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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

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.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorAs our relationship with television has evolved, many have been left wondering if continuing to pay for cable or satellite TV is money well spent. With the average cable package costing American homes $217 per month, this is an especially important consideration for older adults, many of whom live on a fixed income. However, with the myriad of streaming services available, and with new technology to learn, deciding to make the switch to a streaming provider can feel overwhelming. 

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of making a change to your services is key. Cable and satellite TV, where programming is provided through cables connected to your home or via a satellite dish, saw the height of popularity in the early 2010s, with 90% of US TV households subscribing to one of these services. Since then, popularity has dropped significantly, with only 56% of TV households using cable or satellite service in 2021. This shift can be attributed to rising cable and satellite subscription costs, more readily available online content, and the rise in popularity of streaming services, which are often less restrictive and more budget-friendly than their cable or satellite counterparts.

Streaming differs from satellite and cable because it uses your home’s internet to transmit programming to your television, or any connected device, such as a computer, phone, or tablet. Still, for some, cable or satellite may be the best option. In this case, it’s still advisable to make sure you are getting the best service to meet your needs. CableTV.com offers a helpful tool that can compare TV services in your area and provide information on popular streaming services, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and many others.

One way to determine if a streaming service is a good option for you is to consider how you watch TV and the programming you enjoy watching. If there are certain networks that you don’t want to lose, make a list and use a comparison tool, such as the one offered by The Streamable, to compare different streaming services for both price and channel lineup. Many streaming services offer access to live TV, similar to cable and satellite providers, but others do not, or have plans that include only on-demand streaming. With on-demand, you have the ability to start a show at your convenience, but these services may not include programming such as local news or other shows that you are used to watching.  Some streaming services may also offer ad-free viewing options, usually at a premium cost.

Another important consideration when it comes to “cutting the cord” is the strength of your home internet. TV streaming relies on a stable internet connection to function. For smooth streaming, it is recommended to have an internet download speed between 3–25 Mbps (megabits per second). While most of us don’t know our home internet speed off the top of our head, luckily, it is easy to find out. Go to google.com and search for “internet speed test.” Click the “Run speed test” button and wait for the test to provide results. If your download speed falls within or above the recommended speed, changing to a streaming TV provider should be a viable option for you. If you find your speeds are below the recommendation, any savings you may see by switching to a streaming provider may be impacted by needing to upgrade your internet service. 

Lastly, you need to have a way to connect your television to the internet. If you have a newer TV, it may have this function built in; any television marketed as a ‘Smart TV’ will have internet connection capabilities. If your TV is not able to connect to the internet on its own, there are several devices available that provide this capability, such as Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. These devices vary in price, generally ranging from $20 to $200, but all will allow any TV with an HDMI port to stream digital content. If your television does not have an HDMI port, Roku does make a device that connects using the red, yellow, and white composite jacks found on older TVs. 

Example of an HDMI port (left) and composite jacks (center and right).

Help is Available

Switching to a new service can still be intimidating, even after you make the decision to do so. New services come with new devices, remotes, cables, and network sign-ins, all of which can deter people who are less comfortable with technology from making the shift to a streaming provider. Help is available! Older adults can receive free technology assistance by calling Cyber Seniors (cyberseniors.org) at 844-217-3057 or Senior Planet (seniorplanet.org) at 888-713-3495. Both services also have options available to provide assistance through video platforms. Contact LifePath at 413-773-5555 to find out about additional local resources, such as local Villages offering volunteer technology help.

If you are ‘technologically gifted’ and have some time to give, please consider sharing your skills with others. Tech-savvy volunteers are needed in a number of programs!  Please contact Carmela Lanza-Weil, Associate Director of Volunteer Resources, at 413-773-5555 x 3006, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make an appointment to discuss ways you can get involved.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorIn a nation known for its wealth, as many as 30 million adults and 12 million children across the United States are living in food insecure households. Food insecurity “is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). CNN Business News reported in April, “Families across America are precariously perched on the edge of a hunger cliff” as a result of the economic repercussions of the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, rising inflation, supply chain backlogs, and increasing costs of gas and food.

