In its 3.5 years of operations, Connections has led a number of initiatives to create a more age-friendly Waltham.  Based on our healthy aging research, we have focused on social participation, information and communication, nutrition, physical activity, and lifelong learning.  Cutting across our efforts is inclusion of older adults who are isolated, poor, and/or immigrants. Highlights of efforts to date are below.

  • Social participation: We hold free outreach teas and brunches at the Council on Aging (CoA) and other settings to promote participation, reduce isolation and welcome immigrants. Our volunteers organize, set up, serve, clean up, and offer rides. These events have been a good way to expand and diversify our volunteer base.
  • Information & communication: Our quarterly newsletter is included in mailings of the CoA Newsletter. We received a grant from Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JF&CS) to translate the CoA newsletter into Spanish and Haitian Creoles. CoA staff and Connections volunteers distribute the newsletters to places where Spanish and Creole speakers frequent. When JF&CS funds ran out the CoA covered translation costs.
  • Nutrition: We partner with the CoA, Greater Boston Food Bank, and Waltham Housing Authority (WHA) to distribute free food monthly at three WHA senior housing sites.
  • Physical activity: In partnership with the CoA, we sponsor a 3/day/week walking group with Bentley University, using their field house. This group brings 40-70 walkers per day. We also partner with hospitals to provide “walks with a doc.”
  • Waltham Village: There are two active neighborhood groups.
  • Life-long learning: We have helped the Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI) develop programs for and enroll Waltham seniors, including the Waltham Matters special interest group and a Waltham history class.
  • Inclusion: With funding from JF&CS we piloted a first-ever Latinx outreach worker/community organizer based at the CoA. In the five months she worked before the Senior Center closed in March, the worker demonstrated the need and potential for this position.  See the report on her work here (zzz).
Onsite activities at the senior center are on hold since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of Connections’ core activities (social gatherings, walking club) have also paused or been significantly modified (food pantry, Latina outreach worker) to protect the health of seniors, including our senior volunteers.  As conditions permit, we will bring these activities back.

Under our new two-year Tufts grant starting in July 2020, we are planning for two new major initiatives: A Senior Civic Academy and a Waltham Healthy Aging Summit.

  • A Waltham Senior Civic Academy was inspired by the Age Strong Boston Academy but tailored to the needs and interests of Waltham. The Academy will be a six-week program for a diverse group of 10-20 older Waltham residents that highlights municipal, human service and advocacy activities in Waltham and that strengthens the ability of Waltham residents to engage in the community.  A team of Connections volunteers and a paid Project Coordinator has developed a curriculum and a plan for offering the Academy remotely through Zoom in early 2021.  We will also recruit isolated, low-income, and immigrant seniors to participate and ensure that they have the skills, equipment, and internet to participate.
  • The Healthy Aging Summit will bring together Waltham older adults, political leaders, and agency leaders. It will be preceded by discussions of issues among diverse seniors and by self-assessments that we will help participating agencies to conduct. At the Summit we will discuss findings and options from these discussions and assessments, followed by work with elected officials, City departments, and partner agencies to develop and implement coordinated systems and practices.