This letter is an appeal to every Islander who cares about the future of our elder population. Every day, the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living Supportive Day Program provides support to the frailest members of our community; support that can’t be found anywhere else. We now ask for your support at town meetings across the Island next month. For more than 30 years the Supportive Day Program has served hundreds of families, providing a safe engaging day for our most vulnerable elders and essential, affordable respite for their family caregivers and care partners. Our participants experience various complications of the aging process including memory loss, immobility and numerous sensory deficits. They are at great risk if left alone. Most live with or are cared for by family members. In some cases they are cared for by spouses who are themselves elderly and frail or by adult children who are working and/or raising families of their own.

The cost of hiring private care for our participants, $20 to $35 per hour, poses a financial hardship for most families. The cost of attending the Supportive Day Program, $30 to $40 per day, is the best and most affordable elder care option available to Island families.

The elder population of Martha’s Vineyard (eventually every one of us) deserves and requires a secure and private facility in which to be cared for. At present, the Supportive Day Program operates in two unsecured, inadequate locations. Both locations are also without any real measure of privacy.

For 20 years the Supportive Day Program staff and frail elderly participants have been a moving target — four days a week, shuttled back and forth between two locations on opposite ends of the Island without adequate facility or accommodation for the care and support our clients and their families need.

We currently have 23 families enrolled in the program. I stress “families” because the value of this program to entire families cannot be understated. We usually have a waiting list. We do little advertising or outreach because we have no more room or time available. For every elder enrolled there are many more families and isolated elders in need of these services.

Dukes County is aging at twice the rate of the rest of Massachusetts. It is estimated that 43 per cent of the 80-plus population will develop Alzheimer’s disease. The greatest need for these services lies ahead not behind. We will all be there someday. After eight years of exhaustive searching, a suitable home for the Center for Living Supportive Day Program has been found. The county has stepped up and with support from the All-Island Selectmen and the County Advisory Board there is a plan to purchase the building on Holmes Hole Road in Tisbury. Now the entire Island community, the unified support of all six towns, is needed.

Please raise your collective voices at town meetings across the Island to support a long-awaited and much-needed home for the Supportive Day Program, and a plan for the future of all of us.

Eileen Murphy
Vineyard Haven

Eileen Murphy is Supportive Day Program supervisor.