It’s about the people: Southampton Council on Aging director to retire in June

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 02-27-2023 12:39 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — After five and a half years at the helm of the town’s Council on Aging, Joan Linnehan has announced she will retire in June.

“It’s time another person takes the reins” and to see the success of a future new senior center, she wrote in a letter noting her intention to retire to the Select Board.

“We wish Joan great fun in retirement. She’s never one to sit still,” Select Board Chairperson Chris Fowles said.

Linnehan, who will be 65 years old in May, became Southampton’s first full-time director of the Council on Aging in September 2017, working 26 hours a week. She arrived at the “perfect moment,” according to Janet Cain, chairperson of the Council on Aging board.

“We were so fortunate to find someone at that time with her energy and experience,” Cain said in a statement.

The Southwick woman has dedicated her career, which spans four decades, to working with the senior population. Prior to Southampton, Linnehan spent 20 years at the Agawam Senior Center in multiple capacities, including activities director, assistant director and director.

Before Agawam, she worked at a nursing home in West Springfield for 15 years.

Though she didn’t have much of a reference with seniors growing up as she didn’t grow up with grandparents, Linnehan says her love for the elderly population is boundless.

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“I just love seniors. I love hearing their stories and their memories,” she said.

Since she’s come on board, she’s helped to expand the Southampton Senior Center’s programming as well as playing a role in finding a place to house the local pickleball craze with two courts at Conant Park.

Other programming she’s had a hand in bringing to the Southampton community is the Memory Cafe, which offers a safe space for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other brain disorders, and their caregivers to socialize, play games and listen to music. She’s also added day trips to nearby states like Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine.

“It’s all been very rewarding,” she said.

In addition to her work at the current senior center, Linnehan also serves as a nonvoting member of the town’s Ad Hoc Senior Center Building Feasibility Committee, which was established after the town learned that a late resident David “Red” Parsons, who died May 17, 2021 at the age of 86, left the town $2.5 million toward the construction of a new senior center.

In order to receive that bequest, however, Parsons stipulated in his will that the feasibility study for a new facility be completed within two years of his death. If the study is not completed by May 17 of this year, the money will be split up between four different entities, including 25% to the Shriners Hospitals for Children; 25% to the First Congregational Church of Southampton; 25% to the Southampton Historical Society; and 25% to the Southampton Council on Aging.

With such a quick deadline, Linnehan and other members of the committee have met multiple times in the last month. Though her retirement comes before a decision is made on whether a new senior center will be constructed, Linnehan says she hopes to be there when the project is “shovel ready.”

In the meantime, she’s looking forward to her role as “Nana,” and taking advantage of the hugs and kisses of three grandchildren under 3 years old.

In offering advice to the future Southampton director, Linnehan shared words she’d shared with others in the past: “Budgets, reports and paperwork will always be there. Make sure to spend time with people. That’s what’s important.”

In the coming weeks, the Council on Aging board will be working with the Select Board to establish a search committee for the next director, according to Cain.

“In a recent survey, Joan and her staff received the highest score when measuring the positive aspects of our current center,” Cain said. “We all wish Joan the very best for her next chapter. So well deserved.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.]]>