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Winter is coming

Ginger RSVPGinger ElliotWinter is coming (and we’re not just talking about the final season of Game of Thrones!).

The days are getting shorter and temperatures are falling. The prospect of upcoming holidays and family obligations may have you feeling melancholy or stressed. Then, after the holidays are finally over, we can look forward to… at least ten more weeks of winter! As the saying goes, summer flies and winter walks.

How to deal with the winter blahs?

In Norway, where winters are even longer, there is a word, “koselig,” which describes a state of being warm and cozy. We can embrace the opportunities for “koselig” that winter brings: long nights for sleeping under extra blankets; the delicious smells of savory soups and stews; a tempting pile of books; time to catch up with a favorite television series. Finding things that we enjoy about this time of year can help us get through the parts that simply have to be endured.

Photo of Joy and RobertRobert Amyot, a volunteer Ombudsman with LifePath, enjoys a conversation with Joy Page, a resident of Poet's Seat Health Care Center. Each week, Ombudsman volunteers visit the residents of their assigned nursing or rest home. They spend just a couple of hours there, hearing resident’s concerns, advocating for their rights, and helping resolve their complaints, but their dedication makes a big difference in the lives of the residents.Once you make sure that you are getting your daily allotment of “koselig,” it is time to get out of the house! Regular physical and mental activity is also important in fighting off the blahs. This could be the time to join that book group, sign up for a class, try yoga, swim laps at the community pool, walk at the mall, or learn to snowshoe. There are added benefits if the activity is new to you and/or if you do it with others.

Volunteering is a great way to get out of the house, try something you haven’t tried before, and meet new people. RSVP of the Pioneer Valley has over 300 volunteer positions in towns and cities throughout Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties, and we will help you find the one that is just right for you. You will, however, need to find your own winter “koselig”!

To begin your volunteering adventure before winter gets underway, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP of the Pioneer Valley volunteer manager, by phone at 413-387-4558 x1 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

FTC sealHang up on spoofed SSA calls

If you get a call that looks like it’s from the Social Security Administration (SSA), think twice. Scammers are spoofing SSA’s 1-800 customer service number to try to get your personal information. Spoofing means that scammers can call from anywhere, but they make your caller ID show a different number – often one that looks legit. Here are few things you should know about these so-called SSA calls.

These scam calls are happening across the nation, according to SSA: Your phone rings. Your caller ID shows that it’s the SSA calling from 1-800-772-1213. The caller says he works for the Social Security Administration and needs your personal information – like your Social Security number – to increase your benefits payments. (Or he threatens to cut off your benefits if you don’t give the information.) But it’s not really the Social Security Administration calling. Yes, it is the SSA’s real phone number, but the scammers on the phone are spoofing the number to make the call look real.

What can you do if you get one of these spoofed SSA calls? Hang up. Remember:

SSA will not threaten you. 

Real SSA employees will never threaten you to get personal information. They also won’t promise to increase your benefits in exchange for information. If they do, it’s a scam.

If you have any doubt, hang up and call SSA directly.

Call 1-800-772-1213 – that really is the phone number for the Social Security Administration. If you dial that number, you know who you’re getting. But remember that you can’t trust caller ID. If a call comes in from that number, you can’t be sure it’s really SSA calling.

If you get a spoofed call, report it.

If someone calls, claiming to be from SSA and asking for information like your Social Security number, report it to SSA’s Office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271. You can also report these calls to the FTC.

For more tips, check out the FTC’s guides: “How to Stop Unwanted Calls” and “Government Imposter Scams."  If you think someone has misused your personal information, go to to report identity theft and find out what steps to take.

Meet Money Manager Sue Dunbar

Though Sue Dunbar of New Salem is retired, she keeps herself busy as a church treasurer, library assistant, and volunteer money manager through LifePath.

Sue DunbarSue Dunbar, a volunteer money manager with LifePath, enjoys working with people and with numbers.“I was the elementary band director at the Amherst Public Schools for 38 years,” says Sue. “I have several irons in the fire, and all I got rid of was one when I retired, which was the teaching. I still do a few private lessons here and there.”

