Laura DeMattia: “Seniors DO count!”
“My two favorite age groups,” explains Laura DeMattia, “are children through school age and the elderly.” Over the years, she has taken very good care of both.
About the elderly...she became director of the Bellingham Senior Center in 2005 and retired in 2017, and has helped out at the Center since then. About children...her two are now in their 30s and live nearby.
Laura recalls moving from the Boston area to Bellingham many years ago “when there were no traffic lights in town.” The town has changed dramatically, and so has the town’s senior population of about 3,800.
“Baby boomers have different expectations and experiences,” she notes. “We [boomers] were focused on independence, self-sufficiency and child-rearing.”
“Many seniors will never ‘retire,’ but some will ‘retire’ in order to start another career or business with the expectation that their ‘retirement’ will last 20 years or more. They also enjoy the benefits of advancements in medicine that allow them to live longer.”
Laura also mentions that anyone over 60 years of age who lives in Bellingham is automatically a member of the Senior Center. “And you can come for free!”
Services at the Senior Center include three main categories: transportation, outreach, and programming (classes and events). “Interests of your members is key. What’s changed is the huge interest in fitness and health,” Laura notes. “Members want to explore new directions like hobbies, volunteering, travel, and learning new job skills that might land them part-time jobs.”
“This Senior Center,” explains Director Josie Dutil, “has no idea how fortunate we all were that Laura stayed on as a part-time Outreach worker when I was hired over a year ago. She quietly educated me behind the scenes on all things related to the role that a Senior Center plays in a community, and was a confidential sounding board for many decisions made over the past year.”
“I will never forget how incredibly helpful her presence was, and will be forever grateful for everything she taught all of us, and the guidance she provided to me as I began this new career,” says Josie.
“Seniors DO count,” Laura emphasizes. “In Bellingham, their presence in the community is valued and their needs are respected.” She points to substantial support from the town (money, time, personnel) as evidence.
Last month, Laura officially left her post at the Senior Center. “You learn through experience,” she says. “I am more aware of where I am in life.”
She, and her husband of nearly 50 years (Michael), will still be visible at the Center, taking classes and helping out as “engaged citizens.” She says, “I’m working on balance in my life although my priorities – family and friends – have not changed.”