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Fogarty at retirement: Seniors are better off today

GLOCESTER – After four decades of public service, Rhode Island Director of Elderly Affairs Charles Fogarty, a lifelong Glocester resident, is retiring from the public sector at the end of June.

“I look at it as I’m not retiring, I’m leaving state service,” he said. “I will not be sitting on the couch watching ‘Perry Mason’ re-runs on MeTV.”

Fogarty said he’ll continue teaching leadership and global ethics at Johnson Wales University on a part-time basis, but is trying to balance his work life with his personal life.

“I also want to focus on other areas like volunteering. I want to get on a hands-on volunteer effort now that I will have some more time to do things that I think are important,” he said.

One thing he definitely will be doing, he said, is signing up with Meals on Wheels to help deliver meals in the Glocester area.

“There’s always a need from where we are, in particular, in rural areas,” he said. “I’ve seen that program make a huge difference in the lives of folks and that’s one thing I think I can put my time in.”

He said on the personal side, for him, there are three tiers: work, volunteering and hobbies.

“I think I’d like to take cooking lessons; I think that would be fun. Learn Spanish. Travel a little bit. Certainly keeping busy in a productive way and I think work will always be an important part of that,” he said. “The balance will be better when I leave state service.”

He said he doesn’t look at retirement as an end, but as a new beginning to another chapter.

“So fun experiences, some new challenges ahead and opportunities to work and serve in different ways that I’ve been doing thus far,” he said.

Fogarty began public service in 1978 as a junior policy adviser for Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy, the man he said influenced him the most outside of his family. He said Garrahy remained a good friend and mentor until his death in 2012.

Fogarty’s father, Charles Fogarty Sr., was the first Democrat elected to the Glocester Town Council in 1951. He later continued to work as a state senator and director of the Rhode Island Small Business Association. Fogarty’s uncle, John Fogarty, was a congressman for 26 years, and his brother, Paul Fogarty, is a state senator.

“My family has been involved in public service for a while. Certainly my mother and father encouraged us to give back to the community,” he said.

He said he grew up surrounded by community service and political service.

In 1990, he was elected as state senator. Then he served as lieutenant governor from 1999 to 2007. He held the position of director of the Department of Labor and Training from 2011 to 2015, when Gov. Gina Raimondo appointed him director of the DEA.

Fogarty served in Glocester as well, holding three terms on the Town Council starting in 1984. Coincidentally, the 62-year-old said when he started public service as a young aid to Garrahy, he was the liaison to elderly affairs.

“When I first started in public service in the governor’s office, I was 22 years old and I would go to meetings with people-legislators, these wizened state bureaucrats and other business people – I was always the youngest kid in the room,” he said. “Now when I go to these same meetings, the young kids in the room stand up and offer me their chair.”

According to Fogarty, Rhode Island is on the cusp of being a “super aging” state, or a state where at least 20 percent of the population is older than 65. Considering the elderly population is growing, he said, working with Raimondo to increase funding for senior programs was the highlight of his four years as DEA director.

“The governor really has for the first time put additional resources in,” he said. “She doubled the funding to Meals on Wheels, which is a critical program for keeping seniors home and independent.”

Additionally, Raimondo proposed to double funding for senior centers, which he said is a critical network to keep people independent and active.

“Our mission is to really empower seniors, preserve independence, and enrich lives,” he said.

In the last couple of years, Fogarty said he’s seen the first effort in more than 10 years to build up the services and capacities to assist the seniors.

“Baby boomers are a different group and you’re seeing a transition in services of what’s happening,” he said.

He said the state is in a transition period of finding out what seniors want and need and the “healthy cohort” moving up that has different expectations and desires than previous generations.

“They want to do other things, they want to volunteer, they want to help out,” he said. “They look at this as just another stage in their life. So we’re kind of in that transition period now. I think the governor’s funding of those is going make a big difference.”

Other programs he said he is proud he worked on during his time as DEA director are the Lifespan Respite Grant, The Aging and Disabilities Resource Center, Adult Protective Services, and the Senior Health Insurance Program.

The Lifespan Grant looks at a person from childhood to senior citizen, working with the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, Salve Regina University and New England Institute of Technology to develop in the healthcare curriculum ways to manage challenges facing caring for individuals.

The Aging and Disabilities Resource Center, or “the Point,” offers informational services, with local satellite offices, to connect people with the services that they need, when they need them, he said.

More and more people need Adult Protective Service, Fogarty said. Whether from self-neglect, physical or financial abuse, the service investigates cases and works with first responders to connect seniors with services, he said.

“The demand for that service is going up, unfortunately, every year. That’s an area that I think we really need to pay more attention to,” he said.

The Senior Health Insurance Program provides counseling for people on Medicare, he said. More than 2,100 people are counseled every year, and the program assists in finding health insurance and drug coverage savings.

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