The City of Chicopee established the Council on Aging in 1958 under M.G.L. Ch. 40, s 8b. The council consisted of local citizens and city officials. In 1974, the ordinance was changed to state that the council be comprised of citizens of various ages and backgrounds. They were to be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Board of Aldermen. As it stands today, these fifteen individuals are strongly dedicated to the needs of our aging population.
The council is now located in a building adjacent to the Valley View Senior Housing complex. The building, owned by the Chicopee Housing Authority, was originally just one room for the council, and the remainder for the use of the tenants of Valley View. It was expanded to its present size through a federal grant to the Office of Community Development in 1986. This allowed for the development of Social and Outreach Services as well as the Wellness and Fitness Programs.
Since 1986, the Wellness Health Center has continually grown through the use of federal and state grants. It started as available one morning per week and is now three mornings per week with an additional 3 hours per week of community nursing. It is recognized as a model throughout the aging network. In 2007, the Council received the Innovator of the Year Award from Massachusetts Councils on Aging for their wellness programming.
In 1981, the newsletter Senior Times was printed for the first time. In October, 1987, the practice of mailing the newsletter to every elder household began. Almost 10,000 copies are sent on a bimonthly basis. The name was subsequently changed to Life Times to better fit the image of the growing aging population.
In 1988, the Senior Companion Program was started in conjunction with the Valley Opportunity Council. In October, 1990, WestMass ElderCare, Inc. moved the nutrition site to the Senior Center. The program provides meals to an average of 50 persons per day.
The council received their first van through the PVTA in 1989. The council now operates two vans and three cars to provide transportation to the center for activities and services, to other locations within the city and to neighboring medical facilities. Through the concerted efforts of many individuals, the FUND-A-VAN program was able to purchase a lift-equipped van and a new sedan. From the "Great Van Giveaway" conducted by the state's attorney general, a minivan was added to the fleet in 1994. Since that time, vehicles and two part time paid drivers have been provided by the City of Chicopee. A pool of twenty volunteer drivers provide about 18,000 rides each year.
In 1995, the council received a small Incentive Grant to start the Grandparents As Parents Program. A Brookdale Foundation Group Grant provided for an additional two years of funding as well as training. In 1999, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs with Assistance by Senator Michael Knapik provided $20,000 to further develop this program. With the support of Senator Knapik, Elder Affairs has provided $15,000 for this fiscal year.
In 1997, The Volunteer Peer Support Program in conjunction with Hawthorn Services was started through an Incentive Grant from Elder Affairs.
In 1999, Outreach Services were expanded to include a Social Services Worker and to conduct door to door visits in public housing. A $3,000 from Elder Affairs brought this outreach effort into some of the neighborhoods in 1990. The Lussier Outreach Project is named for Ray and Alberta Lussier, major volunteers for the council for many years. This project provides a well-trained volunteer, who receives a stipend, to work with older adults in the center or visit them at home. The worker provides information on available programs and services.
The Senior Center's variety and diversity of programming have developed tremendously in the past decade. The underlying philosophy of all programming is a holistic approach to meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the elder. The entire senior center is a wellness center. Self help groups, special events and intergenerational programs have resulted in many increased opportunities for older adults. Volunteers are recruited to serve in the center and in the community at large. This rich, varied approach has made the Senior Center and Council on Aging one of the premier centers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Council on Aging
5 West Main Street
Meal Site: 413-535-2521