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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Barbara Bodzin 2019Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorMany of us get into our vehicles each day to drive to work, go to a medical appointment, visit friends and family, run errands, or travel a distance for vacation. We take for granted the independence and freedom associated with our ability to drive. 

Frequently, older drivers have a lifetime of driving experience behind them and deeply value the flexibility and mobility that driving provides. Driving abilities do change with age, and reducing risk factors can certainly extend our time behind the wheel. It can be particularly difficult to determine whether or not our physical or cognitive capacities are no longer adequate to safely navigate the roads.  Limiting or curtailing driving is a complex and emotionally charged decision, and having that discussion with a loved one when there are safety concerns is challenging. Preparing for the conversation with “We Need to Talk,” a free online seminar developed jointly with the Hartford and MIT AgeLab, can help guide you through the steps to take. 

Factors such as vision, hearing, reflexes, and physical coordination are prime among issues which can hinder an aging driver from being efficient and alert when heading out onto the road. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) provides older drivers tips and suggestions for optimizing health and safety.  

Limiting or curtailing driving is a complex and emotionally charged decision, and having that discussion with a loved one when there are safety concerns is challenging.

According to AARP and other sources, the following are some of the warning signs of unsafe driving:

  • Delayed response to unexpected situations
  • Becoming easily distracted while driving
  • Decrease in confidence while driving
  • Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic
  • Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up
  • Getting scrapes or dents on a car, garage or mailbox
  • Having frequent close calls
  • Frequently getting lost in familiar areas
  • Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions
  • Reduced back/neck flexibility that limits an aging driver's ability to turn their body to more fully see and gauge oncoming traffic or other hazards near and around the vehicle

There are numerous resources available to assist in determining our capacity to safely navigate the roads including having skills checked by a driving rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist, or other trained professional. Taking a defensive driving course and passing the class to reduce risk may even result in a lowered auto insurance rate. And finally, ask your physician if any of your health problems or medications might be impacting your ability to drive. Together, you can make a plan to help keep you on the road and decide if the time comes when it is no longer safe to drive.

Our region, similar to many rural communities, is comprised of high proportions of elders, persons with disabilities, and individuals living on limited income who often are isolated in their homes due to limited options for getting around. Barriers to transportation can negatively affect one’s health as a result of missed or delayed medical appointments or limited access to needed medications. Access to viable transportation resources through a more integrated approach is essential, especially in our rural area where public transportation is limited and walking is typically not a feasible option to get to our destination.  

However, growth in resources and positive strides in safety technology are happening. Vehicle technology is available with features such as assistive parking, blind spot and crash warning mitigation, drowsy driver alerts, and lane departure warning systems, to name just a few. Ride sharing options and increased availability of taxi-type services are accessible through Uber and Lyft. FRTA has expanded their menu of transportation offerings as well. Volunteer ride services are available through Councils on Aging and are becoming increasingly more available through local “neighbors” programs and LifePath’s Rides for Health program. 

Call us to speak with a resource consultant to learn more about driver safety and transportation resources at 413-773-5555, X1230; 978-544-2259, X1230; or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barbara Bodzin, LifePath Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorSince stepping down as Surgeon General last year, Vivek Murthy has turned his attention to what he considers to be America’s fastest-growing public health crisis: loneliness. Murthy found that loneliness is often in the background of clinical illness, contributing to disease and making it harder for patients to cope and heal. “Loneliness,” he wrote, “is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.”

According to the National Institute on Aging, social isolation and loneliness are also linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system, and even death. A related report found that social isolation or living alone can be more harmful to a person’s health than obesity.

More than a quarter of the U.S. population now lives alone.

More than a quarter of the U.S. population now lives alone. However, it is important to keep in mind there is not always a correlation between social isolation and loneliness. Many who live alone do not experience loneliness, and conversely, others experience loneliness despite being surrounded by family and friends.

The increase in loneliness and isolation is most acute among elders due to factors such as: loss of a spouse/partner, separation of friends and family, retirement, lack of transportation, and loss of mobility and other functionality. Though most striking within the older population, there is a loneliness epidemic occurring across the lifespan. Loss of face to face companionship is an intergenerational concern, with changes in behaviors significantly impacted by social media and technology. Despite social media providing an outlet for loneliness for some, online communications have accelerated a sense of loss of meaningful connections.

AARP has launched the Connect2Affect tool, an online assessment and portal to help elders determine how isolated they might be, and connect them with area resources. “If we think about our checklist of being healthy, it usually includes exercise and eating vegetables and not smoking,” says Kellie Payne, research and policy manager for England’s Campaign to End Loneliness. “We don’t think about our social connections as being just as vital as those things. If you have good contacts, the restorative effects can be just as strong as those other, more traditional methods of being healthy.”

Individuals are often ashamed about their feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is essential to destigmatize these feelings, and for us to begin these vital dialogues and look for better solutions. As social beings, we thrive on meaningful interactions.

Engaging in activities provides a sense of purpose and can have a positive impact on mood, cognitive functioning, and well-being. Access to activities is often a challenge, especially in our rural communities. Consider contacting LifePath to learn about transportation and companionship services available to reduce isolation. Reach out to family, or make an effort to meet new people by visiting a senior center, attending a local luncheon club or dining center, joining a gym, volunteering, adopting a pet, taking up new hobbies, or befriending neighbors. LifePath can offer an array of options to enhance connectedness. Call us at 413-773-5555, x1230 or 978-544-2259, x1230, or send an email.

elderly woman smiling as she looks out windowWith advances in medicine, an increase in prevention, and more focus on fitness and diet, it’s no wonder we’re hearing “70 is the new 50” in reference to aging. Older adults are embracing their vitality and independence for longer and in different ways. 

