Conversations Billerica 

Our social health and wellness are measured by the relationships and connections we have to others in the world around us. Social connection is a fundamental human need. Social health is part of holistic health. 

Dr Vivek H. Murty, 19th and 21st surgeon general of the USA, said he was so surprised about some of his discoveries in a cross-country topic exploration among all age groups and economic categories. People began to tell him that they felt isolated, invisible and insignificant.

Millions of Americans lack adequate social connections with the harmful consequences being felt in our schools, workplaces and civic organizations. Dr Murthy’s plea is for us to band together to “mend the social fabric” of our nation while at the same time strengthening our own connections and relationships to help us live richer lives of meaning.

At the Massachusetts level, after 3 years of launch of the Taskforce to end Loneliness, a sub-committee was formed as part of the strategic planning force to define the next phase of our work.   The members of the sub-committee are:

  • Sandra Harris, State President, AARP Massachusetts
  • Caitlin E. Coyle, PhD, Director of the Center for Social & Demographic Research on Aging, Gerontology Institute at U Mass Boston. 
  • Jennifer Raymond, Chief Strategy Officer at AgeSpan and 
  • Jean P. Bushell, Director of the Billerica Council on Aging and Board Member AgeSpan

We are embarking on a movement called ConversationsMA or people coming together to connect, to meet neighbors, to renew friendships, to talk to each other, to renew a sense of community. We have invited communities to come together with our guidance to host their own version of Conversations.

We met as a Billerica team and agreed to move ahead with planning for ConversationsBillerica. It is a unique opportunity to help our town strengthen its social well-being using a tested, actionable solution that is grass-rooted, as part of our September 23rd Yankee Doodle Saturday.

Our planning and delivery group so far consists of:

  • Melissa Paolicelli, Events Coordinator, BCOA
  • Joe Marino, new Board Member, BCOA
  • Dennis Carsno , new Volunteer for BCOA
  • Vicky Roy, VP, Yankee Doodle 
  • Mary Jones, Board Member, BCOA
  • Christian Panasuk, Admin Lead, BCOA
  • Jean Bushnell, BCOA Director
  • Jo Leary, Founder of Sunshine Gals
  • Cathy O’Connell, Secretary, Friends Board COA

We welcome other community members to participate – please contact Jean Bushnell at to join us.


Yankee Doodle: Taryn Gillis

Town Manager’s Office: Robert Maynard

Date of Event: Aligned with Yankee Doodle Weekend, Saturday September 23

Time of Event: 11.30 AM to 2.30 PM 

Location: Lawn at Town Hall


How New York did it

Planning Meetings

We have had 2 planning meetings already to cover:

- strong marketing and promotions strategy

- Recruitment of Guides to get the conversation started and keep people engaged at 15-17 tables located on the lawn of Town Hall in a corded off space.

-Day of Logistics details

 - Exit Questionnaire (assess need for next Conversation, topics, timing etc.)

- Table topics to get people to talk

- Asking BATV to tape the session for those who cannot attend in person

- T-shirts for team ConversationsBillerica 

“Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis,” Murthy says in his advisory. “We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation. It will take all of us – individuals and families, schools and workplaces, health care and public health systems, technology companies, governments, faith organizations, and communities – working together to destigmatize loneliness and change our cultural and policy response to it.”


EXCERPT from US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s Advisory addressing the “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” affecting the country and laying out a framework for a “National Strategy to Advance Social Connection.”