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Elizabeth Witham, with Sadie.Elizabeth Witham, with Sadie.Elizabeth Witham, 67 and a resident of Greenfield, shares a special bond with her horse, Sadie.  She was able to improve both of their lives, in part through help from LifePath’s SHINE program (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone).  Elizabeth agreed to speak to The Good Life about her and Sadie’s relationship, and how SHINE helped her to afford Sadie’s care.

How did you hear about the SHINE program?

When the monthly cost for Medicare went up from $145 to $170, I knew I couldn’t afford it as I was already struggling to pay the $145. I didn’t want to pay a penalty for not having health insurance. I contacted LifePath’s SHINE program because they had helped me when I first signed up for Medicare in 2020. That’s how I met Lorraine York-Edberg, SHINE Regional Program Director.

How was the SHINE program able to help?

Lorraine introduced me to the Senior Buy-In program, which has helped cover my monthly health insurance costs. (Editor’s note: The Senior Buy-In program assists beneficiaries with their Medicare Part B monthly premium payment and offers assistance with a free Medicare Part D drug plan that offers reduced copays for medications, and pays your Part A and B deductibles and copays for Medicare services. For more information, call 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555 to make a SHINE appointment.)  

Tell me a little about your work background.

I [worked as] Resident Director of Temenos Retreat Center in Shutesbury, MA from 2013 to 2020. I also worked on weekends at MN Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury from 2016 to 2020. When I moved to Greenfield in 2018, I drove for Van Pool Transportation until 2020. All these jobs were suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic. I was hired by The Home Depot in Greenfield in April 2020 and am still there, now full-time. I just accepted an additional part-time position at Circle K convenience store in Greenfield. I find it necessary to work 50-60 hours a week to afford living in Greenfield and keeping Sadie in Plainfield. I’m tired! I wish I didn’t have to work so much!

Sadie, waiting to be groomed.Sadie, waiting to be groomed.

Tell me about Sadie.

I always wanted a horse as a youth. My parents preferred that I pursue sciences and math in high school. In college I began to follow my own interests. I adopted my first horse, Robin Peppy Pride, in 1998. I knew nothing about horses or riding, but quickly discovered natural horsemanship and began attending clinics with Robin. She died in December 2017, at 36.5 years of age. We were together half of her life. I thought I was all done with that chapter of my life. Then friends invited me to go trail riding with them at Riding in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH. That’s where I met Sadie and decided to adopt her. 

Unlike my horse Robin, who was highly educated before we met, Sadie was not very well educated and had difficulty trusting humans, most likely because of mistreatment early on. I was very fortunate to find RJ Sadowski, a local natural horseman who owns Peace Haven Farm in Plainfield, where Sadie and I study “Natural HorseMindShip” together. He agreed to help me with Sadie. This was expensive, but necessary to help her and help me with her. That was in 2019. Today Sadie is happy, healthy, and living in a small herd at Beth Marie Gardner’s Lady Luck Farm, also in Plainfield. We continue to study regularly with RJ. We’ve come so far, such that Sadie and I can go out alone on the trails surrounding the property. This is our favorite thing to do, just wander the trails uphill, downhill, and through forest and fields, coming across deer, birds, and other wildlife. Bliss!

Elizabeth and Sadie, after a lesson.Elizabeth and Sadie, after a lesson.What would you like to share that I haven't asked you?

After moving to western Massachusetts I came to rely on food and clothing resources from the Amherst Survival Center while living in Shutesbury. Now I rely on Stone Soup Café for weekly meals, and the Center for Self Reliance for weekly and monthly groceries. Both are located in Greenfield. I’ve also received fuel assistance from Community Action—my apartment has electric baseboard for heat, and not much insulation. My landlord and I received rent assistance from RAFT for several months this year. I live in fear the landlord will raise my monthly rent. Even if I didn’t have the expenses from caring for my horse I would still be struggling to get by. I fear as I work and earn more to meet living expenses I will no longer qualify for much-needed assistance.

I have two house cats who are my “home boys” providing emotional support, as I am single and live alone. I have three close friends and I’m close with my sister who lives in NH. I struggle with mild depression, and regret for past mistakes, especially those that impacted me financially. Sadie, Clarence, and Lawrence keep me engaged in the natural world and life.

What would you tell someone who is considering calling SHINE?

Ask to speak with Lorraine. Set up an in-person meeting. Bring all of your health insurance cards, paperwork, etc., with you. Ask lots of questions. 

