SACO – Saco’s Jean Saunders is the recipient of the 2022 AARP Maine Andrus Award named in honor of AARP founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. The Andrus Award celebrates and honors those who make a difference in the lives of others, and is the most prestigious and visible award AARP presents each year.
Saunders’ extraordinary public service actively embodies Dr. Andrus’ motto “To serve, not to be served,” according to a statement from AARP Maine.
“The AARP Maine Andrus Award acts as a symbol that every person can make a difference and every person can effect positive social change,” said Noël Bonam, Director of AARP Maine State. “We are deeply proud to present this year’s award to Jean Saunders, whose record of achievement, service and commitment is an excellent example of the power of giving back.
Originally from Winslow, Jean Letourneau Saunders RN MSN MPH began her nursing career in Maine but spent many years in New York as a nursing administrator. In 1990, she was able to return to Maine as a hospital administrator at Maine Medical Center. Jean and her husband, David, have three children: Katie, Allison and William.
In 2013, Saunders first read about the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities and, in particular, the aging-in-place work that was just beginning to take root, according to the release. She wanted to learn more about this work and possibly help the town of Saco become part of the network. With her healthcare background, Saunders was particularly interested in learning how to help people stay in their homes and age successfully with community support.
“Age-friendly or livable communities have walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to key services and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities,” Saunders said. “It is so important to know from each community what it wants and what services it needs. Age-friendly opportunities in a given community will be as varied as the community itself. »
At Saco, Saunders began enlisting the help of key associates and formed a steering committee that included local and municipal leaders. She started a project with Thornton Academy to sponsor a competition to design a logo for Saco as an age-friendly community which resulted in the winning entry and Age-Friendly motto Saco: A Community for a Lifetime . “The logo is a strong representation of all of the history surrounding Saco,” Saunders said, “but it also serves as a fitting emblem for the exciting plans ahead that will help residents age in place through a multi-generational approach. We want to work continuously to bring together different generations to learn from each other.
Saunders continues to work with fellow Saco residents and lead important programs, services and resources to benefit residents of all ages. In February, a new transport-on-demand program was launched. With the support of volunteer drivers and AmeriCorps members, more than 200 rides have been provided to senior residents needing transportation to get to medical appointments. Additionally, last summer, Age-Friendly Saco implemented an adapted bike program that allows older residents to rediscover the joy of a bike ride.
“I am honored to receive the Andrus Award,” said Saunders. “As one of many volunteers working within AARP’s network of age-friendly states and communities, it is exciting to be recognized for work done in the areas of livability. We will continue to strive to develop the necessary supports and services that will enable our residents to age in place and in their communities.
AARP Maine staff, volunteers and local members celebrated Saunder at their annual Volunteer Appreciation Celebration Oct. 26 in Augusta.
To volunteer with AARP Maine, call 1-866-554-5380.
Letters to the Editor, November 10