Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
While 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.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
As 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.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
The All Together Now Festival: Celebrating LifePath’s 30th Annual Walkathon happens today. Not only do we recognize 30 years of bringing the community together in support of who LifePath serves, but let’s also recognize the gift of being “all together now.”
We have much to celebrate and reflect upon. Thinking back on previous Walkathons, what comes to mind is the joy, pride, and sense of shared purpose felt by all. Rain or shine, you show up with your generosity of spirit and your commitment to our mission. I am excited to witness this again as we come together for the first time in three years.
Your generosity aids us every step of the way.
In this COVID era we continued our programs and found new ways to offer support. Volunteers and staff courageously provided critically needed help during a time of crisis and uncertainty. We have learned much about our values and priorities; what is needed and what is possible in this compassionate community we have the good fortune to call home.
We are grateful for our partners - teams, fundraisers, sponsors, and friends - and excited to connect with all who are able to join us today to share in this joyous celebration. Your generosity aids us every step of the way. Unrestricted funding allows LifePath to put resources where they are needed most and to create new opportunities. You continue to make a difference so that we can, too.
Today we celebrate you and what we are able to accomplish together. Thank you for all that you do for LifePath to provide options for independence.
We invite YOU to join us today to cheer on our walkers, take a few laps, and visit with our staff and volunteers. Stop by our many tables to learn about the services and opportunities available at LifePath and offered by other businesses and organizations. I look forward to seeing you.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
In March 1972, President Nixon signed into law an amendment to the Older Americans Act of 1965 to include a national nutrition program for adults 60 years and older. This nutrition program was the foundation of a nationwide network that became known as Meals on Wheels.
LifePath, then Franklin County Home Care Corporation, became part of that nationwide network, and started delivering Home Delivered Meals in 1976, serving a total of 5,671 meals that year, and provided meals for Congregate Meal sites. Much has changed over the years, and the Nutrition Program at LifePath has grown exponentially. From July 2020 through June 2021, we served 143,518 meals to 33 different routes covering 30 towns in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area.
It is not unusual for the meals driver to be the only person an older adult interacts with all day.
Prior to the pandemic, Meals on Wheels served over 223 million meals to approximately 2.4 million older adults across the country. While this program serves up nutritious meals, it is much more than a food delivery program. The Meals on Wheels program provides healthful daily nutrition, a wellness check, and socialization, intended to both improve nutrition and reduce isolation and depression. Area Agencies on Aging, including LifePath, and Councils on Aging, are making a difference in the lives of older adults each day. Congregate Meals programs, often located at Senior Centers, provide excellent opportunities for making new connections and socializing with friends and neighbors.
Locally, this program was built on, and is sustained by, the commitment and dedication of LifePath staff and volunteers and is made possible through the support of businesses, sponsors, funders, and donors. We have 53 dedicated volunteer drivers, some of whom receive a small stipend and mileage for providing this vital nutritional lifeline and social connection to elders within our communities. In February, volunteers spent 1,156 hours delivering meals, not including the time spent by LifePath staff, who help to deliver meals as well.
To further understand the necessity of the Nutrition Program, here are some stunning statistics:
One in 5 Americans is 60 or older, with 12,000 more turning 60 each day. By 2060, 1 in 3 Americans will be 60 or older.
Also, before the pandemic:
1 in 3 older individuals felt lonely
1 in 8 older individuals were threatened by or experienced hunger
1 in 4 older individuals lived alone
1 in 3 older individuals lived with a disability
1 in 10 older individuals experienced poverty
The pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated the level of food insecurity, malnutrition, and social isolation that elders face.
We’ve learned a lot about health risks associated with aging and have developed a range of preventative responses to many of these risks. More recently, we’ve gained important insights into the connection between isolation, depression, nutrition, and associated risk factors which can have a dramatic impact on one’s health and well-being. It is not unusual for the meals driver to be the only person an older adult interacts with all day. The driver makes sure to see the elder at the time of delivery and to carry out the wellness check which provides peace of mind to the meals recipient, and to family members as well. There are many instances where the elder has fallen or experienced a medical issue and the driver takes the necessary steps to help them.