The SHINE program, Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, provides free, confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the regional office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555, or contact your local council on aging.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive Director

Age is one of the first things we notice about other people. Ageism arises when age is used to categorize and divide people in ways that lead to harm, disadvantages, and injustice and erodes solidarity across generations.

Ageism refers to stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel), and discrimination (how we act), directed towards people on the basis of their age, and takes on different forms across the course of life. Its damaging effects can be seen in individuals’ health and dignity, as well as economies and societies. Ageism not only denies people their human rights, but also impacts their ability to reach their full potential.

Ageism affects people of all ages. It pervades many institutions and sectors of society, including those providing health and social care, the workplace, the media, and the legal system. It exists in our relationships and ourselves.

Ageism starts in childhood and is reinforced over time. From an early age, children pick up cues from those around them about their culture’s stereotypes and prejudices, which are soon internalized. People then use these stereotypes to make inferences and to guide their feelings and behavior towards people of different ages, and towards themselves. These inferences, even if misguided, are often so ingrained that they can be difficult to recognize within one’s self. Ageism in younger people impacts employment, health, and housing. Across the life course, ageism interacts with ableism, sexism, and racism, compounding and exacerbating disadvantages.

When a person is considered young or old partly depends on context, purpose, and culture.

According to the WHO, one in two people are ageist against older people, globally. Among older people, ageism reduces quality of life, and is associated with poorer physical and mental health, cognitive decline, increased social isolation and loneliness, greater financial insecurity, and premature death. For individuals, ageism contributes to poverty and financial insecurity in older age, and one recent estimate shows that ageism costs society billions of dollars every year through elevated health care costs that are directly related to discrimination aimed at older people, negative age stereotypes, and negative self-perceptions of aging.

Ageism influences health through three pathways: psychological, behavioral and physiological. Psychologically, negative age stereotypes can exacerbate stress; behaviorally, negative self-perceptions of aging predict worse health behavior, such as noncompliance with prescribed medications; physiologically, negative age stereotypes predict detrimental brain changes decades later, including the accumulation of plaques and tangles and reduction in the size of the hippocampus.

Language often conveys underlying meaning and can fuel misconceptions that lead to ageism. Words such as “elderly,” “old,” or “senior,” elicit stereotypes of older people as universally frail and dependent, and they are frequently used in a pejorative sense. Similarly, the word “juvenile” elicits a stereotype of younger people as immature.

The WHO report purposefully uses neutral language when referring to individuals and groups, including the terms “older person,” “younger person” or “older people,” and “older populations” and “younger people.” These neutral terms provide the same context, but do not hold the same stereotypical implications.

Age, although correlated with biological processes, is also socially shaped. When a person is considered young or old partly depends on context, purpose, and culture. At age 18 you may be viewed as too old to start learning piano to become a competitive pianist, but too young to coach a professional soccer team. Cultures vary in how they demarcate old age, middle age, and youth, and in the norms and expectations they have for each of these life stages, which can change over time.

Institution or Sector

Stereotypes

Health and social care

 

Younger people are…

Older people are…

Positive
  • Healthy
  • Physically active
  • Strong and energetic
  • Warm
  • Likeable
Negative
  • Risk-takers
  • Drug-users
  • Stressed and anxious
  • Rigid
  • Irritable and frustrating
  • Lonely and isolated
  • Frail and weak
  • Non-sexual
  • Easily confused
  • Depressed and depressing
  • Needy
  • Disabled

Work

 

Younger people are…

Older people are…

Positive
  • Energetic
  • Ambitious
  • Tech-savvy
  • Hard-working (middle-aged)
  • Reliable
  • Committed
  • Experienced
  • Hard-working
  • Socially skilled
  • Good mentors and leaders
  • Able to deal with change
Negative
  • Narcissistic
  • Disloyal
  • Entitled
  • Lazy
  • Unmotivated
  • Easily distracted
  • Incompetent and unproductive
  • Unmotivated
  • Resistant to change
  • Harder to train and unable to learn
  • Not flexible
  • Not technologically competent

Media

 

Younger people are…

Older people are…

Positive
  • Attractive
  • Healthy
  • Engaged
  • Productive
  • Self-reliant
Negative
  • Troublesome
  • Violent criminals
  • Unattractive
  • Unhappy
  • Senile
  • Badly dressed
  • Inactive
  • Dependent
  • Unhealthy
  • Disempowered and poor
  • Vulnerable
  • Diabolical

Three strategies to reduce ageism have been shown to work:

  1. Policy and law addressing discrimination, inequality, and human rights.

  2. Educational interventions to enhance empathy, dispel misconceptions about different age groups included from primary school to university, and in non-formal educational contexts.

