Inspiring Aging

This year, we are marking 50 years of providing the services people need so they can live safe, healthy lives at home in the community of their choice. While much as changed over the last five decades, one thing has remained constant: The Merrimack Valley and North Shore are filled with older adults whose lives inspire us.

In their honor, we are celebrating “50 Years of Inspiring Aging: Celebrating the Power, Value, and Voices of Older Adults.”

We hope you enjoy hearing from these amazing individuals and reading their profiles. It is an honor to highlight their achievements, and we are grateful for their commitment to service and passion for life.

The 50 Over 60 List

The 50 Over 60 List showcases people aged 60 and over from across the region who motivate us through their positive attitudes, healthy aging, intergenerational experiences, community service, activism, advocacy, and caregiving.

50over60 Booklet

AgeSpan: 50 Years of Service

Thanks to the grassroots and advocacy efforts of local leaders and residents throughout the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, the vision of person-centered care for older adults began in 1974 and continues to evolve today.


The History of AgeSpan



Congress passes the Older Americans Act in 1965, and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) is established in Massachusetts with a mission of creating a State Home Care Program to offer meaningful alternatives to institutional care.

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA’s) are established in 1973 as private nonprofits rather than state agencies to include a 51% representation from consumers ages 60 and over and 51% representation from leaders within the councils on aging.

Community leader, James L. Campbell, of Haverhill, MA, recognizes the need for care of older adults, and convened other leaders and advocates to create Merrimack Valley Home Care, Inc.


First Executive Director for Merrimack Valley Home Care, George “Russ” Moran is hired along with five other staff members.



Merrimack Valley Home Care changes its name to Elder Services of Merrimack Valley, Inc. (ESMV)




North Shore Elder Services is established.

William “Bill” Carney is its first Executive Director.



Mass Home Care is formed with a focus on coordinating public funding for community-based services.

Congregate Housing is introduced as an alternative to long-term placement.


Protective Services is established.
Joan Hatem-Roy becomes the first Protective Service worker in Massachusetts focusing on education and reporting to help older adults experiencing some form of elder abuse.


Rosanne J. DiStefano becomes Executive Director of ESMV and serves in that role for the next 32 years


The mission of the two agencies is to provide older adults and persons of disabilities access to in-home services and community programs that allow them the choice to live safely and as independently as possible in their homes.


Nutritional programs both congregate and home delivered meals, are introduced.


Over the next four decades, safety and security initiatives are implemented, providing additional support services and resources to protect older adults.

1984 – 1994


Janet McAveeney hired as new Executive Director of North Shore Elder Services.

ESMV and NSES play a pivotal role in staff development, including registered nurses that provide the initiative to integrate health and social service programs to keep older adults living in the community longer. 

New services established include:

  • Respite/Hospital Liaison Programs
  • Volunteer Programs to help with transportation, meals, and companionship
  • SHINE Program – health benefits counseling to support older adults with their health insurance needs
  • Money Management Program – support older adults with basic money management skills


The agency, with about 110 staff at the time, is relocated to the new Riverwalk complex in Lawrence, MA

1994 -2004


ESMV hosts first fundraising event, the Golf Classic



Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and the North Shore (now known as AgeSpan) are designated as an Aging Service Access Point (ASAP), creating a one-stop approach to long-term care. 

Core functions included:  

  • Information & Referral services 
  • Needs assessment of elders 
  • Developing care plan to address unmet needs 
  • Purchasing of service to implement care plan 
  • Monitoring effectiveness over time

Senior Care Options (SCOs)
launch a voluntary Medicare Advantage healthcare plan that combines Medicare and MassHealth benefits to provide a wrap-around package of healthcare and social services. Geriatric Support Services Coordinators work with managed care professionals provide support and advocate for individuals while ensuring they also receive ancillary services such as housing, homemaking, meals, and more.


Congress adds a new addendum to the Older American Act to create a National Family Caregiver Program, defining the population of caregivers as a group worthy of federal funding, services, and resources.

