Solutions Library

Vinalhaven service list

Connecting Elders with Resources

As anyone with aging parents or grandparents knows, growing older creates challenges for everything from cooking healthy meals and shoveling the steps to remembering medications or taking blood samples. Island residents have the added challenges of long ferry rides and few medical or transportation resources. Many elder islanders end up moving to an assisted living facility on the mainland, removed from their family and lifelong home. However, eldercare services at a variety of levels, from a weekly ride to the grocery store all the way to residential care homes, can enable islanders to age in place, staying close to friends and family in their home community.

As the largest island in Maine, Vinalhaven lacks neither a sizeable ageing population nor a variety of services. However, many Vinalhaven elders didn’t know whom to call to get their lawn mowed or get a ride to the grocery store. To bridge the gap, a group of volunteers created and distributed a list of available service providers.



Residents have a name and phone number to call when they need assistance with common household tasks, including handyman work, lawn care, shoveling, personal care, paperwork, pet care, shopping, transportation, and social opportunities. It takes a burden off of families, and means that the older population can have more independence and stay in their homes much longer.



  • Gather a group of community members.
  • Meet with elders to figure out which needs are and aren’t being met. Ask which services they’re unsure about.
  • Check with service providers, then add them to the list.
  • Distribute the list around the island.
  • Check in periodically to update list and assess any service gaps.



Kelsey Byrd, right, with Vinalhaven residents.

How did this program fit into what’s already on the island?

There are already groups that help elders on the island, like meals on wheels once a week, Monday lunch and a fuel fund through the church, and the fire department calls people after storms to make sure things are cleared and shoveled. We wanted to pull those people together, and add more to the list. We tried to understand the network of support, and fill the gaps.

What about Calderwood, the assisted living home?

Calderwood is successful, but it’s helping a small part of the community. There are over 100 adults over 65, and 80 over 70 years old, and they will need assisted living in the next 10 years. Calderwood is very important to the community, but getting in is like winning the lottery. We also need to create levels of care, not just more beds. It’s important to have different programs for different ages and abilities.

What works well, and what doesn’t work as well?

People don’t want formal help. They need a balance of something that feels informal and friendly, but actually helps. We’re making this about gaining independence and control. The service list is important for that reason.


The volunteer group discovered that some services were either lacking or underused, such as transportation around the island. Part of their work was finding people to meet those stated needs, and then encouraging elders to actually use them.



The first edition of the list has 37 phone numbers for services in eight categories: Handyman, Lawn & Garden Care, Plowing/Shoveling, Personal Care, Shopping/Errands, Paperwork, Pet Care, and Transportation. It also lists a number of ongoing social opportunities.

Originally Published March 2016

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