WEST NEWBURY — The impact of the aging baby boomer population may be a factor in the increased demands made on the Council on Aging van.
COA Director Theresa Poore told selectmen on Wednesday she anticipates the need for services will only grow as the number of senior citizens in town increases. She plans to ask for an additional five hours for her van driver, Henry Cross, in the upcoming budget, raising his total weekly hours to 15.
Over all, Poore said the van program, which allows seniors to schedule rides to area doctors’ appointments and shopping, has generally run smoothly, although the lack of easy access to Merrimac due to the closed Rocks Village Bridge has slowed things down a little.
She’s been working with residents to coordinate schedules for rides — sometimes asking them to leave a littler earlier or wait a bit once their appointment is over in order to create more car-pooling opportunities.
The third Friday of the month the van typically makes a trip to Newburyport so seniors can do grocery shopping. Shoppers are asked to prepare a list ahead of time and only purchase what they can carry inside their homes themselves, since the driver is legally not allowed to assist them.
When a request can’t be accommodated, Poore suggests other ride programs, such as the Merrimack Valley Regional Ring and Ride program.
“It sounds like you’ve got it covered,” said Selectman Glenn Kemper, who had asked last month for a review on how the ride program was working.
At the end of the discussion Kemper playfully turned to the van driver and asked, “Do you ever take (the seniors) out to the casino?” Cross answered that he has, but added that he never gambles himself, to which Selectman Dick Cushing quipped, “Yes, if someone loses their pants there, you’ll have to get them into the van in a hurry!”