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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorDuring the winter months, many people struggle with feeling down. If you find yourself feeling this way, please know you’re not alone. Whether it's due to the cold weather, shorter days, the holidays coming to an end or reminders of missed loved ones, seasonal sadness can often creep in during this time of year.   Here are some action steps you might wish to consider for increasing your sense of wellbeing: 

During the winter months, many people struggle with feeling down.

1. Brighten Your Home - The vitamin D from natural light can help to improve your mood. Make it a daily routine to open your window coverings including blinds and curtains.

2. Anticipate an Event - Invite your grandchildren or a friend over for a visit, plan an outing with a loved one or buy yourself a special treat.

3. Stick to a Schedule - If you prepared dinner at a certain time every day, try to stick to that same schedule. If you typically attend Saturday or Sunday services, don’t skip it this time of year.

4. Eat a Balanced Diet - Eating a balanced diet is essential for older adults and is a natural way to boost your mood and energy.

5. Stay Active - Exercise, while important all year round, can be vital to lifting you up during the winter months. You can exercise indoors or dress in layers and take your exercise outdoors for some fresh air, if the temperature isn’t too cold. 

6. Accomplish a Goal - If you've been putting off a task, whether big or small, now is the time to tackle it.

7. Stay Active and Engaged - Take up a new hobby, join a group of your liking, take a class, learn something new.  Get together with friends or family, get out to a movie or cultural event or share a meal with others. Activities like crossword puzzles, scrabble or sudoku are great ways to keep your brain alert. Take time each day to exercise your brain.

8. Volunteer Your Time - Whether it is an hour a week, or a daily routine, opportunities abound for ways you can give back to your community.  Experience Volunesia - which is defined as “that moment when you forget you are volunteering to change other lives, because it is changing yours.” 

If these strategies don’t seem to be working for you or a loved one, reach out to your primary care physician for guidance and support.  Call LifePath and speak with a Resource Consultant at 413-773-5555, X1230; 978-544-2259, X1230; or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn about more options.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorLike all older adults, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) elders are a growing population in the U.S. in need of enhanced care and resources to support their health and quality of life. Though people over 65 years are less likely to identify as LGBT compared to younger cohorts, according to research completed by the Williams Institute, there are up to 4 million older Americans who identify as LGBT, and that number is likely to double by 2030.

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging notes that LGBT older adults are twice as likely to age as a single person, twice as likely to live alone, and three to four times less likely to have children to support them.

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging notes that LGBT older adults are twice as likely to age as a single person, twice as likely to live alone, and three to four times less likely to have children to support them. Many LGBT older adults instead have "developed important social networks of partners, friends, ex-partners, neighbors and others.” These networks are often referred to as families of choice. Being a member of both a chosen family and a family of origin creates situations where an LGBT person may become a primary caregiver for a spouse, domestic partner, a close friend who is also LGBT, or an aging parent or other relative—sometimes simultaneously.

According to AARP’s 2018 survey, Maintaining Dignity: A Survey of LGBT Adults Age 45 and Older:

  • 83% of respondents say they live in at least a somewhat LGBT-friendly community including many in smaller or rural areas. Survey responses suggest that community size is less important than LGBT-friendliness when it comes to living in a supportive community.
  • As few as 10% of rural and small town residents say they have access to LGBT senior services in their community.
  • Survey respondents living in what they describe as very un-friendly communities were seven times more likely to report recent experiences with housing discrimination due to their LGBT identity.
  • When asked if they are worried about having to hide their LGBT identity in order to have access to suitable housing options as they age, 34% of all LGBT survey respondents reported being at least somewhat worried, as did 54% of transgender and gender expansive* participants.

Lynn Faria, the chief officer for external affairs at SAGE, the country's first and largest advocacy group for older LGBTQ (the “Q” often stands for queer or questioning) adults, calls this situation “double jeopardy,” because without strong family and social support networks, older LGBTQ adults are more reliant on outside care providers as they age, but that same system of care is not equipped to meet their needs.

Sixteen years ago, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, and its reported LGBT population is second in the nation when measured as a percentage of the state’s overall population. However, members of the LGBT community still face widespread discrimination, are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and are at greater risk of homelessness and food insecurity.

According to Boston Spirit magazine, “There is one benchmark that is gaining momentum as a true indicator of a city’s commitment to the full life span of its LGBTQ community: affordable senior housing that is designated as LGBTQ friendly. When the Massachusetts Special Commission on LGBT Aging did listening sessions across the state in their first year of legislative work, the number one concern echoed in every single community was “where can we go when we get older?”

There are over 20 cities that have designated LGBTQ-friendly senior housing buildings across the country. Massachusetts has lagged behind in housing; however, the first LGBTQ-friendly senior housing facility in Boston’s Hyde Park was just approved last month.

Locally, supports and services for LGBT older adults continue to grow. Historically, cities were perceived as the meccas for LGBT support as there tends to be strength in numbers. However, over the years with the growing costs of city life, especially in the LGBT neighborhoods, as well as seeking a different lifestyle in retirement, communities such as the Pioneer Valley have been an attractive area to settle in for many LGBT elders.

Messaging as an open and welcoming organization began at LifePath through our work with the LGBT Aging Project, where we initiated our efforts with a LGBT cultural competency training for staff. In home direct service staff, employed by our contracted vendors, also receive training to ensure LGBT elders in need of care feel safe and comfortable inviting workers into their homes.

From there, our focus broadened to community engagement and reaching out to LGBT older adults through educational and social gatherings. Thanks to the efforts of the Rainbow Elders Group which was formed as part of LifePath in 2012, opportunities and raised awareness regarding LGBT issues continue to blossom.

For over a year a well attended LGBTIQA luncheon has been held at the South County Senior Center in South Deerfield. There are also special events, including a summer picnic and an intergenerational dinner with LGBTIQA youth, organized by the Rainbow Elders Steering Committee. Preliminary discussions are occurring regarding development of LGBT friendly housing options in the area. Rainbow Elders also offers a panel presentation for senior centers, churches, and other organizations wishing to learn more about being inclusive of the LGBT community.

Western Massachusetts has a new representative on the LGBT Aging Commission, Dave Gott of the Rainbow Elders. He welcomes hearing your ideas for how Massachusetts can continue to grow in its ability to serve this population. You can contact him by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via phone at 413-773-5555, X1242 or 978-544-2259, X1242. So, if a quieter life is what you seek, just know that thanks to these amazing pioneers and their allies, you will be in good company in Western Massachusetts, the land of many rainbows!

*According to the LGBT advocacy group PFLAG, "Gender-expansive people feel that they exist psychologically between genders, as on a spectrum, or beyond the notion of the man/woman binary paradigm.”

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.