Just a couple weeks before she retired, Sue happened upon some information  about the Money Management Program at LifePath. “The church receives a lot of mail from LifePath,” says Sue. “A sheet said, ‘We’re looking for money managers, would you post this and let someone in your congregation know?’”

Through the Money Management Program at LifePath, volunteers are trained to assist elders and people with disabilities who have difficulty writing checks or managing their basic living expenses for many reasons, including vision difficulties, memory difficulties, and physical disabilities. Types of assistance can include:

  • Writing checks
  • Balancing a checkbook
  • Sorting bills
  • Developing a budget
  • Monitoring income and expenses
  • Developing a repayment plan

When she saw the information from LifePath, Sue thought, “Hey, that’s right up my alley, I could do that.” Sue was a bank teller at one point, she says, “so I have no fear of checks, balancing money and all of that, and being the church treasurer, I handle money and write checks anyway. So I sent in a letter saying if you still need someone, please let me know, I’m freshly retired, or I will be in two weeks, and the next day I got a letter back that said, ‘Please come in immediately; we want you.’ And that was almost five years ago.”

Over the years, Sue has built meaningful connections with the people she’s helped. “I love the people that I’m matched up with here,” says Sue. “I really sincerely care about how they progress as they’re getting older, how their children are treating them, and what decisions they’re making with their money.”

For each client, Sue starts off by getting everything organized. “I make a big check register to show exactly how much money they have, where is it going, are there any bank fees.” Sue makes one copy for the client and one for herself, leaving off any identifying information. “Whenever I’m at that person’s house, I’ll fill out that binder and my own, and make sure the checkbook is in good order. It just makes me feel better. It’s like making your bed, just leaving your room and having everything tight and nice, tidy.”

“Every one of them is different,” says Sue about the people she helps. “The end result is keeping that person safe, keeping that person financially stable.”

When she first started with one client, he had two car loans. “Over the course of two years,” says Sue, “we got both car loans paid off by paying more than the principal.”

Money managers can even help protect their clients from financial exploitation. After someone improperly cut a tree on the property of one of Sue’s clients, causing the tree to fall onto the home, the elder and his family weren’t able to arrange fixing the hole in the roof. Sue turned to Money Management Program Director Ceil Moran for help. “She consulted with me and got extra resources for [him] about insurance and about elder abuse.”

As a volunteer, Sue has been able to participate in additional training sessions at LifePath. “I attended the information resource meeting, and that was very helpful. I got to know the heads of a lot of the departments, and so I know that I can always call and find out, if one of my clients has an issue, what to do next.”

Sue enjoys spending time with the folks she works with. “It’s not all business. We have fun! I get a cup of tea or coffee at every house of course, sometimes cookies or whatever. Sometimes I make them little gifts. It’s a nice friendship now, and they look forward to it.”

As a former band director who plays many instruments, Sue has even added her own special addition to her monthly visits. “As soon as I get done with whatever we have to do, I play for them, and they love that. I change it up all the time. They never know what I’m going to bring. As long as it’s not concertos or sonatas, because I can’t do that on every instrument.”

One day, says Sue, as she wrapping up with one of her clients at an apartment complex, the woman said, “Oh, would you just come over to this apartment? My friend wants to ask you a question.”

Sue went over to find ten women waiting for her, each with a special song request for Sue to perform on her flute. “They had planned this, and I had no idea! So I just played them all. It was very funny.”

Sue’s dedication has not gone unnoticed. This past spring, she received a Spotlight Award from the North Quabbin Community Coalition, which cited her willingness to “take on clients with very complex problems ranging from possible foreclosures to someone losing their benefits.”

"As a volunteer, Sue has gone above and beyond to ensure the financial well-being of those people she has served,” says Lynne Feldman, director of community services at LifePath. “We are grateful for the time she and so many other volunteers have given to LifePath."