Our rural communities have to additionally contend with access issues due to limited transportation resources, greater travel distance to stores, and fewer full-service supermarkets. Furthermore, older adults and individuals with disabilities continue to struggle with COVID-related health vulnerabilities when considering in-store grocery shopping.

The Franklin County Hunger Task Force, a network of local organizations focused on improving food security for residents of Franklin County and nearby communities, is addressing these challenges head-on. These organizations fight food insecurity through a network of food pantries, congregate meal sites, grab and go and home delivered meals, mobile food banks, farm share and farmer’s market offerings, and distribution of bags of groceries and boxes of fresh foods.

The federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, provides those who are eligible with funds to help buy fresh, nutritious food. In addition, the Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) incentivizes SNAP recipients to buy more fruits and vegetables for their household. SNAP recipients receive $1 back on their EBT card for each dollar spent on eligible fruits and vegetables, up to a monthly limit. HIP retailers include approved farmer’s markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm share programs.

Karen Lentner, LifePath’s nutritionist, observed that despite these resources and community supports, “What I can say is that sadly, I encounter older adults with food insecurity in our area. In some cases, this food insecurity contributes to weight decline and malnutrition, ultimately affecting the individual’s overall strength, health, independence, and their ability to heal. Once consumers are identified through a variety of screening processes, we do our best to inform them of the resources and meal and food options available within their communities. I often work closely with individuals to help obtain food and nutritional supplements. I assist with planning nutritious meals and snacks, provide tips on preparing meals, and guidance in whatever is needed to help increase their weight and improve their nutritional status.”

As food insecurity is oftentimes associated with poverty, it is no surprise to learn that older adults and individuals with disabilities are disproportionately impacted. This dynamic inadvertently contributes to disability-based health inequities and is linked to poorer quality diets which produce worse health outcomes. Well-being is impacted due to the associated higher risk of chronic conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

LifePath has responded to these public health concerns with expanded services. A cold supper provides additional nutritional variety and a second daily meal to our Meals on Wheels recipients. One such recipient summed up the overwhelmingly positive response we have received, saying, "It has helped physically, it has helped mentally, it has helped with grocery costs, it has helped with having to make meals [with limited mobility], and it has helped by not having to go out to shop. Thank you!!!"

Our new Farm to Home Food Program, funded through the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, provides $50 of free, farm-fresh food delivered once a month to the homes of individuals in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area. To be considered, individuals must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be 60 or older, or young and living with a disability;
  • Be able to prepare a meal or have someone who can assist with meal preparation;
  • Have a household income not more than $34,400/year for an individual, or $48,958/year for households of 2 or more.

In partnership with Mass Food Delivery of South Deerfield, individuals can select from among hundreds of locally-sourced, in-season fruits and vegetables, as well as meats, dairy, protein alternatives, sauces, jams, legumes, pastas, and baked goods. Ordering is done online and is delivered directly to each home. For those unable to access the internet, LifePath provides a volunteer who will place orders on their behalf. One such volunteer, retired nutritionist Arleen Thomson, whose prior experiences helped create the vision for this program, commented, “In a few short months we have reached a goal of providing three hundred families with a monthly box of healthy food which is delivered to their doorstep. It has been thrilling to hear from many who are so very grateful this program exists.”

The program has been extremely popular and is close to reaching capacity, so interested individuals should submit an application without delay by either going to the Farm to Home page or by calling 877-590-2540.

Removing economic and access barriers is essential to enhance food security in our community. Together with our partner organizations, LifePath provides vital resources to ensure access to proper nutrition and adequate food on the table for those in need. Please call LifePath for more information about services and resources to address food insecurity at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorWhile it’s important for everyone to protect themselves from financial and identity scams, older adults can often be at a heightened risk. The Federal Trade Commission estimates in 2020, Americans aged 60 and older lost $602 million to fraud, scams, and financial exploitation. While many tactics used by scammers are not new, COVID-19 has created new opportunities for manipulating victims.

