The two active State Assembly representatives to Washington County were present for the county Board of Supervisors meeting on June 17 to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments and contributions of two county residents for Older Americans Month.
113th District Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and 114th District Assemblyman Matt Simpson delivered heartfelt speeches on their connections to the older members of their governed jurisdictions, while specifically acknowledging Debbie Beahan of Hudson Falls and Dale Grinnell of Fort Ann.
“Part of the power of our senior centers is it’s peers supporting peers. No matter what your age is, I think…a really important part of being successful and feeling good about yourself is that you have peers to support you,” Woerner said.
“I was a town supervisor for the town of Horicon, and if any of you are familiar with that town, there are a lot of older community members and a lot of second homeowners (living) there. As a town supervisor, I really relied on our older community members. They were the older volunteers that came into our library. We had a really small town, not a big budget,” Simpson said.
“They were the ones there working with the librarian to ensure books were being sorted. They were always there. When it came to the reading programs for the children and activities during the summer, they were the ones organizing them. They were the ones who would set up barbecues and bring families into the community center. They were such a vital resource to our community, I don’t know what I would have done there as a town supervisor without them as a resource.”
Washington County Office for the Aging director Gina Cantanucci-Mitchell introduced the Association on Aging in New York’s executive director Becky Preve and credited Preve for her contributions to the senior members of the county.
“She is our voice. Not only is she our voice at the state level, but she is our voice at the national level. She has made many of us proud to serve in our roles and she’s given us so many opportunities to provide services that we never had before,” Gina Cantanucci-Mitchell said.
Preve oversees 59 offices for the aging ranging from New York City to the North Country and said Cantanucci-Mitchell’s service structures is one of the best Preve has seen statewide.
“You really have one of the best directors in New York State. She and her staff do an amazing job, I’m proud of them and they are constantly coming up with innovations,” Preve said. “The North Country really is a gem as far as the services that are provided.”
Preve provided a historical background on the foundation of the themed month deriving from President John F. Kennedy in 1963. She also included that Washington County has more than 4,000 volunteers aged 55 and older that contributes 2.1 million hours of service yearly, translating to $60 million for the local economy.
“Historically, Older Americans Month has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country. Every president since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their community,” Preve said.
“For far too long, we’ve looked at older people as a dredge on society, it’s absolutely not true. They are the biggest givers to philanthropy, they are the biggest volunteers and they really are the backbone to services in communities. The two awardees today I think exemplify that.”
The county’s proclamation declaring May 2022 to be Older Americans Month under the tagline of “Age My Way” and featuring some of the goals established by the county to highlight and support seniors in the 17 townships was read by Salem supervisor Sue Clary.
“Whereas, Washington County recognizes our need to create a community that provides the services and supports older Americans need to thrive and live independently for as long as possible; and whereas Washington County can work to build an even better community for our older residents by planning programs that encourage independence, ensuring activities are responsive to individual needs and preferences and increasing access to services that support aging in place,” Clary said.
Preve added that along with the proclamations secured by Simpson and Woerner from the Assembly, state Sen. Dan Stec was able to secure two resolutions from the Senate in Albany but was unable to attend the ceremony.