Contact us to learn more about becoming a volunteer money manager. 

Learn more about the Money Management program.

Find additional volunteer stories and volunteer opportunities.

“It's just like a gift from heaven”

Jean Adams spent most of her life working. “I worked 46 years of my life and I'm 76,” says Jean. “My parents always felt that we needed to know what it was like to earn money. So at 12 years old, I got a summer job washing milk bottles on a farm, 75 cents an hour. That was hard work, you know?”

That first job was in Winchester, New Hampshire, during the 1950s. The next job was “for a well-to-do lady,” says Jean. “She wanted us to do her housekeeping. We learned all the proper ways of doing things.”

A couple years later, the family moved to Brattleboro, Vermont. “In the summer I worked for Estey Organ,” says Jean. “I had to get a permission from the state of Vermont, because I wasn't 16, to work. I wired resistor boards in the organs. I can remember that to this day.”

In her 20s, Jean moved to Massachusetts. “I've been in Athol and Orange over 50 years,” she says. During that time, she took a job working as a housekeeper for a local celebrity.

Jean married, cared for her late husband when he fell ill, cared for both sets of her grandparents, and took care of her father. “My mom I had to put in a nursing home because she did get Alzheimer's,” says Jean. “I tried after my first husband died to bring her home. And it's a funny thing, because she came to enough to say, ‘Bring me back to the nursing home. That's where I need to be.’ And that helped me, because I had always vowed I'd never put my mom in a nursing home.”

November 2018 PCA story Jean Adams photo of Jean WEBJean Adams has had severe rheumatoid arthritis in her whole body for over 25 years. Shown here at her home in the North Quabbin, Jean maintains her independence with assistance through the Personal Care Attendant Program at LifePath, which helps her to age in place and enjoy "the comforts of home," she says.Then, in 1992, Jean got sick. “I've had severe rheumatoid arthritis in my whole body,” says Jean. Jean continued on working for many years until one day she felt like she could no longer fulfill her job duties. That was about 15 years ago. “I thought when my first husband died that I was going to be fine. But money goes like a flash in the night, with the medical bills and whatnot.” Since she retired, she has continued to support herself with social security. “I continually get more frail and other problems.”

Jean’s second husband passed away five years ago. At that time, she had still been driving her own car. “My eyes are bad,” says Jean, “and one day I went to the doctors in Greenfield, drove myself, and I got to the first exit. I did not see the [cones]. Well, the police came behind me blowing their horns, lights flashing, and stopped me. Of course I apologized profusely, but I realized what danger could have been to the workmen that were down there. So I came home after my appointment, parked my car, put a sign in it, and sold it that day. I wasn't going to go out of this world killing somebody.”

Around this time, Jean went to the laundromat in Athol. “I was endeavoring to put my clothes into the dryer and put the money in the dryer,” says Jean, “and this gentleman come over to me and said, ‘May I help you? I see you're having difficulty seeing.’”

The man helped her out with her laundry and suggested that she look into a Senior Care Options plan, or “SCO,” a comprehensive health plan for seniors through a Medicare-Medicaid partnership that combines health services with social support services. Jean is now one of more than 350 participants served this past year through the SCO and One Care care coordination at LifePath.

“I cannot even comprehend [what] they've been doing for me,” says Jean. “It's just like a gift from heaven. Every individual that has helped me has been the kindest, most sincerely caring that I have ever dealt with in the medical field.”

Through LifePath, Jean qualifies for and is enrolled in the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Program. To qualify for the PCA Program, a person must require physical assistance in two areas of their daily life, such as:

  • mobility and transfers
  • medication assistance
  • bathing and grooming
  • dressing and undressing
  • toileting
  • feeding

A PCA Program skills trainer provides qualifying individuals with orientation to the program and requests a doctor’s referral. People who are able to hire and manage their own PCAs are supported to do so; those who need assistance can have a surrogate appointed. PCAs are paid with funding through MassHealth. Types of assistance can include bathing, dressing, homemaking, laundry, shopping, meal preparation, and medical transportation, as needed.

