA is “we are all part of the aging community… we’re all aging every day!”

Orleans COA Director Judi Wilson says a celebration of the COA’s 50th anniversary will take place in September during National Senior Center month. The Orleans COA and Senior Center is at 150 Rock Harbor Rd. Call 508-255-6333 for more information.

Over in Harwich, the COA was established in 1971 and is 53 years old. “We always like an excuse for a party,” says Julie Witas, director of the Harwich Council on Aging. “We’ll look ahead to our 60th.”

But the Friends of the Harwich COA was established in 1974 and is commemorating the 50th anniversary of that organization’s “programs and efforts to improve the lives of older adults,” according to the group’s May/June newsletter. “We are working on plans for a celebratory event marking the anniversary later in the year.”

The Harwich COA is at 100 Oak St. For more information, visit HarwichCOA.com or call 508-430-7550.