New Senior Gathering Places

New Senior Gathering Places

Many creative and vibrant citizens live in rural communities. They connect in schools, churches, town halls, and at coffee shops and other businesses. The ongoing exchange of ideas at these gatherings is where the fabric of a community is woven. Distances to and between these physical sites tend to be greater if the community is rural, often much greater. Access to a social, educational, or service program may require a long, costly drive, very often in hazardous winter weather. As a result, staying involved may be impractical or impossible for many of Somerset County’s older residents.

 Older residents may be left out of the conversations and interactions that are important for healthy living and healthy aging. According to the John T. Gorman Foundation, more than half of Maine seniors live in rural areas and half of low-income Maine seniors live alone. The Maine Health Access Foundation states that isolation and loneliness put older adults at a higher risk for poor health and mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety. These outcomes increase the burden on families, care givers, and community resources. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 31% of Maine’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030. Now is an excellent time to support local efforts geared toward meeting an older residents’ needs. “Mug Up! A Senior Gathering Place” hopes to do just that.

 Mug Up!  A Senior Gathering Place” is a new initiative by Somerset Public Health (SPH) help community organizations from Skowhegan to Moscow reach out to their older adults. A “Mug Up!” event can be something as small as a get-together for coffee to discuss issues of interest. Bill Primmerman, former SPH Project Director stated, “This is a collaborative effort with communities and their citizens; a ‘Mug Up!’ site is a community location which is organized by and for local seniors to socialize, increase their knowledge or skills, and access services and supports to live a healthy life in their community.”  SPH has 3 goals for this new project:

  • Assist communities to organize new or expand existing social events of interest to older residents – Planning will be based on an assessment of local needs and resources and will be used to tailor program to the needs and interests of the individual community. A SPH AmeriCorps member will help with this assessment.
  • Encouraged sites to provide a variety of stimulating and informational programs, including healthy living education – SPH AmeriCorps members, trained in delivering evidence-based programs such as the National Diabetes Prevention Program and Living Well for Better Health, with chronic conditions program, will be available to provide local workshops.
  • Support and link older residents with service resources – SPH AmeriCorps members with Community Health Worker or similar training are familiar with service resources, many free or low cost. An example of a service might be helping an older resident find a primary care provider, connect with a transportation support, identify volunteer opportunities, or fill out important paperwork including online applications.

Two “Mug Up!” sites have been established with financial support from the Betterment Fund. The Social Citizens of Smithfield offers Coffee Talk on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month as well as special events. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Somerset County and the Somerset Grange have partnered to offer a Skowhegan “Mug Up!” which kicks off January 2017 with ongoing coffee socials on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays.  There is funding to start up to 6 more sites.

“Mug Up! A Senior Gathering Place” offers communities in Somerset County the tools to become more age-friendly and to work both independently and collaboratively to build a self-sustaining web of social, educational and service-oriented supports for Somerset County’s older adults – supports for older residents to access resources and to help craft local solutions to aging-related challenges in their daily lives. Reducing a senior’s risk for poor physical and mental health is a move that benefits people of all ages. The community as a whole benefits if older adults are empowered to remain active and involved in their communities. For more information about “Mug Up!” sites, call Deb Casey at Somerset Public Health, 858-8458 or email

Somerset Public Health’s Partnership with Resilience Re-set

Announcing Resilience Re-Set Partnership with KPJR Films

 Untold numbers of students go to school each day distracted, angry or highly anxious as a result of adverse experiences in their lives. Resilience Re-Set is a campaign to help communities understand why many of these students misbehave or disengage, and give adults resources to support students who live with toxic stress.
Resilience Re-Set launched in November and is led by KPJR Films in partnership with Childhood Abuse America, American Academy of Pediatrics and others. Paper Tigers, a 90-minute documentary about the inspiring outcomes of trauma-informed education at a high school in Walla Walla, WA, and Resilience, an engaging new one-hour film on the science behind toxic stress were both produced by KPJR Films.

“These films show us, through science and the stories of our young people, how adults are stepping up to help children who are exposed to adverse experiences,” said Jamie Redford, director, KPJR Films. “We hope the stories of children, educators and scientists grappling with the results of trauma help raise awareness, foster conversation and inspire action.”

“Resilience Re-Set is about moving from talk to taking action,” said Karen Pritzker, executive producer, KPJR Films. “We are grateful to Somerset Public Health and our other partners who are hosting resilience-building activities to promote cultures of hopefulness and understanding in their communities.”

“We see the film Resilience as an advocacy tool that we want to use across all sectors of our communities to help explain toxic stress, its impact on all those living in the crisis of the moment, and how students experiencing this function in schools,” said Danielle Denis, RN, Community Health Educator at Somerset Public Health. The first showing of Resilience was held January 18th at the Skowhegan Area High School drawing in 62 community members representing parents, healthcare, local government, educators, youth, social service agencies, youth and youth serving agencies. “This is a problem we can solve, but we must act together and invest human capital in coordinated efforts. It will take expertise and support from educators, school counselors, community psychologists, law enforcement, health experts, and elected officials.”

This dialogue will continue in an ongoing effort to reduce the dose of toxic stress that our children are facing so that their stories can be refined to turn their adversity into assets. If you, your organization or school would like to host a facilitated viewing of Resilience or Paper Tigers in Somerset County, send an email to or call Danielle, 207-858-8463.

Other national Resilience Re-Set partners include ACES Connections, California Youth Endowment and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

On social media, please participate in Resilience Re-Set at:

#ResilienceReset and #BeTheOne