Confidence scams work by gaining your trust through personal connection and utilizing stories that elicit sympathy, such as a job loss or health issue. Your sympathetic response is used as a way to manipulate you to send money to the scammer.

Romance scams take this one step further; by creating the illusion of a romantic relationship. These scams start as fake online dating or social media profiles, often tailor made using information you have publicly posted. Once your affection has been solidified, the scammer has a sudden emergency or an exciting investment opportunity and convinces you to transfer money, send money orders, or buy gift cards. Scammers might request to communicate with you directly, instead of through dating or social media platforms. They may seem too good to be true, or express affection soon after communications start. The scammer may refuse to meet in-person or cancel plans to meet at the last minute, and is always available, day or night.  Ultimately the scammer will ask you to send money, cryptocurrency, or transfer money through accounts.

What to do: Talk it over with a trusted friend or family member, don’t provide money or banking information, and stop communicating with the person if you have concerns it might be a scam.

Hang up, look up the number for the agency that the caller claimed to be from, and call the agency directly to inquire about the call.

Government imposter scams begin as a phone call. The caller claims to be from an official agency, such as the Social Security Administration, IRS, or the police department. The caller ID may also appear to be calling from the stated agency. They will request you verify your identity by supplying personal information or demand immediate payment of an outstanding fee, tax, or bill. The scam always includes a claim that if you don’t comply, some form of penalty will be imposed. Depending on the scam, this could be loss of benefits, a higher fine, prosecution, or arrest.

What to do: Hang up, look up the number for the agency that the caller claimed to be from,  and call the agency directly to inquire about the call.

Business imposter scams may occur through text messages, emails, or phone calls stating suspicious activity on your account. These messages can be very convincing and include company logos and accurate-looking email accounts or phone numbers. The scam will go on to state you need to click a link or verbally verify your account information in order to resolve the issue, update payment information, or regain access to the account. This information can then be used to access your account to make fraudulent purchases, steal personal information, and set up fake accounts.

What to do: Reach out to the business’ customer service department directly to inquire about any issues; watch out for oddly phrased emails or ones  with misspelled words; do not click on links asking you to log in to your account or verify your account information—instead go directly to the site and log in to your account as usual.

Sweepstakes scams rely on excitement over having ‘won’ money or a prize. Victims receive unexpected emails, letters, or calls, stating that in order to collect your winnings, a fee must be paid, or your banking information must be supplied. Scammers will often impersonate well-known contest and sweepstakes organizations to convince you of their authenticity. 

What to do: Be wary if you do not recall entering a sweepstakes or lottery; slow down; don’t let excitement cloud your judgment; don’t give banking information or provide payment; stop communication or hang up.

Grandparent scams use an imposter to contact you claiming to be your grandchild, or family member. Alternatively, they may claim to be a police officer and provide a detailed description of your family member. The scammer will explain that the family member is in trouble and needs money immediately to help. The type of emergency can vary; reports of this kind of fraud include paying for bail, car accidents, medical bills, and being stranded while traveling.

What to do: Ask personal questions that only the family member would be able to answer; take note if the call is from an unknown number; call the family member directly, or another family member to verify the story.

Computer tech scams come as calls and emails, and often appear to be from reputable companies. Pop-ups may appear stating to call a specific number or click a link to connect to a repair specialist. These scams claim that your computer has been infected with a virus or is otherwise not working properly. They will offer to fix the issue for a fee and require remote access to your computer. Once this access is granted, the scammer can steal personal and financial information and install malware on the device.

What to do: Restart your computer and run your antivirus program. If it’s a phone call, hang up.

