MONTVILLE — With the COVID-19 pandemic reducing the opportunities for seniors to spend time in the community and with loved ones, Representative Stanley Paige Zeigler, Jr. is organizing a phone check-in program for seniors living in his legislative district, District 96 (Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont).
Zeigler was inspired to establish the check-in program that mirrors similar programs by Rep. Vicki Doudera (District 94; Camden, Islesboro and Rockport) and Rep. Chloe Maxmin (District 88; Chelsea, Jefferson, Whitefield and part of Nobleboro). Zeigler, in an interview, praised Doudera and Maxmin for their work on this type of work and called them effective leaders.
“As a legislator I have been aware of the isolation that we face in rural areas and as a ‘at risk’ senior myself, I am aware that Covid 19 is particularly nasty to senior demographics,” Zeigler said. “We are often bombarded with information but it isn't interactive, I want to hear what the seniors in our towns need and try to connect them specifically with someone who can address that need. I think this a better way to get information out than just an announcer telling people from a television set what is happening. This way the seniors can ask the questions they need to.”
Zeigler has spent the past few days assembling his team of volunteers, who will make the calls from their residences to 1,922 people over the age of 65 in the seven towns spanning his legislative district.
“Most of the answers so far have been positive, saying these are confusing times but at this point, they are fine,” Zeigler said of responses he has received during calls so far. “I expect to move forward quickly.”
Aside from simply checking in with seniors to see how they are doing, the goal of Zeigler’s program is to provide seniors with resources they may need to use during the pandemic. Zeigler noted he has been in contact with Waldo Community Action Partners to see if the group was still available in case residents need to leave their homes and Chief William Gillespie of Liberty to inquire about ambulance services.
“Mostly we will be giving our seniors numbers to call,” Zeigler said, while noting the first number seniors should know is 211 to receive the most updated information directly from the Maine CDC.
“If there are issues about meals we will try and connect them to food banks or meal drop offs,” Zeigler said. “Basically the call is to direct the seniors to the help they need. So much is in flux right now.”
Overall, Zeigler said he does not view this as a program. Rather, he views this as a neighbor checking in on a fellow neighbor, hoping to find most of those neighbors healthy.
“I just happen to have 1,922 neighbors even though I live in the middle of the woods,” Zeigler said.
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