Aging In Place: Senior Network Starts Up in Cambridgeport

Aging In Place: Senior Network Starts Up in Cambridgeport

  • Posted on: 13 November 2009
  • By: mholbrow

“I walk this walk just about every day—I never get tired of it,” Polly Allen said.

On November 11 Allen (second from right) and Janet Ghattas (second from left) led five other Cambridge residents on the first outdoor excursion of Cambridgeport’s Aging in Place project. The walkers gathered at Allen’s home on Erie Street and headed south, commenting on the scenes as they went. Others in the group were (left to right) Sadhu O'Hare, Lita Newdick, Jane Williams, and Carol Boulukos, plus Mary Holbrow, writer of this piece, who took the photo.

“Look at that Japanese maple! The leaves are beautiful on the ground—it would be a shame to rake them up.”

They stopped in Fort Washington Park to read the historical marker.

“There was a lunch counter down here years ago—the man who ran it defended this little piece of land from all the trucks that wanted to park here,” somebody said.

On past the landmark building at 640 Memorial Drive and Brookline.

“Long ago it was a Ford plant. Then it was Polaroid. Now it’s biotech.”

Some of the seven walkers had met back in September at the first Aging in Place event, an Open House attended by 31 people. Most of the walkers had not known each other before that, though several are long-time Cambridge residents. This was the group's first outside activity.

A second walking group was to meet in the afternoon, Janet Ghattas said. It would include Sylvia Brown and Leslie Godfrey. Looking even farther ahead, some of the group discussed possibilities for a carolling event and for a Black History walk in February.

Aging in Place is based in Cambridgeport, the area south from Massachusetts Avenue and River Street to the Charles River. The organizers began meeting more than a year ago, spearheaded by Polly Allen and with help from Cambridge’s Council on Aging.

The project in Cambridgeport is part of a city-wide senior networking movement, sparked by the perception that many seniors want to stay in their own homes as long as possible, and that they can help themselves and each other by banding together for companionship and assistance. Such groups are sometimes called “virtual retirement communities,” because much of the organizing takes place on line.

The Cambridgeport group will rely on volunteers to help members with day-to-day essentials like meals, rides, shopping, and home repairs. Members will help each other connect with public services such as housing information, transportation, education, and tax counselling. They will share expertise when it comes to finding providers for services like housecleaning or medical care.

“We need to help people create and maintain the personal connections that make it possible to enjoy life—having meals together, book discussions, exercise, going to plays or concerts, or maybe something as simple as a chat or a Scrabble game,” Polly Allen told the group back in September at the Open House.

"It's also important to have people with whom you can share your concerns," she says. "These may be personal matters, or they may involve larger issues like the environment, peace and justice, politics, and the economy."

More Senior Programs in Cambridge and Nearby

Other groups to connect seniors are also starting up in town. Another neighborhood program, the Living Well Network, is already on the job in the Agassiz Baldwin Community ( The Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association ( is organizing such a group; they are circulating a comprehensive booklet titled “Living Well: A Guide to Elder Services in Cambridge.” The publication, prepared by Kristina Snyder, is available on line from the Agassiz Baldwin Community at

The area-wide LGBT Aging Project, based in Jamaica Plain, helps organize services in the Greater Boston area for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors and the people who take care of them. The group can be reached at 617-522-6700, x 307 or at

At the private-sector end of the spectrum is Cambridge At Home (, a professionally-run non-profit whose members pay monthly or annual fees for the management and help that make it possible to remain in their homes. Annual fees—recently listed as $900/year for singles, $1200 for a couple—are well below the cost of moving to a retirement home or assisted living situation. Although it is private, Cambridge At Home has volunteers for ride-sharing and other cooperative efforts. The group has an extensive program with scheduled trips, lectures, cultural tours and other events. Non-members can buy tickets to the events and join in.

City Services: Council on Aging, Senior Centers

“Seniors have a tremendous number of public services available in Cambridge, ” Polly Allen says. “The Council on Aging is a good place to start—they have information about everything from meals on wheels and square dancing to medical care and insurance.”

The Council on Aging (617-349-6220, is part of the city’s Department of Human Services. The Council operates two Senior Centers: one at Central Square (806 Massachusetts Ave—617-349-6060) and one in North Cambridge (2050 Massachusetts Ave., near Porter Square—617-349-6320).

To get ready to launch Aging in Place, Polly Allen worked with many local volunteers and with SeniorsConnect ( She is the founder of the group and serves as its director. She and other members of Cambridgeport's Aging In Place initiative can be reached via the organization at


May your ranks grow...You are part of the solution.

Well done!

Patrick Roden

Thanks for your encouragement. And I'm glad to know about your website--it's informative and helpful.
Mary Holbrow