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Senior couple using a computerLife after retirement is a time to let go of old roles that no longer fit us, seek out new experiences, and find a renewal of purpose. Volunteering can help you to accomplish these goals.

As a young person, did you love music and art, but pursue a career that you thought was more practical? Perform with a community chorus or orchestra at fundraising concerts, or teach a painting class at your local senior center.

Did you like to play store when you were little? Try volunteering at a thrift store or hospital gift shop.

Or maybe playing school was your favorite pastime? Spend some time helping out in a classroom.

Did you enjoy playing card and board games? Set up weekly visits with a nursing home resident who also likes to play games.

Did you enjoy building things? Help out with a Habitat for Humanity project.

Do you love parties? Help organize and plan special events for a local nonprofit.

Do you like to organize? Join an advisory board or help seniors pay their monthly bills.

Do you love to read? Volunteer to broadcast and record for those with visual impairments.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you don’t like it, you can try something else!”

The possibilities are endless, because the world has many needs. The opportunities to help are as varied and individual as we are. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you don’t like it, you can try something else!

RSVP of the Pioneer Valley will take the time to get to know you. We will match you with opportunities that will help others and enrich your life. We will make your volunteer dreams come true!

To get started, residents of Hampshire and Franklin Counties should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; residents of Hampden County should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Volunteers attend LifePath’s volunteer receptionVolunteers attend LifePath’s volunteer receptionLast month, LifePath hosted a reception at its offices to celebrate the work of its volunteers. More than 30 people attended and were treated to hors d'oeuvres, beverages, small gifts, and entertainment.

Over 265 people volunteered with LifePath this past year, serving in programs such as Meals on Wheels, Money Management, Benefits Counseling, SHINE, Long-term Care Ombudsman, and more, providing thousands of hours of service to the community at no cost.

“The staff wanted to honor the volunteers by putting thought and work into the program. They turned a very small budget into a wonderful event where the staff served the volunteers who work so hard to serve our program participants,” said Lynne Feldman, Director of Community Services at LifePath.

Volunteers enjoyed food which was procured, prepared, and beautifully presented by the Benefits Counseling program leaders. Others purchased gifts, manned the registration table, created name tags, and decorated. Another group of staff planned a short program of remarks.

“We appreciate their work, which fills in gaps for services and supports provided to the community which we would not be able to provide without them,” said Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director of LifePath, during her remarks to the volunteers. “I personally know of two individuals who have been directly helped by the volunteers. One friend was newly diagnosed with cancer this past year and wanted to be able to go to Dana Farber for his care. Thanks to SHINE, he was able to transition to a plan which enabled him to seek out the care he needed.”

LifePath staff perform for the volunteersLifePath staff perform for the volunteersThe speakers were followed by casual entertainment. Several staff participated in the entertainment section of the program by singing, doing stand-up comedy, or reading original poetry, such as this piece written by Nutrition Program Director Jane Severance:

Volunteers give of themselves,
Sometimes unseen, like elves!
They bring joy to the people we serve,
Many, many thanks they deserve!
And think about it, if you didn’t do it, then who?
To our volunteers, we thank you, for all that you do.

Senator Adam HindsSenator Adam G. Hinds

Community supports benefit dementia patients and family caregivers

When I was in elementary school, my grandmother, whom I affectionately called Nina, moved from California to Shelburne Falls to be near our family. After school I’d walk to Nina’s apartment at Highland Village, where the two of us would watch a soap opera or golf tournament on her TV until my mom or dad would pick me up.

When I entered high school, we all noticed Nina’s short-term memory slipping. As time went on, it was not uncommon to come home to dozens of answering machine messages, all from my grandmother, all saying essentially the same thing. My mother provided the bulk of care for Nina at Highland Village, visiting whenever she could, and later at a nursing home in Shelburne.

I learned then how difficult it is to watch a family member’s personality slip away, and I’ve seen the strain a person’s dementia can put on a family.

This past fall in Pittsfield, I was invited to visit a family member support group and heard how the disease can overwhelm patients and their families. I listened to stories of physical, emotional, and economic impact that the disease can cause family caregivers. I also saw the comfort and emotional stability such groups can provide.

Nearly fourteen percent of older adults in the Commonwealth have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. In rural Massachusetts the challenges for those with dementia and their caregivers increase, due to lack of access to medical care, support networks, broadband Internet and transportation options.

Fortunately, our region is responding. A group called Age Friendly Berkshires is working to make the County more responsive to the needs of its aging population, including those with dementia. In March, I hosted a briefing for legislators and staff at the State House with the Mass. Healthy Aging Collaborative, AARP Massachusetts and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs where Age Friendly Berkshires was invited to share their experiences. More recently, a group of hilltowns in my district—Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington—received the Age Friendly designation from AARP and the World Health Organization. The designation comes with a commitment by the towns to improve conditions for elders. With a grant from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, these seven communities are working to make it easier for elderly residents to age in place while reducing isolation and loneliness.

