When I ran for office four years ago, I said I would focus on ensuring that our town government met the needs of all residents regardless of where you lived, your age, how many years you have lived in town, who you knew or your political affiliation. To me, we are all Westfield residents interested in moving our town forward.
One group of residents Mayor Brindle and I quickly discovered that felt left out by previous administrations was Westfield’s seniors. We knew it was critical to engage seniors and listen to their needs if we were going to work to make Westfield not just a place that young couples come to raise their families but also a place where empty nesters and grandparents want to age in place and be close to their grandchildren.
Approximately 15% of Westfield’s 30,000 residents are aged 65+ and Ward 3 is home to Westfield Senior Housing, a complex of two buildings off Boynton Avenue that consists of 303 apartments for seniors. This totals up to 4,500 seniors living in Westfield and likely more than a thousand seniors living in Ward 3 alone.
When the Mayor asked me to launch an effort focusing on seniors, I jumped at the opportunity to make a difference for this large group of residents.
I approached this goal the same way I approached rejuvenating the Green Team. First, I sought volunteers among Westfield residents who shared a passion for issues affecting seniors and/or had expertise in this area. To my delight, but not to my surprise, eight volunteers stepped up immediately to form the Mayor’s Senior Advisory Council in March 2018, which is now known as Lifelong Westfield and has 12 members.
Since our first meeting, this talented group of volunteers — made up of seniors who have never volunteered before, high school students who have never participated in government before and adults of varying ages in between) has gone above and beyond for Westfield’s seniors to help them more successfully age in place and have a voice in the town’s government.
I am incredibly proud of the impact this group has had and of my role as their Council Liaison, ensuring that they get the support they need from the Westfield Town Council to fulfill their mission. Some of their accomplishments include:
- Building a sense of community among Westfield Seniors, especially during COVID, that now includes sending out weekly emails, quarterly newsletters and a weekly online chat
- Launching an online calendar that lists out all the events for seniors occurring in our community across at least a dozen organizations
- Holding dozens of events for Westfield seniors including activity fairs, walking safety presentations, scam-prevention webinars and even a COVID Vaccination Fact vs Fiction presentation with local healthcare experts
- Going out of their way to meet the needs of seniors, including picking up storm debris, taking seniors to get vaccinated, and calling them regularly to check on their well-being
As Council Liaison, I participate in all meetings, offer strategic input, and help with many of the group’s events, and occasionally lead some efforts, like the Westfield 300 Milestone Awards. I realized that Westfield 300 provided Lifelong Westfield a great opportunity to honor residents, businesses and even pets who have achieved amazing milestones here in town. And by doing so, we discovered a great way to celebrate our town’s history by honoring for example the oldest living resident in Westfield (Silveo Colletti, aged 101), the most number of children raised in Westfield (Elizabeth Avis with 10), the longest active business in town (the Westfield Leader for 130 years) and even the oldest dog (Carole Payton’s dog Kelly who was 17).
To me, Lifelong Westfield is a great example of the governing philosophy that I and the entire Westfield Together team have followed which is to make sure our administration and town government meets the needs of all residents and leverages its talented citizens to make a positive impact on our town. I look forward to your vote on Nov. 2 for Ward 3 Council so I can continue this governing approach for the next four years.
By the way, if you are a Westfield senior and not a member of Lifelong Westfield, please let me know so I can have you added to our mailing list and make sure you are kept informed about relevant events, programs and news for Westfield’s seniors. You can email me at email@example.com or call me at 917-589-1197.
David Contract, Ward 3 Councilman and Liaison to Lifelong Westfield