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Senior Spotlight: May 22, 2020

Editor’s Note: For the next several weeks, in addition to its regular coverage of happenings, Spotlight will focus on Council on Aging news and programs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Latest news

Harvard’s Council on Aging (COA) will continue to offer free “grab and go” dinners for older adults on Thursdays at 2 p.m. for the month of May. COA Director Debbie Thompson said the free dinners are so popular the list is usually full by Tuesday, and last week some callers had to be turned away. Thompson said COA offices will be closed Monday for Memorial Day, but callers can leave a message. Dinners must be ordered by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Two meals per person will be packed in microwavable containers and distributed at Hildreth House. When picking up meals, recipients should wear masks and stay in their cars; meals will be deposited in the back seat. Those who cannot drive to Hildreth House to pick up a meal should let the COA know. For more information and to sign up, call the COA at 978-456-4120.

The Adopt-a-Senior program is still working well. Thompson said the council is very grateful for the volunteers who are “bending over backwards” to help their adoptees. Those who would like to be matched with a volunteer to check in with them regularly, make trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, or provide other assistance, should contact call 978-456-4120. Note that volunteers try to consolidate trips to limit their own risk, so they may not be able to go to a specific grocery store.

While there is currently a sufficient supply of cloth masks, Thompson said she anticipates more mask requests as the reopening begins. To request a mask for delivery or pickup, call the COA.


The Council on Aging May newsletter has been emailed or mailed to residents on the council’s mailing list and is also available on the town’s website. Contact the COA if you did not receive a newsletter but would like one. The newsletter contains this month’s program calendar; all meetings and events are being conducted with Zoom. Director Thompson said the weekly virtual exercise classes are well attended, and she encourages everyone to give the classes a try while they are still free during the month of May. There is at least one exercise class each morning during the week.

Thompson said she is trying to get a virtual knitting group started at 1 p.m. on Thursdays (the normal time the knitting group met at Hildreth House). Interested knitters should contact the COA.

Zoom help

Zoom meetings and classes can be joined via phone or computer. Instructions for joining will be provided upon sign-up. Volunteers will hold Zoom classes for beginners in the near future; classes will be smaller than previous ones so that individual help can be provided.

Computer volunteers are also available to help with Zoom technical issues on Tuesdays and Fridays. To get help, call the COA to make an appointment to describe your question and a computer volunteer will get back to you.

Deadline extended for taxation aid

The deadline to apply for assistance from the Elderly and Disabled Taxation Aid Fund has been extended from May 1 to June 15. Anyone who turned 65 on or before July 1, 2019, or is disabled, and who expects they may have difficulty paying their property taxes in the next fiscal year (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) may apply. Applications and eligibility guidelines are available at the town website under “Boards and Committees,” “Elderly and Disabled Taxation Aid Committee.” Thompson told the Press that the eligibility guidelines document still shows the old application deadline of May 15, but says the deadline has been extended to June 15.

The deadline to apply for the means-tested senior tax exemption, instituted in 2019, has been extended from May 1 to Sept. 1. Anyone who qualifies for the Massachusetts Circuit Breaker Credit, and has lived in Harvard for at least the last 10 years, can contact the assessor’s office at 978-456-4100, ext. 315, or at, to ask about applying.

Staff hours, Meals on Wheels, COA van

Hildreth House is closed, but the COA staff is available Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. by phone (978-456-4120) and email ( If possible, contact the COA during its business hours when staff is available to respond. Meals on Wheels will provide packaged lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays to those who were already getting that service before the pandemic, and to anyone who came to the Tuesday/Thursday lunches at Hildreth House.

The COA van still offers rides for medical appointments. Only one rider is allowed at a time, and riders must wear face coverings. The Council on Aging will drop off masks to riders in advance if they are needed; the cloth masks should be washed before first use. The van driver wears a mask and gloves, and the van is disinfected in the morning and after every ride. The van is also available to pick up orders from Loaves & Fishes.

—Compiled by Joan Eliyesil

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