Age-Friendly Strategies: Social and Recreational Resources
- March 8, 2022
- Public Health
Implementing Age-Friendly Strategies in Southwest New Hampshire aims to improve access to transportation, housing options, economic opportunities, and opportunities for social engagement in the Region. Social engagement and recreational opportunities are critical to retaining and attracting a diverse population and promoting the public’s health. It is the feeling of “connectedness” that brings pleasure to people and increases the quality of life in any community. Without social connections, people run the risk of experiencing social isolation which can profoundly impact health and quality of life. Fortunately, Southwest New Hampshire offers many opportunities for social engagement and recreation; however, the lack of awareness of these opportunities prevents people from participating. The different ways in which events and resources are advertised are a primary cause of underutilization of the Region’s social and recreational assets. Another barrier is a lack of transportation options, especially in rural communities, to access recreation areas and social events.
Did you know that the average number of hours per day spent socializing by United States residents declined across all age categories between 2003 and 2018? The greatest declines occurred among the 15-24 and 65+ age groups (the groups experienced declines of 23.8% and 21.8%, respectively).U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey
Social opportunities are provided to the public through both public and private entities. Most communities have a public library that was historically considered to be a place to relax, read books and borrow books to take home. With the increasing popularity of on-line books, libraries have undergone a transformation, becoming places for people to visit, participate in activities and stay engaged. Now, libraries are often seen as a community center in many towns within the Region. Some of the local libraries offer classes, crafts, social events, holiday events, and more. Libraries provide an array of opportunities and experiences for all ages and often encourage intergenerational participation.
Town Greens provide opportunities for residents to connect with other residents and can attract visitors to participate in community events. Community events usually provide opportunities for a variety of ages and mobility levels to participate. Often these events are free or low cost and sometimes provide for local businesses to showcase their products. People can become more involved in their communities through serving as volunteers to support community events. Common uses of the Town Green/Common include Old Home Days, ice cream socials, craft fairs, concerts, art fairs, dances, dinners, and many more. These community spaces are sometimes available for rent for private events and fundraisers. The Region is also home to numerous businesses and non-profit organizations that are dedicated to improving access to performing arts, specialized crafts, art classes, concerts, fairs, clubs, and much more. While it would be difficult to provide a complete list of these great social opportunities, many Town websites provide local information and community event calendars.
Volunteering provides compounding benefits for both the person providing volunteer time and the recipient, or end user. For volunteers, benefits derive from meeting new people, gaining a sense of confidence and achievement through trying something new and learning new skills, and making a difference in the lives and communities they serve. Municipal level volunteer opportunities include serving on Boards or Committees, firefighting, and school events. Many towns are in need of volunteers as they have found it to be increasingly difficult to attract and retain volunteers to serve on local Boards and Committees. Fire Departments are also seeing a decline in the number of new volunteers, which is causing a concern for emergency services in nearly every community. Volunteer positions can be long-term in situations that have a scheduled (and regular) time commitment, or short-term as in the case of a community event.
Social and Volunteer Opportunities
Discover Monadnock provides a wide range of social opportunities and is an excellent source for cultural activities in Southwest New Hampshire. It includes separate tabs for Eat, Stay, Play, and Work to help you locate fun activities, events, parks and natural features, and places to stay and dine. The website includes a town tab that shows places of interest that are unique to each town in the Monadnock Region. The site also includes an events calendar tab that links to numerous events throughout the region.
Cheshire County Fairgrounds has been a well-loved place to visit throughout the year for social interaction for all ages. The Cheshire County Fair has been the main attraction for 82 years. The annual fair features classic fair activities such as farm animal competitions, food vendors, tractor pulls, concerts, carnival rides, and games, etc. For many families in the region, this has been a tradition for several generations. Other uses for the fairgrounds include: horse shows, car shows, monster trucks, Pumpkinfest, fireworks, concerts, and much more.