Social Work Licensure Initiatives are developed to increase professional development opportunities for staff.



Elder Services (AgeSpan) becomes a key player in health care, developing contracts with managed care plans, health systems, and physician offices.


Paul Lanzikos becomes Executive Director of North Shore Elder Services for the next 15 years.


Aging and Disability Resource Consortium (ADRC) is created. First in the State ‘no wrong door’ approach to serving individuals, no matter their age.

Elder housing units are built in Chelmsford and Westford working with HUD.


Launch Mobile and community markets in Haverhill, Lawrence, and Tewksbury with community collaborations between The Greater Boston Food Bank, Elder Services, and other food programs to provide supplemental food assistance for individuals who have difficulty paying for groceries.


Healthy Living Center of Excellence is established providing over 16 Stanford University Evidence-Based programs to help adults of all ages manage chronic pain and other health conditions and delivered through a statewide network of community-based organizations.


Care Transitions Counseling Program established to help reduce hospital readmissions and improve quality care.

Massachusetts Senior Medicare Patrol Program (SMP), managed by Elder Services helps reduce Medicare fraud, abuse, and scams.



North Shore Elder Services collaborates with the Rainbow Coalition, Fenway Health, and Salem State University to launch the LGBTQ Elders in an Ever-Changing World Conference advancing the healthy equity work taking place at both agencies. 





The North Shore Center for Hoarding & Cluttering at North Shore Elder Services is started by intern Marnie McDonald, MSW, LCSW, a graduate student at Salem State.

Innovation is key for preparing for the needs of future generations of older Americans and as research demonstrates there is an important priority to integrate all of a consumer’s health and social determinants in their plans of home-based care.



Rosanne DiStefano retires after a 32-year career at Elder Services and Joan Hatem-Roy takes the reigns to become Chief Executive Officer.


National Committee for Quality Assurance awards ESMV a three-year accreditation status for our homecare case management program. The accreditation is a “gold standard” and demonstrates to our partners in health care, government, and social services that we are committed to high levels of quality assurance and improvement.


Columbia Gas Explosions rock the communities of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.  AgeSpan takes a leading role in collaborating with local, state, health, and business leaders to respond to the crisis, especially as it relates to older adults.


 Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore Elder Services merge, employing a staff of almost 500 diverse employees, enrolling 300 volunteers, and serving a combined 40,000 people in 28 communities with offices in Lawrence and Danvers.

This new venture expands resources and enhances our competitive edge with existing and new funding prospects.


Became an active member of the Lawrence Partnership to strengthen local business relationships and partner on initiatives to better the city.


COVID Pandemic – AgeSpan leads the organizational and community response by pivoting protocols to focus on safety for staff and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of services to older adults, advocacy for vaccine prioritization for older adults and family caregivers, and hosting local vaccine clinics.

AgeSpan is recognized nationally by the American Society on Aging, US Aging, the federal Administration for Community Living, and others as a nationwide expert on aligning social supports with health care to address the social determinants of health.


Rebranded to AgeSpan – This decision reflects the agency’s focus on healthy aging across all communities and ages, increased geographic presence, and service delivery expansion.


Joan Hatem-Roy is awarded the Excellence in Leadership Award by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.


Grant funding allowed AgeSpan to partner with local restaurants for a pilot restaurant program in Lawrence and Lowell aimed at reducing social isolation while enjoying a culturally appropriate nutritious meal.


Garnered support for digital access programs to improve health equity of those we serve.


AgeSpan celebrates 50 years of service by celebrating the Power, Value, and Voices of Older Adults


Looking ahead, AgeSpan will continue to be a thought leader and innovator to find new and creative ways to support individual choice. Leadership will pioneer, explore, and initiate programs, services, and resources to help ensure older adults, families, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers have the support they need to live safely and with dignity in their own homes and communities. And protect what all of us work a lifetime to achieve and keep – our independence.


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