This article originally appeared in the April 2021 edition of Senior Scope. Article by Seth Thomas.
Following a long winter, the Mattapoisett Council on Aging is preparing to reopen its doors to the public.
Mattapoisett COA Director Jacqueline Coucci presented a comprehensive reopening plan to the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen on March 9. The selectmen approved the plan, and the COA is set to reopen for in-person programming on April 5.
The reopening process will be gradual, with limits on the number of patrons at any given time. The classes will be held either outdoors, in the COA or across the street at the Mattapoisett Congregational Church, which has a spacious main hall. Whether indoors or outdoors, patrons will be spaced apart and masks are mandatory.
All classes will require preregistration, and Mattapoisett residents age 60 and above will have top priority on the registration list. Residents age 55+ and non-residents age 60+ will be second and third on the preregistration priority list, respectively.
“We have a lot of people who love to come here, but our opening is going to be limited and slow,” Coucci explained. “We won’t be doing our programs at the same level that we were pre-pandemic at this point. But we’re looking forward to having this be a small seed that grows.”
As Coucci stressed during the meeting, the plan may change as more directives come from the state. The reopening of the COA was part of a broader effort in town to return to something approaching normal. At the time, Mattapoisett had recently reopened its town hall and the public library reopened on March 13. Separately, the councils on aging in Acushnet, Rochester and Marion are also beginning to offer limited in-person programming in April.
Last fall, the Mattapoisett COA had offered limited classes at the church, but as COVID-19 cases surged, all in-person programs were canceled by late October. The COA remained active during that time, despite the restrictions on in-person activities.
In a letter to Mattapoisett’s Town Administrator Michael Lorenco, Coucci wrote of the extensive outreach effort from the COA throughout the pandemic, which included providing assistance with taxes, the loaning of durable medical equipment and food relief. The COA staff also supported the town’s vaccination clinics.
The Mattapoisett COA’s Friendly Caller Program began not long after the pandemic swept through the nation last spring. By April 2020, volunteers from throughout the community were calling about 85 Mattapoisett residents to check in, offering companionship and support during a time of great uncertainty. The project continues to this day.
“It allows the residents to open up and talk,” said Elizabeth Leatham, the COA’s outreach coordinator, who helps coordinate the program. “What I have found interesting is that the callers and the residents have a lot of common interests, whether it’s a book they’ve read or a show they’ve watched.”
“Through the pandemic, we have met so many people,” she added. “The residents feel cared about, and the caller program builds a community.”
With the vaccine rollout underway and warmer weather around the corner, Leatham is looking forward to having the network of volunteers meet one another in-person. And, eventually, she hopes the residents can meet the person on the other end of the phone as well.
“The pandemic is not over. Masks are still going to be required even if you’re double-vaccinated,” said Coucci. “But it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to let people have options.”
To see the line-up for programs at the Mattapoisett COA, see page 11. All classes will require preregistration. Call 508-758-4110 for more info or visit the town’s website for the COA’s reopening policy at:
If you are not a Mattapoisett resident and are interested in enrolling in a “friendly caller” program, call Coastline at 508-742-9132.