Economic Vitality Manager Mimi Graney touts a new age-friendly protocol to Concord seniors

Is Concord age-friendly? New initiative considers seniors 

By Betsy Levinson
February 25, 2024
Moira Walsh speaks at the Age-Friendly Concord introduction.

Comprising 20% of the population, or 6,000 citizens over age 60 and counting, Concord seniors are stepping into the spotlight with a new age-friendly initiative from the town’s Economic Vitality Department. 

How do seniors feel about aging in town? Are stores and restaurants easy to navigate? Are they too noisy? Crowded? Poorly lit? What about transportation? Are there sufficient restrooms, benches and public outdoor areas? 

Crafted by Economic Vitality Manager Mimi Graney, the broad Age-Friendly Concord Initiative is a year-long effort to answer those questions and make recommendations for the future. 

Graney and Camille Jonlin from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council kicked off the program before a roomful of eager men and women keenly interested in offering their opinions on how to make Concord more welcoming to older citizens and those with disabilities. 

“How can we turn this New England community into Florida?” cracked Moira Walsh. “They always seem to be having fun down there.” She said the Floridian stores she’s been to have chairs and a laidback atmosphere. 

Lorna Dunham said local businesses “don’t realize they are not as friendly as they think they are.” 

“What happened to early-bird specials?” mused Dunham. 

A big part of the initiative is gathering data, Graney said. She and Jonlin have prepared a survey asking about shopping habits in the three business districts, and other questions about transportation, convenience, adaptations and affordability and more. 

The initiative covers about 80 businesses in three commercial areas: the Milldam, the Thoreau Street area and West Concord center. Seniors are asked to weigh in on various criteria such as lighting, safety and affordability. 

Jonlin said the results would form the basis for a senior toolkit offering information and tips for residents and visitors. 

Laura LeVan from the Disabilities Commission said lumping seniors and those with mobility issues together made sense since the two groups share the same issues. 

Graney said she is awaiting a response from the Department of Transportation for a grant for a “local Uber within Concord” that would provide a car ride for $2 or $3 dollars. 

She said Plymouth, Salem and Newton have similar local Uber programs that have been popular, and not just for seniors. It would operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week. 

She applied for a two-year grant and will find out in a couple of months if the state will fund the service. 

Local transportation is gaining importance with the Concord250 celebration next year. 

“We want people to leave their cars at home,” Graney said. 

Disability Commission member Laura LeVan hoped the survey would include persons with disabilities. 

“It’s a perfect opportunity to make Concord more inclusive,” LeVan said.  

Graney said the town sees approximately one million tourists annually, bringing in one-sixth of consumer spending in town. 

“Our cultural assets are particularly attractive to older, leisure travelers,” said Graney. 

Some of the measures are not expensive, she said, such as reducing the sound or lighting in restaurants, or installing handrails outside shops. 

“Seniors are so polite,” said Walsh, “but they are not willing to speak up for themselves.”