Council on Aging considers renovations to better serve Dartmouth seniors

Feb 22, 2024

As the demand for its services grows, the Council on Aging is exploring ways to renovate its center so that it can fully serve Dartmouth’s senior population in the coming years. 

The project is in its early stages. Currently, the Council on Aging is working with Brewster Thornton Group Architects to determine what exactly those improvements will be. 

The initial study of the property and the development of a Master Plan will cost around $29,000. The study is funded through a $15,000 grant from the Massachusetts Council on Aging and another $15,000 that was approved at Town Meeting in June 2023. The study and Master Plan are expected to be completed this summer. 

The Master Plan will explore options for either expanding the center or renovating the existing space. Many of the spaces are currently multi-functional, and are used for everything from hosting art classes to luncheons. 

But those spaces have their limits.

“We’re running out of room,” said Amy Dipietro, director of the Council on Aging. 

The Council on Aging serves residents 60 and over, which accounts for about 32 percent or 10,466 people in Dartmouth, according to Dipietro. Making room for all of its programs can be a challenge, she said, especially on days when the parking lot is full, which is often.

The Council on Aging provides seniors in Dartmouth with a range of enriching activities such as art classes, yoga and exercise sessions, catered meals and educational presentations. 

“We really just want to show that we can continue to age and still have purpose,” she said. “We are actually an extremely vibrant, active community here.”

The Council on Aging also received a $6,900 grant that will go toward hosting luncheons that will introduce seniors to foods and cultures from across the globe. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, they learned about South Korea by crafting lotus flower lanterns and eating traditional South Korean dishes. 

“At what age do you stop? You don’t. You keep going and that’s how you remain healthy and active,” she said of the importance of the Council on Aging’s programs for seniors. 

In the last five years, Dipietro estimates that attendance to the Council on Aging’s programs has increased by 25 to 30 percent. 

Brewster Thornton and the Town are determining if the building can handle this increase in activity as it currently stands. If not, the study will show how the building should change to accommodate the Council on Aging’s expanding programs for seniors. 

One area that needs to be improved is the kitchen, she said. 

“We do know that our number one priority at this moment is to renovate our kitchen,” she said. “Our kitchen is probably 35, 40 years old.”

The kitchen has been down for three or four years, she said. The ovens don’t work very well, the appliances are outdated and the space itself is awkward to maneuver in, she explained during a tour of the building. 

A new and improved kitchen would allow them to provide more educational cooking programs such as how to cook on a budget. The Council of Aging relies on local restaurants to cater some of its events. 

The Council on Aging is more like a campus than a center, she said. In addition to the main building, called the Maria Connor Center for Active Living, there’s also the Bullard Wellness Center where seniors can meet with massage therapists, podiatrists and hearing specialists. Seniors can even go to the wellness center to get help with their taxes. 

The center also includes a garage for vehicles that transport seniors wherever they may need to go, be it a medical appointment or visiting a loved one. 

“We want to utilize every nook and cranny we can,” she said.