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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

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 https://cotap.org 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..

45 Years of LifePath: 1974-2019

Barbara Bodzin, LifePath Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorThroughout the changing landscape of the past 45 years, LifePath has stayed true to its mission to provide options for independence and enhance the quality of life of those we serve through person centered care and support of caregivers. Core to our success has been the outstanding skill and dedication of staff, volunteers, board members, community partners and the generosity of so many, who have enabled LifePath to thrive and carry out our mission.

On July 22, 1974, Franklin County Home Care Corporation (FCHCC), now known as LifePath, was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation at the request of the Commonwealth, in order to provide the state-funded Home Care Program to persons 60 years of age and older. The Corporation was authorized to assist elders with services to prolong their lives and enhance well being. Our designated catchment area included the 26 towns of Franklin County and the 4 Worcester County towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston.

On October 1, 1975, our expansion began, as FCHCC was designated as a federally funded Area Agency on Aging. Area planning, providing in-home services, administering the meals program, and working with local Councils on Aging continued throughout the 1980s. During that decade, the Adult Family Care program was added; Information and Referral services began, as well as Protective Services and the Nursing Home Ombudsman program.

The 1990s was a time of continued growth, where supportive services were added to select housing complexes and the agency amended its Articles of Organization to expand its focus and services to younger persons with disabilities through the Personal Care Assistance program. The Olmstead decision of the US Supreme Court in 1999, with emphasis on “care in the least restrictive setting,” was a landmark act which identified the civil right of the individual to receive parity of services within the community. This resulted in a major shift and multiple policy initiatives focusing on consumer-directed and person-centered care. Capacity and funding was redirected to serve individuals who would otherwise be in nursing facilities to expansion of home and community based programs.

“Today, LifePath has over 40 programs and service delivery models, and we are able to offer long-term care services across the income and age spectrum.”

Recognizing that health insurance was another key issue, the agency began to operate the SHINE program in the late nineties to help navigate Medicare and supplemental insurance benefits. The new millennium brought awareness of the need to establish programs to assist grandparents raising grandchildren and support caregivers of persons with dementia.

Our recognition of the growing population in need of in-home services and vision to best serve the community led us down the path of grant funding and pursuing the generous support of donors and business sponsors to fill gaps in care. Today, LifePath has over 40 programs and service delivery models, and we are able to offer long-term care services across the income and age spectrum. LifePath has also expanded its geographic reach, with some of our programs extending beyond Franklin County and the North Quabbin area into Worcester, Berkshire, Hampshire and Hampden counties.

We are excited to celebrate this 45 year milestone with our community and look forward to finding new and innovative ways to best meet the needs of those we serve. Contact us, let us know how we can be of support or honor our 45 years through your support. Please call us at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With spring upon us, longer days and warmer temperatures bring much needed relief from the challenges of winter. This “growing“ season brings with it the opportunity to get outside and interact with nature; an activity that’s not only a joy for the senses but literally healing for the body.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research, gentle outdoor activity has proven to greatly improve physical functioning, reduce one’s fear of falling and result in fewer depressive symptoms.

Being outside can help increase levels of Vitamin D, which often is low among older adults. Getting sufficient Vitamin D can help reduce your risk of a number of physical health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and heart attack. In addition, time in nature may help you recover more quickly from an injury or illness.

“Studies tell us that older adults who take daily outdoor walks report significantly fewer complaints in pain, sleep and other problems when compared to adults who do not go outside daily.”

Research shows that physical activity can lead to a better quality of life as we grow older. Studies tell us that older adults who take daily outdoor walks report significantly fewer complaints in pain, sleep and other problems when compared to adults who do not go outside daily.

Like walking, gardening can also play a positive role in health as we age both physically and mentally. Older gardeners with access to a community garden report increased physical activity over those who don’t garden. They also report better health status, increased physical functioning, reduced pain and other physical benefits. And naturally, gardeners are more likely to eat more vegetables resulting in better diets than non-gardeners of the same age. A 2006 study found that gardening could lower risk of dementia by 36 percent. The International Journal of Environmental Research tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.

Bumblebee in a flowerAlong with the physical benefits of time spent in nature, the restorative effects of nature support mental health and well-being. In older adults, studies show that physical activity in green spaces can be linked to better moods, decreased chance of depression, reduced stress levels and improved cognitive function. These benefits extend beyond physical activity. Studies show that the frequency and amount of time spent in nature correlate with feelings of mental restoration. An extra 30 minutes spent in nature increases this restorative effect and can be even more dramatic with individuals experiencing higher stress levels.

Even looking out a window into a garden or forest or viewing pictures of nature can contribute to a reduction in stress and improved cognitive health. These benefits can become especially significant in older individuals suffering from chronic stress or experiencing stressful events such as the loss of a loved one.

Take advantage of the natural, restorative benefits this wonderful season offers!