  3. Intergenerational contacts which aim to foster interaction between people of different generations are among the most effective interventions to reduce ageism against older people, and they also show promise for reducing ageism against younger people.

October 7 is Ageism Awareness Day and is centered around raising public awareness. It is time to say “no” to ageism, which will contribute to improving health, increasing opportunities, reducing costs, and enabling people to flourish at any age. If governments and organizations implement strategies that are effective, and if individuals and communities join the movement and challenge every instance of ageism, then together we will create a world for all ages.

Through projects such as our Age-Friendly Communities initiative and Healthy Living workshops, LifePath is committed to its mission of providing person-centered care and support to people of all ages. To join us in this important work and help enhance our intergenerational offerings, consider becoming a volunteer for one of our many programs.

Patrick Gardner, holding his Franken Berry hat dedicated to the voice actor Bob McFadden, while wearing his Frankenstein hat, with a dedication to the author Mary Shelley.Patrick Gardner, holding his Franken Berry hat dedicated to the voice actor Bob McFadden, while wearing his Frankenstein hat, with a dedication to the author Mary Shelley.Patrick Gardner, 35, a resident of Montague and a member of LifePath’s Adult Family Care (AFC) Program, has made over 260 amazing hats since 2016, each of them one of a kind, depicting a character and often honoring that character’s creator, a real-life person, or representing a holiday. “I just think of someone living or dead, and I do research on them. For all my other hats, I think of holidays, events, someone’s birthday, or nature,” explains Patrick.

Patrick’s hats include a celebration of Betty White, Bozo the Clown, Gene Wilder, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and her creator—L. Frank Baum, Count Chocula, Jiminy Cricket, and St. Nicholas’s birthday, to name just a few.

Patrick uses felt, wigs, buttons, his own drawings, photos, foam, and fabrics to make his creations, purchasing his materials from thrift stores, Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Walmart, other stores in the area, and online. It takes Patrick up to 12 hours to make a single hat.

Patrick likes to wear his hats out in the community. When someone sees one of his hats, Patrick says they ask questions, as his hats have a lot of information on them, including information about the origin or history of a person or character. “There are so many people that I call friends. They love my hats, and can’t wait to see more of them over the weeks. They are eager to see my hats. Two of my hats are at Walgreens in Turners Falls. I made two of my friends there ‘Red Nose Day Hats.’ They are displayed on a window sill,” says Patrick.

Unfortunately, Patrick explains, “There are a few people who make rude remarks to me when I wear my hats.” Still, Patrick says he “wants to show his hats to everyone.” Patrick also enjoys drawing, building scarecrows, and making snow sculptures. “I help my Uncle Chip and my sister Natalie and my brother-in-law Cliff on their farm. My hobbies are taking care of my tree frogs and doing my artwork,” says Patrick.

Patrick, with his mom, Mary, and just a fraction of the hats he’s made.Patrick, with his mom, Mary, and just a fraction of the hats he’s made.As far as LifePath’s AFC Program, Patrick says, “It’s a great program. The workers are very friendly and nice—they are my friends.”

The AFC Program offers compassionate, individualized care for people with disabilities in a nurturing home environment. Members are individuals who cannot live alone safely because of medical, physical, cognitive, or mental health challenges. Members live in caregivers’ homes in local communities, allowing care recipients to maintain lasting community relationships. Caregivers earn a tax exempt stipend, which allows them to earn income, while staying at home.

Patrick holding his Betty White hat.Patrick holding his Betty White hat.

Patrick lives with his mom, Mary Gardner, 69, who heard about the AFC Program when she became the caregiver for her mom, Lena Garbiel. Mary was raised on a large dairy farm, explaining, “I’m a farmerette. When I can, I still help my brother Karl with his farm crops.” Along with her son Patrick, she also has a daughter and son-in-law, Natalie and Cliff Spatcher, and two grandchildren, Liam, 3, and Evelyn, 8 months. She enjoys photography and scrapbooking and loves the outdoors.

When Mary saw Patrick’s first hat, she remembers thinking “wow,” and explains, “I was very surprised. I told Patrick he was very gifted. I love every one of his hats.”

“I feel very blessed that Patrick is such an amazing artist. Patrick is so talented. Follow your dreams,” says Mary.

Mary has been a caregiver in the AFC Program since 2,000—first for her mother so she could remain at home, and now for Patrick. “The AFC Program is very helpful in caring for an individual so they can live at home. Also, the program has workshop information and other resources that can help an individual,” says Mary.

