Slowed by COVID curbs, new Easthampton senior director eager to ramp up

  • Tarail explains the bags of masks and COVID tests at the senior center being handed out to seniors. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cindy Tarail, the director of the Easthampton Council On Aging, talks about the services offered at the senior center even it’s now closed to the public for the most part. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cynthia Tarail, the director of the Easthampton Council On Aging, talks about the different services offered at the Senior Center even though the doors are closed to the public for the most part. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cynthia Tarail, the director of the Easthampton Council On Aging, talks about the different services offered at the center even though the doors are closed to the public for the most part. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/18/2022 6:06:36 PM
Modified: 1/18/2022 6:05:31 PM

EASTHAMPTON — When Cynthia “Cindy” Tarail was hired as the Council on Aging’s director, the Council on Aging and Enrichment Center was beginning to open its doors to in-person programs and activities to the public.

Two months later, the center’s building closed to the public for group activities due to a surge in cases of COVID-19.

While there is always a period of transition when assuming a new position, trying to get situated during a world of ongoing uncertainty can prove to be challenging.

“With a more compromised population, both who we serve and on staff, trying to spread important information and keep people safe all while making sure people get the services they need — it’s like another job on top of a job for everyone in public service,” Tarail said. “It’s taking me longer to do the things I had initially planned on doing.”

Tarail assumed the role of director in October after the council’s former director, Brendan Rogers, stepped down to take a role in transportation management with Riverside Industries, a nonprofit organization in Easthampton that runs a host of programs helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live full lives.

Tarail, a native of Brooklyn, New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in social and economic geography from Vassar College and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut. Before the Easthampton Council on Aging, she worked for more than five years in fundraising and public relations at the Cancer Connection in Northampton.

In earlier roles, Tarail served as a case manager at Highland Valley Elder Services in Northampton working with at-risk elders and those in protective services, and she has experience in the early childhood field working as the director of the nonprofit Building Bright Futures in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Tarail said she decided to shift into a position that would bring her back to social work and community-based work where she felt she could make a difference. As she gets more settled into her role, she hopes to build additional community partnerships, improve how patrons of the Council on Aging are served and make better use of limited resources.

For the time being, the building is still closed to the public for group activities because of high numbers of COVID-19 cases and will remain so through February. Highland Valley Elder Services’ Grab and Go Meals that are typically distributed by COA staff and volunteers are also currently not available through Feb. 28 due to cold weather.

Staff will continue to provide services over the phone and online. Services with in-person components, such as fuel assistance, will be conducted with higher-quality masks and opened windows, Tarail said.

The SHINE (Serving Health Information Needs for Everyone) program, a state program that provides free health insurance information, counseling and assistance to Massachusetts residents with Medicare and their caregivers, also will continue with in-person service on a one-to-one basis. AARP free tax prep services also will be provided by participants dropping off and picking up paperwork; call the COA at 413-527-6151 to make an appointment. Special arrangements can be made for residents with limited mobility.

With so much focus on matters on a day-to-day basis, Tarail said she hasn’t had a lot of time to focus on future programming, but hopes to provide cooking classes at some point. She’d also like to be able to offer trips via the Friends group or the Council on Aging, whether it’s a hike on Mount Tom or outside the city.

At this point, she has a goal of restarting in-person classes and activities in the beginning of March. More specific dates will be considered by mid-February. One activity that’s been delayed significantly since Tarail first started is a “coffee with the new director” gathering, she said.

“Because we haven’t been able to gather, we haven’t been able to even have a simple coffee to talk about people’s interests or what the gaps in our service may be,” she said. Nevertheless, she’s enjoying the new role. “I love this job,” she said. “The staff and volunteers are incredibly dedicated. This is a really great place to work.”

Tarail said she intends to make good on a promise once the warmer weather comes for a “meet me” on a bicycle trail outing.

In the meantime, the Council on Aging is active on its Facebook page: Easthampton Council On Aging & Enrichment Center, although its previous website has just been shut down. Information is now available online at While the page is still under construction, it will eventually include all of the programming and activities offered at the center, as well as resources and information on transportation, the fitness center, and outreach and social services.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at


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