Councils on Aging (COA) in Massachusetts are the municipal entities responsible for senior services. They are appointed and were created pursuant to local law, which also determines the appointing authority, number of members, and terms of service. They provide their own services and also link to many private and public resources for seniors.
Most communities have their own senior center, staffed with employees and/or volunteers, and several have regional senior centers. Most of these centers serve and/or deliver daily weekday lunches. The COA’s and senior centers work closely with the designated Area Agency on Aging. The CHNA9 communities are served by the Central Mass Agency on Aging.
Additionally, Aging Services of North Central Mass provides comprehensive information and quality services so that older people, individuals with disabilities, and their families are empowered to make personalized choices to ensure a life of dignity, safety, and respect.
Senior Tax Work-Off Program - This program for tax or municipal service-paying resident seniors 60+ must be accepted by town meeting or city council vote. It creates opportunities for seniors to volunteer with municipal departments for vouchers used as payment against their property tax or service fee bill. The community must design the program which includes an hourly rate of pay (minimum wage or more), the number of total hours available, job descriptions, eligibility criteria, etc. A total amount must be set-aside, an amount usually recommended by the tax assessors per available tax overlay funds. There is a limited time period for applications. Many communities offer this program, often through the senior center/COA or human resources.
The Town of Groton does not have this program but is working to create opportunities for helping seniors with tax bills.
Commissions on Disability and ADA (Americans with Disability Act) – Disability commissions can be created by adopting the statute, by bylaw or ordinance, or can be informal. Statutory commissions have the power to, “cause the full integration and participation of people with disabilities in such city or town. Such commission shall
- research local problems of people with disabilities;
- advise and assist municipal officials and employees in ensuring compliance with state and federal laws and regulations that affect people with disabilities;
- coordinate or carry out programs designed to meet the problems of people with disabilities in coordination with programs of the Massachusetts office on disability;
- review and make recommendations about policies, procedures, services, activities and facilities of departments, boards and agencies of said city or town as they affect people with disabilities;
- provide information, referrals, guidance and technical assistance to individuals, public agencies, businesses and organizations in all matters pertaining to disability;
- coordinate activities of other local groups organized for similar purposes.”
They work with the ADA Coordinator, who is often a staff person, to ensure the city or town meets the requirements of the ADA, including the performance of an ADA self-evaluation to ensure government buildings, spaces, and programs are accessible. There are grant programs to assist with the evaluation and implementation.
Towns that do not have one can establish a Disability Commission.
Other resources: https://disabilityinfo.org/
BEST PRACTICE: Emergency Preparedness Guide prepared by Lancaster Commission on Disability - https://www.ci.lancaster.ma.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif4586/f/uploads/emergency_preparedness_guide_digital_v11_2022-10-03.pdf