The Monadnock RSVP Volunteer Center is an organization that matches the skills and interests of volunteers with the needs of communities. The organization’s goal is to improve social living conditions for individuals and families by creating healthy, long-term changes for those that can benefit from volunteers. RSVP provides training if needed or you can choose to serve the needs of people with the skills that you already have.
AmeriCorps is a federal agency that provides funding to make a positive impact in communities with the help of AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors. These programs provide assistance nationwide on a wide array of projects and services that can help others in times of need. More than $800,000,000 in grants are provided to support the programs and projects conducted by the AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors each year. The programs offer opportunities with different time commitments and requirements to fit within your skillset and schedule. You can also join AmeriCorps Seniors which is a program designed specifically for individuals that are 55 years and older.
Outdoor recreation is of key importance to individual health and well-being. They also serve as a major draw for visitors in the form of tourism. Telephone surveys conducted by Cheshire Medical Center in 2017 show that about 41% of residents visit at least 100 open or natural spaces for recreation each year. However, there are key differences between those of a healthy weight (52%) versus those that are obese (31%) as well as throughout different age groups.
The Region has a tremendous offering of recreational activities for all interests and levels of participation. Municipalities offer activities through local recreation programs and facilities. Some activities are organized and include team sports such as soccer, football, pickleball, and more. Others are less organized and provided as a community service such as beaches, trails, parks, and playgrounds. The public sector and non-governmental organizations also contribute to recreational opportunities in areas that towns would otherwise not be able to provide. Examples include Keene Ice, private gyms, shooting ranges, auto and bike race tracks, and golf clubs. Clubs provide additional opportunities to participate in other types of activities such as snowmobiling, bicycling and hiking.
Some town recreation departments provide a variety of recreational and social activities. They are structured to meet the wants and needs of residents of all ages, income levels and abilities. Local recreation programs often serve a mix of interests by offering athletic leagues, movie nights, holiday events, lessons/classes, town dances, and more. Contests and events add more options to participate. Examples include fishing derbies, 5K runs/walks and canoe/kayak races.
Trail Finder offers an interactive mapping site for Vermont and New Hampshire residents and visitors find hiking, walking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and paddling trails across the state. Interested in having one of your community trails listed? Contact them to find out if this is a possibility.
Discover Monadnock features a wide range of social activities in the Region; it is also a great resource for recreational activities.
The New Hampshire State Parks offers a searchable database that provides information about facilities, amenities and types of recreational activities available at all New Hampshire State Parks. It includes a listing of over 75 New Hampshire State Park properties that support a range of recreational activities for all ages and abilities. In addition to an online State Park Finder that lets users customize their park experiences, users can search by categories such as parks, campgrounds, historic sites, hiking trails, seacoast beaches, and winter recreation areas. It also provides information about which locations are pet-friendly. In addition to the above site, Visit New Hampshire features State Parks specific to the Region as well as many other options to be socially engaged and active in the Region.
Ways to Get There
The Monadnock Community Transportation Directory is a listing of transportation options for each of the towns within the Southwest Region of New Hampshire. It provides options for public and private transportation providers, including volunteer driver services. The listing provides the contact information for each provider as well as a brief description.
Other Resources to Support Social Engagement and Recreation
The River Center’s online Fact Book is a local community resource guide for those living in the Towns of Antrim, Bennington, Dublin, Francestown, Greenfield, Greenville, Hancock, Jaffrey, Mason, New Ipswich, Peterborough, Rindge, Sharon, Temple and beyond. The website includes a variety of resources and services available to seniors, families, and people of all ages.
ServiceLink is designated as New Hampshire’s Aging and Disability Resource Center and the NHCarePath Full-Service Access Partner providing services for individuals of all ages, income levels and abilities. ServiceLink administers programs and services such as Information Referral and Assistance, Options Counseling, NH Family Caregiver Program, State Health Insurance Assistance Program, and Senior Medicare Patrol. Through ServiceLink, there are many paths available to help people of all ages live better in their communities. Monadnock ServiceLink is the connector to services and supports in the Monadnock Region.