Easton’s Thriving Seniors

Some seniors may recall a 1977 advertising campaign for Dannon Yogurt, boasting that the oldest living men in the world owed their longevity and well-being to eating yogurt every day.

Yogurt may have its benefits, but other things account for Easton’s hearty and long-lived 65+ population. The number of active and productive seniors in town is impressive. According to the most recent data, Easton is home to 1,258 men and women over the age of 65, or 17% of Easton’s population.

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Easton offers safety, natural beauty and many resources for lifetime learning and vibrant social interactions. The town’s clean air, pure drinking water and seasonal fresh produce support good health. There’s access to superior medical care, social and cultural programs and ways to maintain active friendships and to develop new ones.

Social life for seniors has thrived at the Easton Senior Center. Val Buckley, the center’s director and guiding light, has overseen the remarkable expansion of what can best be described as Easton’s living room. Under normal circumstances, the center is the nucleus of social life, education, medical services and even shopping.

Covid notwithstanding, Buckley has soldiered on, offering movie nights, sales, transportation and other essential services to seniors in a safe and Covid-conscious way. “We’ve done a lot during Covid; the place has been painted, newly carpeted and cleaned,” Buckley said. “The cleaning staff is wonderful, and we maintain strict procedures.”

Everyone must sign-in, have their temperature taken and wear a mask at all times. Programs have continued in spite of restrictions. “We’ve had movie nights, but for only 10 people at a time. The 10 are seated six-to-eight feet apart, and we show the movie three days running,” she said.

Buckley cites “incredible volunteers” and “small town community spirit” for both the success of the center and more broadly, the town itself. Calendar events at the center can be found here: https://www.eastonct.gov/senior-center

Another asset to Easton’s seniors is the Easton Community Center, which offers a range of fitness classes and a small, well-equipped gym. Right now, 123 seniors or 10% of the senior population, have memberships and regularly use the gym and participate in fitness classes.

“Under normal circumstances we see a lot of seniors in the fitness center doing regular exercise and getting a cardio workout,” said Joel Silkoff, Facility Director.” We can’t wait to have them back.” The current calendar and upcoming activities listings are available here: https://eastoncommunitycenter.com/

Lynn Zaffino, Easton Public Library director, described a menu of stimulating reading, screening and self-help activities geared to seniors. There’s a relatively new streaming service, Kanopy, which offers indy films and documentaries. The service includes three films and one “Great Course” per month. Perusing the titles, there’s a mix of political biographies, art films, foreign titles and films many seniors will recall from the distant past that warrant another look.

“All you need is a library card to use the service,” Zaffino said. “We also have three adult on-line book clubs. They meet monthly and explore different genres.”

The first, “Beyond Reading” offers a mix of selections, the second focuses on historical fiction and the newest, “The Best Lives,” is self-help oriented.

For those looking for a hands-on craft project, there’s a knitting bee. This is an on-line knitting and crocheting group that meets weekly to work on projects and share crafting ideas.

“It’s not a how-to class,” Zaffino stressed. “It’s more like a social group of crafters who enjoy working on individual projects in a group setting.”

For those who can’t get to the library and want to curl up with a book at home, there’s a home-bound delivery service, free of charge, to all library card holders. There are many more library activities at: https://www.eastonlibrary.org/

“For patrons who have vision issues, we have a great collection of large print books, as well as audiobooks,” Zaffino said. “We also recently had a low-vision keyboard donated by the Lions Low Vision Centers of Fairfield and New Haven Counties. It is available for use on one of our public computers.”

Safety is a priority for all residents, but there are additional strategies in place to protect Easton seniors. “These are our most vulnerable populations,” said Police Chief Richard Doyle. “And we have systems in place to respond to their needs.” To that end, Doyle works with the Easton Emergency Services.

“I encourage seniors to pick up a File of Life at EMS” (448 Sport Hill Road), Doyle said. The file contains a check list of emergency contacts, medical conditions, allergies and insurance information. It fits into a refrigerator magnet. In an emergency, all the necessary information is easily accessible. EMTs know to look for it and can respond accordingly.

Doyle regularly visits the Senior Center and confers with Buckley and Alison Witherbee, MSW, who is responsible for referrals and assistance with federal, state and local programs, including insurance, food stamps, Social Security, Medicare and fuel assistance for Easton residents aged 60 and over. Buckley and Witherbee keep track of seniors who encounter a range of personal difficulties.

“Our role is to meet immediate health, safety and family needs,” said Doyle, “We are a small town, unlike big cities where things can fall through the cracks. Here in Easton, we have great services as well as neighbors who watch over our seniors.”

Though the Covid pandemic has interrupted many of Easton’s community activities, local organizations and leaders have pivoted to accommodate the needs and wishes of seniors.

A final note: This reporter cannot attest to Dannon Yogurt’s longevity pledge, but excellent locally sourced Greek yogurt is available at Sherwood Farm in many flavors. Bon Appetit.

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