August 13, 2020
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A member of the Henry Carter Hull Library Board of Trustees, Phylllis McGrath also answered the call when the town was forming its Senior Citizen Task Force.

Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

A member of the Henry Carter Hull Library Board of Trustees, Phylllis McGrath also answered the call when the town was forming its Senior Citizen Task Force. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Phyllis McGrath: Centering in on Senior Needs

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In late 2018 the Clinton Board of Selectmen (BOS) created the Senior Citizen Task Force to help gauge the needs and interests of Clinton’s senior population. The person chosen to co-chair the task force was Phyllis McGrath.

Phyllis says that she wasn’t always active in town, but prior to the BOS establishing the task force, she’d had a change of heart and wanted to find a way to get involved in the community.

“First and foremost, I think we called attention to the cause. Almost 20 percent of Clinton’s population is seniors and that number is going to grow and therefore the town needs to address it,” Phyllis says.

Addressing the issues of an aging population won’t be an easy one, as Phyllis notes that seniors can’t all be placed in one group.

“There’s a huge range of people in that 20 percent,” says Phyllis.

For example, Phyllis says that some seniors may be looking for a location to socialize and get together, while others may be interested in learning about tax relief programs and not necessarily be interested in social activities.

“The issue of being able to age in place is one we hope to be able to work on,” Phyllis says.

One of the first items Phyllis and task force co-chair Elizabeth Goldstein sought to accomplish was surveying the town’s seniors to hear what they wanted and used in the town.

“To a large extent it was a simple answer: we need more!” Phyllis says of the survey results.

However, Phyllis was quick to point out that the town does offer a plethora of activities in which seniors can engage. As an example, Phyllis points to the programs offered by the Henry Carter Hull Library, where she serves on the board of trustees.

“The library does a terrific job. There are lots of activities and they have a huge range of programs,” Phyllis says.

Examples of the kinds of programs offered include movies, TED talks, tai chi, and others.

“They’re always open to suggestions too for possibly adding more types of programs,” she adds.

As for the future goals of the task force, Phyllis says that she’d like to try and solve the communications barrier she sees between seniors and the town. Phyllis stresses that this is just an idea and not a concrete plan, but says she’d like to see the town create a position for someone to be a point person between the town and seniors.

Phyllis says she envisions someone who would compile all the different programs being available to seniors, then disseminate that information online and physically in places seniors go such as the human services department and places of worship. This person would also be known to seniors as the central person to call with any issues or questions about where to go to find a program.

“The senior would know to call that person with any questions,” says Phyllis.

Loving the Library

The Henry Carter Hull Library is one of the first landmarks in Clinton that Phyllis investigated before moving here.

“People don’t believe me when I say this but when we were moving to Clinton we came and checked out the library,” says Phyllis.

She says that she has always loved libraries so it was a natural fit. “After living here for a while, I wanted to get involved but with something not political and something that was important to me,” Phyllis explains.

After an opening on the board was made available, Phyllis says a member recommend to fill that position.

Another organization close to Phyllis’s heart is Scholarship America, for which she once served as the chair of the governing board and is still listed as an honor roll trustee on the organization’s website. The organization is the nation’s largest non-profit private scholarship organization and has given away $4.2 billion is scholarships since its 1958 founding. Phyllis says she was on the board for 12 years.

“When 9/11 happened, the next day, we started a scholarship for children of the victims. I was chairman at the time and that was my pride and joy,” Phyllis proudly notes.

Phyllis was born and raised in New York City “within walking distance of Yankee Stadium” and has lived in Clinton for nine years.

On her decision to move to Clinton, Phyllis says, “We were looking to move near the shoreline and we saw a posting online for a house in Clinton and came and looked at it, not knowing anyone.”

Asked what she likes about Clinton, Phyllis replies “It might sound corny, but it’s a friendly mix of people who are very open and we were welcomed here.”

Phyllis says she likes to spend her spare time with family, traveling, going to the gym, and is a self-described “theater nut.”

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