The meals are planned with the nutritional needs of older adults in mind. Our staff Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN, works in collaboration with her peers throughout the state, and plays a critical role in the planning of menus to provide quality, nutritious meals for those we serve. Many factors are considered when menus are created, including a variety of foods, color, appeal, texture, consistency, cost, and nutritional value. In addition, religious, ethnic, cultural, and food preferences are also considered. Computer software is utilized by the nutritionist to complete a nutritional analysis of the menu to ensure the menus meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
So much care, detail, and dedication is packed into each meal delivery, and the positive impacts of the meals programs are clear and oftentimes life-changing for the recipient, as well as for the volunteer driver. LifePath is committed to providing Meals on Wheels, including wellness checks, to each elder in need of this essential service. This program is fiscally dependent on volunteer drivers to deliver meals throughout our rural communities, regardless of how remote the location might be. Our drivers are dedicated and we have a few who have been delivering Meals on Wheels for over 20 years. So let us celebrate 50 years of an amazing and necessary program!
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
International Women’s Day is a global holiday to celebrate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. The earliest recognition of a Women’s Day was in New York in 1909, and in 1910, in Germany, the International Women’s Socialist Conference proposed this be an annual event. Subsequently, celebrations and acknowledgement of a Women’s Day took place across Europe on various dates, but it wasn’t until 1917 when women gained suffrage (the right to vote) in Soviet Russia that March 8th was decided upon. In the USA, the day was a platform to fight for the right to vote, until that right was granted in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment.
In the 1960’s, Women’s Day was adopted by the global feminist movement, and it was officially adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1977 as an international day of recognition. Today, the UN observes this day in association with women’s rights in various countries, and around various issues pertaining to the advancement of women. This day of acknowledgement has its roots in protests and continues to be a day to call for radical change.
In 2021, on average, women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned.
2020 marked the 100th anniversary of women in the United States having voting rights and there is so much more to be done towards equal rights for women. As the 1970’s slogan said, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”—but women still have a long way to go.
In 2021, on average, women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned. Last year, Equal Pay Day was March 21, as that’s how far into 2021 the average American woman had to work (in addition to working all of 2020) to make as much money as the average American man earned in 2020. The gender pay gap is getting smaller but it was predicted, before the pandemic hit, that women will remain earning less until at least 2059. Reasons for this are that work done by women is generally undervalued, and compared to working fathers, working mothers are penalized by lower paying jobs, or fewer opportunities for promotion due to parental responsibilities. Another factor is that workers in female-dominated fields are paid lower salaries than workers in male-dominated fields, even when the jobs require the same level of skill, education, and training.
According to the American Association of University Women, “America’s history of slavery, segregation, and exploitation of immigrants has created deep-rooted inequalities that persist today. Consequently, most women of color have not had— nor do they have now—access to the same education and employment opportunities that white people have. For instance, Black women and Latinas are disproportionately working in service, domestic, caregiving, and agricultural jobs, which have been systemically undervalued and undercompensated.”
March 2020 was the beginning of the need for physical distancing and isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we slowly emerge from the pandemic 2 years later, gender equality experts have indicated that the biggest impact of the pandemic was on gender equality. Working women were hardest hit, in particular women of color. According to US Census data, in the third week of July 2020, 32.1% of unemployed women ages 25 to 44 were not working outside the home due to childcare demands, compared to only 12.1% of men in the same group.
Since the pandemic began, more women than men have lost their jobs either due to sectors dominated by women shrinking, or the need to be the primary caretaker of either children who were remote schooling, or family members who were elders or ill. Having to leave the workforce to care for others is an impediment to career advancement, and as employers look to salary history to set wages it means when they do return to the workforce their wage standard is lower. In essence, women who are now re-entering the workforce are financially 2 years behind the rest of the workforce.
While women have come a long way, the pandemic has become a giant setback, in the U.S. and globally, for gender equality. This needs to be acknowledged by the business sector, and by government at the local, state, and federal levels. The current administration has taken steps to recognize gender inequity as it impacts economic growth and development, democracy, and political stability. A White House Gender Policy Council has been charged with leading the development of a National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. The council is taking an intersectional approach which considers the challenges and barriers faced by those who experience compounding forms of discrimination and bias that relate to gender, race, disability, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion. You can read the strategy statement at the Whitehouse.gov website. This is a good start, but we all need to keep the momentum going.
At LifePath, we are urging legislators to endorse and pass bills, which support home care workers, with enough pay to earn a living wage. We are collaborating and working on initiatives which will help provide career ladders, and modes of advancement through training, and supervision to make this very necessary work a valued career choice in the labor market which is dominated by women.
This March 8th, think about all women have accomplished thus far, and with equity, how much more women emerging from the pandemic can contribute to the business sector, to scientific and economic growth, to governance, and to all aspects of society.