BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ —The Town Council passed an ordinance officially authorizing the creation of a Seniors Affairs Committee during its March 2nd meeting.
The governing body voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance's passage.
According to the language of the ordinance, the new committee is designed to “provide information to the public on various aspects of aging, as well as to identify the needs of, increase communications to, develop and coordinate resources for, and explore appropriate solutions to issues affecting the Township’s senior citizens.”
The new Seniors Affairs Committee replaces the Senior Advisory Board as the standing committee advising the Berkeley Heights Mayor and Town Council.
Speaking at the end of February, ahead of the ordinance’s adoption on March 2, Mayor Angie Devanney spoke to the importance of a Seniors Affairs Committee, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started rolling up our sleeves and addressed things like communication,” said Devanney. “Especially the isolation and mental health aspect of what we [the township] needed to do.”
The mayor explained seniors were having a hard time obtaining critical information and services due to a lack of computer proficiency among the senior population.
This last year has seen Berkeley Heights using CARES funding from the federal government to help breach the gap by using strategies such as physical newsletters and auto calls to assist the aging population during the pandemic.
Beyond COVID-19, Devanney sees the committee as a way to communicate with the towns aging population. She also emphasized the importance of listening.
“There are different groups of seniors that we have to listen and appeal to,” said Devanney. “We’re finding seniors want to age in place. They want active and passive recreation.”
“What we’ve learned,” the mayor said, “is we really need to do a town-wise survey for our seniors.”
Tuesday’s creation of the Seniors Affairs Committee comes after Patricia Jacobs, a founding member of the organization New Providence Our Community for All, covered topics such as aging in place and making Berkeley Heights a welcoming community for seniors during a conference session discussion held last month
In the spirit of serving the community’s aging population, the Township honored lifelong Berkeley Heights resident Kris Slevens with a proclamation recognizing his volunteer services. Slevens has assisted in scheduling hundreds of vaccination appointments for local senior citizens.
Slevens, an Informational Technology (IT) professional, gave critical assistance to a senior community struggling with the necessary computer and digital skills required to seek out COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Kris’ hard work and perseverance has led to now hundreds of senior citizens obtaining vaccination appointments who otherwise would be waiting weeks or months for them,” read the proclamation. “The Mayor and the Township Council believe it is important to acknowledge the efforts of volunteers who make such an impact on our community”
In virtual attendance during the March 2, meeting, Slevens was grateful for the recognition of his service to the township’s most vulnerable.
“I’d like to thank you for stepping in and creating this program after the state and county sort of dropped the ball for our seniors; leaving them behind with an incredibly fragmented process, all done online,” said Slevens.
Related article: Berkeley Heights' Good Samaritan Books COVID Vaccination Appointments for Local Seniors; Click here to view Slevens' interview with WSJ.