If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, speak to someone you trust or contact the police, district attorney's office, state attorney general, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Call LifePath for more information at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know you are not alone.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorAs we emerge from winter and embrace the warm, longer days of spring and summer, it’s important to take time to reflect on your own well-being, especially when it comes to worry and stress. Many people have found themselves feeling overwhelmed by the seemingly never ending cycle of global events that weigh heavily on their minds and spirits. Emotional fatigue caused by the war in Ukraine, national political and racial unrest, and the looming reversal of Roe v Wade, has only been amplified by the ongoing concern over COVID-19 and its variants. News burnout has left some feeling disconnected, avoiding news altogether in an attempt at self-preservation; others find themselves consumed by news media, unable to step back and appreciate ideas that may be different than those they hear coming through their television sets or smart phones. So, what can we do? The answer may look different for everyone, but comes down to balance, understanding ways to stay engaged while also fostering hope, and overall well-being. Here are some self-care steps to consider for increasing your sense of well-being during these unsettled times:

Spending as little as 20-30 minutes outside can reduce feelings of anxiety and naturally improve energy levels.

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. On warm days, open windows and let fresh air in. Fresh air, along with the scent of flowers and plants, can help relieve stress and boost feelings of happiness and relaxation.

Stay Active - Exercise, whether indoors or out, can be vital to releasing stress and boosting both your physical and emotional health. On nice days, consider going for a walk, gardening, or attending an outdoor class, such as yoga or Tai Chi. Indoor activities could include stretching, or participating in an online fitness class.

Go Outside - Spending as little as 20-30 minutes outside can reduce feelings of anxiety and naturally improve energy levels. The exposure to natural light and fresh air can also help your body’s circadian rhythm, allowing you to sleep longer and wake more rested. These benefits can be seen regardless of what you choose to do outdoors; so whether you enjoy bird watching, jogging, fishing, or simply sitting in the sunshine, getting outside is a great way to bolster your spirit.

Stay Connected - Find ways to create strong social connections. Have a picnic with a friend, attend group meetings and events, call someone that you haven’t spoken with in a while. Social isolation can have many direct and indirect negative consequences to your health, including sleeplessness, heightened anxiety, and even reduced immune function.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself and Your Community - Emotional distress often stems from feeling unsafe or helpless in a given situation. Take time to think about actions you can take to positively impact yourself and those around you. Worried about food insecurity in your community? Consider taking steps to create a community garden, or ask your local food bank how to get involved. Fearful that you may contract and spread COVID-19? Wear a mask when appropriate and make an appointment to receive your 2nd vaccine booster. Anyone 50 years of age or older is eligible, as long as you received your 1st booster at least 4 months ago.

Make a Schedule - Routines help keep your mood stable. Create a schedule for yourself that includes making healthy meals, socializing, and being active, both mentally and physically. Within your schedule, create a list of tasks, even small ones like making your bed, and do it every day. This type of activity will foster a sense of accomplishment and success which are mood boosters.

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. You may consider volunteering through one of LifePath’s many program opportunities, such as driving others to medical appointments, becoming a Phone Pal, or delivering Meals on Wheels. You will be helping yourself as you help others, since volunteers have a greater sense of purpose and volunteering is an ideal way to combat stress and anxiety while staying engaged in your community. If you’re not sure where to start with volunteering, give RSVP a call at 413-387-4558.

Let Yourself Relax - In our information-driven society, it can be hard to find time to prioritize yourself. Build space into your schedule that allows you to step away from external stressors and instead engage in calm, grounding activities that focus on you. Consider putting a daily limit on the amount of time you spend on screens and consuming media. You might try meditation, read a novel, keep a journal, or simply set aside 10 minutes to do whatever speaks to you that day. Taking time to relax, however that looks for you, can boost your energy and aid in positive thinking. Other significant benefits include reduced blood pressure, less muscle tension, and better digestion.

Prolonged stress can take both a mental and physical toll. If you’re concerned about your mental or physical health or that of a loved one, reach out to your primary care physician for guidance and support. You can also contact 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 and support services that may be available.