If you are interested in finding out more about the AFC Program, please call LifePath at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 to speak to a Resource Consultant, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

More Photos of Patrick Gardner and His Hats

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Black older smiling man in blue jacketOlder adults who participate weekly in many different types of leisure time activities, such as walking for exercise, jogging, swimming laps, or playing tennis, may have a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a new study led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The findings suggest that it’s important for older adults to engage in leisure time activities that they enjoy and can sustain, because these types of activities may lower the risk of death.  The findings appeared in the August 24 edition of JAMA Network Open.

Using data from 272,550 adults between ages 59 and 82 who had completed questionnaires about their leisure time activities as part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, the researchers looked at whether participating in equivalent amounts of seven different exercise and recreational activities—including running, cycling, swimming, other aerobic exercise, racquet sports, golf, and walking for exercise—was associated with lowered risk of death.

The researchers found that achieving the recommended amount of physical activity per week through any combination of these activities was associated with a 13% lower risk of death from any cause compared with no participation.  When they looked at the role of each activity individually, playing racquet sports was associated with a 16% reduction in risk, and running with a 15% reduction. However, all activities were similarly associated with lower risks of death.

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults engage in 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, each week.

These activities were also associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Playing racquet sports was associated with the greatest reduction in risk of cardiovascular deaths (27% reduction), while running was associated with the greatest reduction in risk of cancer deaths (19% reduction).

Lynne Feldman, MBALynne Feldman, MBAFalls Prevention Awareness week, a national health campaign with the goal of increasing awareness around injury prevention due to falls, is September 18-24, 2022.

It is reasonable to be concerned about falls, but the good news is that most falls are preventable!  Falls are NOT a natural part of aging, and research has shown that, through some lifestyle steps, we can reduce both concerns about falling and the rate of falls. 

Shift our attitudes.  1/3 to 1/2 of older adults acknowledge their fear of falling, which is associated with decreased satisfaction with life, increased frailty, depression, decreased mobility, and decreased social activity.  When we have attitudes like, “I can’t do much anymore,” or “I am better off just staying still than risking a fall,” it sabotages our efforts to prevent falls.  Our fear of falling can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, if we let it keep us from challenging our balance.  

Keep our sensorimotor systems (eyes, neck, ankles, ears) working as best as we can.  Get hearing and vision checked.  Stretch and strengthen ankles: trace the alphabet with a toe; stand on one foot; stand on a soft surface with two feet and then one foot.  Walk on tiptoes; walk on heels; walk on uneven surfaces.  Improve proprioception (our perception of the position and movement of the body) by doing exercises that involve coordination and movement patterns.  Improve the vestibular system, which provides our brain with information about motion, head position, and spatial orientation, by moving our head in different directions, or use a swing at the playground.  Turn the head side to side, up and down, and diagonally.

Clear our homes of fall hazards, avoid rushing to the phone or door, and wear shoes that fit well and offer support.   

Create a weekly exercise routine that includes all four types of exercise: endurance, flexibility, strengthening, and balance exercises.  We can also strengthen our core muscles by sitting without back support.  (If you walk regularly, consider joining the fourth annual 45 Million Steps to Prevent Falls.  Walk every day in September and report your steps; we’ll see if we can meet our statewide goal.  You can find the link to report your steps on our Facebook page at facebook.com/LifePathMA.)

Challenge our balance in order to improve it.  Make an exercise routine that includes endurance, flexibility, strengthening, and balance exercise. Make it more fun by adding a balance challenge.  Stand on one foot when you brush your teeth.  Park a little farther from the door and walk heel/toe to the door.

Sign up for a local program.  Our “A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls” workshop, from MaineHealth’s Partnership for Healthy Aging, which runs for 8 two-hour classes, teaches participants to view falls and fear of falling as controllable; sets realistic goals for increasing strength, flexibility, and balance; and explains how to change one’s environment, attitudes, and habits to reduce fall risk factors.  There are two workshops available this fall:

  • Athol Senior Center, Wednesdays, Sept. 21-Nov. 16 (skipping Oct. 5 for Yom Kippur), 1-3 p.m.
  • Gill-Montague Senior Center, Tuesdays, Sept. 20-Nov. 15 (skipping Nov. 8 for election day), 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Sign up for LifePath’s “A Matter of Balance” class by calling our Healthy Living Department at 413-773-5555, ext. 2297.  You can also ask about our other workshops on living with chronic conditions, pain, or diabetes and healthy eating.