Her name is synonymous with Elder Care

Posted 2/15/24

Oops. Forgot.  We don’t call it that anymore (she gave me hell for that).

We call it care for the older population.

To solidify her point, she told me that we no longer call it …

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Her name is synonymous with Elder Care


Oops. Forgot.  We don’t call it that anymore (she gave me hell for that).

We call it care for the older population.

To solidify her point, she told me that we no longer call it the Rhode Island Department of Elderly Affairs.   Rather, it is now called the Office of Healthy Aging.

Guess I missed that one.

I’m talking of course about that volunteer champion named Maureen Maigret.

Maureen, a Registered Nurse by trade, burst onto the Rhode Island political scene when she was elected (in 1975) to the RI House of Representatives (then District 37), representing the Greenwood section of Warwick.

Her first election was eventful for many reasons, chief among them was that her second-born, Michael (she and husband Bob have two sons, Robert and Michael), came into this world six weeks after her first legislative session began.

A true trooper, she attended sessions until two days before the birth.  Laughing, she said, “all the men were nervous!”

Along the way she chalked up many “firsts”, such as the first woman Deputy Speaker of the House, and the first woman to have a baby while in session.

Her long career stared at the grassroots level when she became involved in the Warwick Women’s Political Caucus, a non-partisan group dealing with issues of concern to women across party lines, which was inspired by the National Committee.

She also became deeply involved in Warwick School Committee work, supporting people who ran for the office.

In the 1970’s, the Women’s Political Caucus was the “vanguard of the women’s movement” which inspired her to run for public office.

“You can’t sit on the sidelines.  We have to be in the race if we are in a position to do that!”, she explained.

After arguably a highly successful career in the House, which lasted 10 years, her next position was Chief of Staff to then Lt. Governor Richard Licht (now a Superior Court Judge), followed by serving as Executive Assistant to then Speaker of the House Joe DeAngelis, and then her most memorable and prolific position as Director of the Department of Elderly Affairs under Governor Bruce Sundlun, from 1991 to 1994..

 We had a lot of laughs talking about the late Governor, who was a unique character to say the least.

She even told me about the time that the women in his Cabinet all wore blond wigs to a Cabinet Meeting after his famous and hilarious quip about “chasing blondes his whole life” during a gubernatorial race against an opponent who had blonde hair.

She would end her paid positions in government service by working as Policy Director for Lt. Governor Charles Fogarty from 1999 to 2006.   A far cry from the 20 years she worked as a Registered Nurse at Rhode Island hospitals like Kent Hospital, initially specializing in pediatric nursing and intensive care nursing, which would transition into orthopedic nursing where she got “lots of experience dealing with older people.”

But it was after her work in the Sundlun Cabinet that she solidified her next phase in her life’s mission.

As she describes it, “that’s when I really amplified my interest in the older population and for their better quality of life.”

The merger of her two life occupations would come together.   Health care and older care.

“I went to work for Kent Hospital, first as an employee, but then as a consultant to see if we could get more involved in geriatric care”.   She continued, “We set up a nurse run community health clinic at a number of Senior Centers across the state, utilizing nurses that were Kent Hospital employees.”

“At the centers, we took vital signs, helped with various tests, and helped with basic advice for their well-being.   It was a really nice service that lasted a couple years.”

That was the time that Lt. Governor Fogarty approached her to come to work at his office.

As Policy Director and Manager of the Long Term (Healthcare) Coordinating Council, she was in her element.

That job, as mentioned, lasted for 8 years after which she said goodbye to the State Government.

After State service, Maureen worked for various organizations, but always in aging related services.

She now does limited consulting work and “many hours” of volunteer work, again related to the older population, including volunteering for the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island.

She continues her work as Vice President of the “Village Common of Rhode Island’, whose mission is “through volunteers to support and help older adults to live at home and to engage socially and connect to their community.”

There are now six “Villages”, as well as a recent steering committee formed in Warwick.

The biggest “support mechanism” provided, according to Maureen, is transportation to medical appointments.”   Other transportation might include a ride to the pharmacy or to a hair appointment.

Maureen explains that people pay dues to be a member of the Village, ranging from $10 a year to $40 a month, “depending on what they can afford.”

The ultimate goal of the Villages, as mentioned, is to keep people in their homes.

They have over 450 members in 6 communities at the present time, serviced by over 250 volunteers.

There are no limits, it just depends on the availability of their trained volunteers.

Maureen continued that “they always are looking for and welcome new volunteers”, and that the calls come in “for not only rides to the Doctor, but it may be help with technology, or snow shoveling, or even help to change a light bulb.”

She is enthused about the steering committee established in Warwick, which is supported by the West Bay Community Action Program and the Warwick Senior Center.

They hope to establish two new Villages per year throughout the State.

The need for volunteer older care, she says, is needed now more than ever.  And it’s as important to keep an older person in their home.

“A semi-private room in a nursing home is about $113 thousand a year.   A one-bedroom in an assisted living facility could be over $60 thousand per year.   When we look at current income levels, its something we have to pay attention to, particularly because 50% of older Rhode Island households have incomes of less than $50 thousand dollars.”

Shocking statistics to say the least.

I couldn’t leave our coffee together without asking her about the current state of politics.

After laughing about the far-left and far-right crazies in both of our parties (she being a Democrat and me of course a Republican), she remarked, “on a national basis, things are very divisive.  The divisions between our major parties have changed.”

“I remember the days of John Chafee when we compromised.  Now, nationally, hate-mongering is not too strong a word.”

She continued, “locally we are still able to work together, though what I have noticed over these many years is a much greater influence of paid lobbyists.”

We left after that, and I thought to myself what a treasure this woman has been to Rhode Island.

One foot in the past days of nursing and politics, the other as the perennial champion of older people’s livelihoods in the ever-changing world around us.

I hope she continues her important mission for many years

elderly, Maigret, advocate


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