November 2018 PCA story Jean Adams photo of Mary WEBAs a personal care attendant, Mary prepares meals for Jean. On this particular day, Mary was cooking a shepherd's pie and some molasses muffins at Jean's request. "She's making some garlic bread to go with my shepherd's pie," says Jean, "and that will be her day today. Then she'll clean up afterwards. I insist my kitchen is clean, and she does that."“I have two personal care attendants (PCAs),” says Jean. “One cooks, that’s Mary, and the other, her name is Marie. Both are outstanding, dedicated workers, and I'm very, very grateful.”

Jean says that Mary is a fabulous cook. “She's clean, she's neat, she's efficient. She leaves my kitchen like nobody was there when she's done, and she will cook anything that I ask her to cook. Everything's from scratch, and I like that. I usually have her cook for two days, because I'm not supposed to be around the stove. See these hands? I drop everything, easily burnt, which I have done. And I spill things and make a mess and can't deal with that.”

Likewise, Marie has been there for Jean in a variety of ways. A few months ago, while out shopping together for sheets to fit a new hospital bed, Jean had a health crisis. Marie took her to Athol Hospital and stayed with her until she was transferred to Baystate that  evening.

After many years of caring for others, Jean is grateful to feel “really cared for” now by Mary, Marie, and the LifePath case managers, skills trainers, and nurses who have helped her. “I've had such an attachment,” she says of the people she’s spoken with from LifePath. “They call on the phone. They keep good track of you! All of them, they are just so sweet and caring, and they seem genuinely so. It doesn't seem like it's a facade; it just seems genuine. And that makes you feel so good.”

Contact us to learn more about how services from LifePath could support you or a loved one.

Nov 2017 Farmers Market CouponsEvery year, people age 60 and older across the Commonwealth benefit from the bounty of their local farmers markets thanks to coupons that make local produce more accessible to families and individuals with low-income.

The Massachusetts Farmers Market Nutrition Program for seniors provides a booklet of ten coupons, each worth $2.50, to qualifying individuals. The coupons are good from the beginning of the market season in early summer until the end of October and may only be used to purchase fresh unprepared fruits and vegetables, cut herbs and honey.

This year in the 2018 season, 625 people were able to be served by those coupons distributed by LifePath.

“It’s a great program,” says Jane Severance, Nutrition Program director at LifePath, who oversees the coupon book distribution. “People will go to the market and try something new, which is great.”

Some people use their coupons sparingly in the early part of the year, waiting for the storage crops to appear in the fall, while others freeze or can items to use throughout the winter months.

The benefit is more than the fresh-picked taste of farmer’s market corn-on-the-cob or the sweet, juicy delight of biting into a sun-ripened peach: a 2013 study by the American Society for Nutrition published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day has the potential to significantly increase a person’s life expectancy. Nearly 72,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 83 reported their daily intake of fruits and vegetable over the course of 13 years. People who did not eat fruits and vegetables had a 53% higher mortality rate than those who ate five servings a day; their lives were shortened by an average of three years. Eating three daily servings increased life expectancy by 32 months on average compared to those who never ate vegetables, and those who ate just one piece of fruit a day lived 19 months longer than those who never ate fruit.

There’s no question that Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps seniors access farm-fresh produce and in turn supports the local community. Check out your local market from early summer through fall. Try adding some sun-sweetened strawberries to your breakfast cereal in June. In August, make a ratatouille from plump eggplants, red tomatoes, purple onions, and bell peppers; or roast an orange kabocha squash in October.

Many local farmers’ markets accept EBT-SNAP payments, and some even have programs that offer double-value for these purchases. Ask your local farmer’s market representatives for details.

To find out more about coupon books for the 2019 season, contact Jane Severance of LifePath at 413-773-5555 x2271 or 978-544-2259 x2271, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Read more about the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.