Molly Chambers, a social worker, has been doing her part to assist family caregivers for those with dementia for more than twenty years through the support group she’s run at LifePath in Greenfield. Over the years the group has supported husbands, wives, and adult children from near and far as they help each other through tough stretches and grow as close as family. LifePath offers many other supports for people with dementia in addition to the group.

“I’ve seen the strain a person’s dementia can put on a family.”

Caregiving can wear a caregiver out, sometimes to the point of illness. Imagine, Ms. Chambers says, waking four times every night to soothe an agitated or disoriented partner. Ms. Chambers believes—and I agree—that we can do better by making it easier for family members to get breaks by providing more affordable respite care. In other cases, what’s needed, she says, are grants to support home renovations or adaptations, like ramps and safe showers, which can allow those with dementia to stay in their homes longer.

Five years ago the Pittsfield agency Home Instead Senior Care began its support group for family members of those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and more recently the agency started a group for those with dementia. During my visit with the support group for caregivers, facilitated by Bobbie Orsi, Director of Community Relations at the agency and also one of the founders of Age Friendly Berkshires, I saw firsthand how the support group served to validate and normalize what caregivers and their family members were going through.

Ms. Orsi, a nurse, had to navigate these struggles herself when her husband John, an electrician, was first tested for cognitive issues in 2007 and had them confirmed in 2011. She cared for him as Alzheimer’s made him increasingly agitated and sometimes aggressive. Ms. Orsi had help from a number of caregivers from her agency, including one who accompanied John on volunteer shifts at the South Congregational Church food pantry. Another caregiver helped John do projects in their yard and accompanied him fishing at the Orsi’s home on Goodrich Pond. Dementia, Ms. Orsi noted, doesn’t take away our need to keep up our interests and the roles we serve in the community.

Removing a loved one from the home for care and safety is among the most difficult decisions a family member can face. After much family discussion, Ms. Orsi had to make that decision in late 2017. John lived out his life in a number of healthcare facilities until he died in November 2018 at age 73.

What motivates Ms. Orsi today is facilitating the support group for family caregivers. Her aim is to listen to what family members are experiencing and help them to better understand and determine what they need. The work Ms. Orsi does is essential, but there is more we can do for those with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

These steps and others will require community support and political will, but they should allow those with dementia—and their family members—to live better lives.

State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield) represents the 52 western Massachusetts communities of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District. He serves as the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue. This is his second term in the Massachusetts Senate.

In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, Clinical & Support Options (CSO) will be hosting the 17th Annual Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield on May 15, from 10 to 2 p.m. Featuring CSO’s very own Green River House and Quabbin House Clubhouse members, the fair will be an afternoon of music, singing, poetry, and testimonials by members to highlight mental health wellness and recovery. Genoa Pharmacy and Webber & Grinnell Insurance are major sponsors of this year’s fair, along with the Greenfield Police Department.

The fair started in 2002 to bring awareness and information to the community about mental health and recovery. The Clubs’ membership, supported by CSO, have continued this tradition annually as an opportunity to dispel the stigma around mental health and to encourage people in seeking support and spotlighting those agencies that are available to assist. This year the membership has chosen the theme “End Stigma, Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drum,” in an effort to continue to spread an anti-stigma message about mental health treatment and recovery.

Local mental health and wellness providers are welcome to present their materials and programming. In addition to local community providers sharing information, there will be a food vendor, fun raffles, and family activities.

Join CSO for an afternoon of excitement and awareness! All are welcome at Energy Park on May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For questions or more information on how you can be a part of this wonderful annual event, please contact The Green River House at 413-772-2181.

Seniors eating together at the Petersham Luncheon ClubEnjoy a nutritious meal at your local senior center, dining center, or if you can't get to one, call LifePath about getting a meal delivered to your home.

May 13 – 17, 2019

In celebration of Older Americans Month in May, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) and LifePath would like to extend an invitation to participate in the First Annual Massachusetts Malnutrition Awareness Week.

Poor nutrition is common among older adults, especially those who have been hospitalized, but it also affects elders who live at home. Malnutrition affects 20 – 50% of patients admitted to hospitals and often leads to complications pre- and post-surgery, as well as longer hospital and rehabilitation stays for people with chronic illness.

Risk factors of malnutrition include poor appetite, low weight and unintentional weight loss (although it can affect overweight people as well), loss of muscle and fat, bone loss contributing to falls and fractures, and not enough healthy food available due to lack of money to afford food and not being able to get to the store or prepare meals.

Would you know how to identify the signs of malnutrition in a family member or friend?

We invite you to attend one of LifePath’s sessions to help identify malnutrition. Presentations by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN, LifePath’s Nutritionist, will include information about the signs of malnutrition and how to prevent it; individual malnutrition risk screenings; healthy diet information; healthy snacks; and more.

“Malnutrition affects 20 – 50% of patients admitted to hospitals and often leads to complications pre- and post-surgery.”

LifePath will host three sessions on Malnutrition Awareness:

Registration is requested but not required at each session.

Malnutrition Awareness Week™ is a mark of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). Used with permission from ASPEN.