Every Friday morning at 10 a.m. since 2009, a group of intrepid walkers has assembled at the Latham Library for a weekly walk. “We’ve walked through rain, snow, mud, and sometimes even ice,” said Sue Rump, who currently organizes the group. “We organize into slow walkers, fast walkers, and short-distance walkers, and we always have fun. It’s about being healthy, having fun, and camaraderie.” Dale Gephart, a member of the Thetford Elder Network’s Steering Committee, agreed. “I test my blood sugars after every walk, and I always notice a considerable improvement.”
The group, serving the only town in Orange County in Senior Solutions’ service area, has managed to institute a dynamic variety of programming to reach seniors in the town. With an email list of 150 seniors and a phone list of 30 more, TEN functions almost as a ‘travelling senior center,’ without their own dedicated building. The new meal coordinator, Pat Pisano, reports that at the last monthly “drive-through” meal, 57 seniors received meals.
“We are fighting isolation,” emphasized Jody Biddle, chair of the Steering Committee. “It is important that we make and keep social connections; it’s a major focus of our activities.” Those activities include moving their monthly “Coffee Klatch” from it’s pandemic-era Zoom meetings to in-person, outdoors gatherings at the Community Center in Thetford Center. That event has had as many as 30 attendees – “And it is purely social – there are no presentations!” Biddle added. And on the occasions when they have needed extra hands to help a neighbor with heavy lifting, they laugh as they say, “We call on ‘Those Guys’,” a group across the river in Lyme, New Hampshire with whom they have a solid relationship.
The vibrancy, dedication, and effectiveness of the group is impressive, especially for a town of fewer than 2,800 people. They stand out as an example of the difference that a dedicated team of seniors can make in a community.
For more information on TEN, you may call Jody Biddle at 802-785-4508, or, for meal questions, contact Pat Pisano at 802-785-4831.