Have you witnessed, among aging family members or peers, ways that they value being independent and active? Trends we’ve observed include:

  • Older adults working later into their years
  • Councils on Aging offering more active programming
  • Individuals and couples seeking out active living communities which have lifestyle and support options as their activity levels decrease

It’s easy, as productive adults, to take our independence for granted with little thought given to a time when we may be unable to perform the tasks that daily life requires. But the reality is that life is a progression and as we age, circumstances change, sometimes quickly. Perhaps, when there is an inkling of decline, we take stock of what our independence means to us, how we might begin to lose it, and how we can hold onto it.

My hope is that when those conversations begin with your aging parent, with your spouse, or with your adult children, that LifePath will come to mind as a resource, and perhaps much more.

In the National Organization on Aging (NCOA) 2019 survey, half of the elders who responded are worried about losing their independence (54%) and declining physical health (64%). As those basic worries set in, it can be difficult to know where to turn. My hope is that when those conversations begin with your aging parent, with your spouse, or with your adult children, that LifePath will come to mind as a resource, and perhaps much more.

One universal truth that has been proven to our staff time and again is that people feel most comfortable aging in place, whenever possible. Even as we are living longer and more actively, there will always be need for the programs and services LifePath provides. LifePath puts into place individualized supports which allow for safety and enhanced health so that a person’s sense of independence is not lost. Our goal is for those we serve to feel as though they are aging gracefully, with the dignity and respect they’ve earned and deserve. When the time comes, let us be there for you.

Canva Cloudy blue skyStudies have determined that residential energy consumption rises as one ages, with those over the age of 70 using the most energy of any age cohort. It is thought that older, less efficient appliances and a greater need for heating and cooling are likely contributing factors. The aging of our society is a significant concern when considering energy use. Equally concerning are the disproportionate impacts extreme weather wreaks on older adults.

The mechanisms by which the body regulates temperature are less efficient for elders, who therefore are less able to cope with excess heat. Extreme heat, says Patrick Kinney of Boston University’s School of Public Health, puts particular stress on older adults, adding that certain medications like those that manage blood pressure and cholesterol reduce the body’s ability to regulate heat. ("Older People Are Contributing to Climate Change, and Suffering From It," Paula Span, New York Times, May 24, 2019). Precautions to manage one’s health can be taken to reduce risk, such as staying indoors during extreme heat, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine.

However, extreme cold weather poses an even greater danger than high temperatures. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 63% of weather related deaths were attributed to hypothermia or exposure to natural cold. This report also confirmed that elders have the highest rate of weather related deaths.

The impact of climate change can be addressed with efforts designed to reduce the underlying causes. Older adults are playing active roles in addressing the issues of climate change through volunteerism and activism. Groups such as Elders Climate Action are working hard to change our national policies and conversations about our environment. Elders can leverage their lobbying influence, as the baby boomer generation comprises 36 percent of the electorate. Being the largest and most consistent voting block, older Americans really can make a difference. As a generation who impacted the Vietnam War and civil rights, it is time to organize once again to influence policy to create an environment sustainable for future generations.

The impact of extreme weather to health, safety and wellbeing are far-reaching. Visit COTAP for information regarding how to take ownership of your personal contribution to climate change. Resources for adaptive strategies designed to reduce the impact on health are available through LifePath. Contact us for information regarding climate advocacy groups, fans, air conditioners, fuel assistance, weatherization, home repair and modifications at 413-773-5555, 978-544-2259, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

female caregiver smiling at elderly womanConsumer directed care is both a philosophy and service delivery model often associated with home- and community-based services. The principles focus on the inherent rights of the individual to be at the center of any decisions regarding their care.

Placing responsibility into the hands of the consumer started in the 1960s, as control began to slowly shift away from health care and human service professionals. Disability, or age, should not be a barrier for the consumer to express their preferences. Consumers should determine the type of care they receive as well as who provides their care and when and where the care is delivered. With the emergence of the Independent Living movement, it was the voice of persons with disabilities who led the march in asserting that it is the consumer who has the clearest insights into their own needs, and it is the consumer who is the expert in determining their own care.

For 45 years, LifePath’s mission has been consistent: maintaining the independence of those we serve while coordinating the supports they need.

All of the services provided by LifePath are predicated on the rights of informed consent, protection of confidentiality, self-determination, and consumer choice.

We recognize that although consumer directed care has gained footing over the years, further progress is needed in honoring the rights of consumers. LifePath strives to maintain a consumer-centered, consumer-directed approach throughout its programs and supports to elders, persons with disabilities and caregivers. All of the services provided by LifePath are predicated on the rights of informed consent, protection of confidentiality, self-determination, and consumer choice.

One way consumers are able to thrive in their communities is with support uniquely available through the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program. This MassHealth funded program puts the control into the hands of the consumer to hire, train, and oversee their direct care workers.
On the front end, consumers’ care needs are evaluated by LifePath’s skills trainers and nurses. Additionally, consumers are trained and supported in the responsibilities of being an employer.

Other programs core to LifePath’s mission cover the full spectrum of consumer-centric long-term support services. Our commitment to those we serve includes:

  • objectives and goals reflecting the individual’s preferences, strengths, and needs;
  • lifestyle, values, and capabilities are considered in the formulation of care plans;
  • goals are fluid and may be modified to realistically reflect the consumer’s vision as emerging options and challenges are discovered;
  • information, resources, and referrals are frequently provided to assist the consumer to build upon existing supports to best achieve improved safety and quality of life.

Our staff are trained and educated to combat ageism and disablism biases held by some health and home care providers and caregivers alike, and to resist tendencies to take charge. We listen, respond, and adjust in an effort to truly deliver a person-centered solution which promotes choice, independence, dignity and self-determination.

For more information regarding consumer direction or services available, speak to a Resource Consultant at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..