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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorAt LifePath, we are exceptionally proud of our Nutrition program, which has provided home delivered meals for over 45 years, thanks to a team of dedicated and spirited volunteer drivers.  This program is dependent on efforts of volunteers to deliver meals throughout our rural communities, regardless of how remote the location might be.  The program provides a vital nutritional lifeline, a wellness check, and socialization, all intended to address food insecurity and reduce isolation and depression.  The compassionate and friendly volunteer drivers may be the only person the meals recipient sees all day. 

The compassionate and friendly volunteer drivers may be the only person the meals recipient sees all day.

The volunteer drivers are at the heart and soul of our home delivered meals program.  Our drivers love what they do, and for many it is the best part of their day.  Maddie has been a driver for Meals on Wheels (MOW) for five years and says, “I care for the senior citizens in my community, so I'm glad to be a part of this valuable service.  I really enjoy getting to know each and every one of my clients.”

Patricia explains the role of the volunteer driver:  “I love my volunteer job with LifePath! Two days a week I load up the car in Millers Falls along with other drivers and a friendly team of kitchen workers, and then get to drive through beautiful Franklin County, greeting appreciative housebound people and leaving them a meal. I even get my mileage reimbursed. It is energizing and satisfying. Thank you for the opportunity!”

Barry has been driving for a year now and says, “It just makes me feel good,” while Charlie, a MOW volunteer for 8 years, acknowledges the importance of the wellness check and food delivery, explaining, “for some people, I’m the only person they see all day.”  Many of our drivers feel a great sense of accomplishment, like Shelly, who says, “I’ve been delivering meals for 5 years.  The best part about it is the appreciation I get from consumers.  It makes me feel good inside!”

While many of us were safely sheltering at home throughout the pandemic restrictions, our Nutrition program quickly adapted to required changes, and delivered meals to the community without missing a day.  In addition to our longstanding team of drivers, there was a heartwarming outpouring of help from people who were not able to work.  These courageous individuals had a need to do something to contribute to their community.  They provided us with the much-needed capacity to expand the program to serve more individuals who were now isolated and experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic. 

As the restrictions have now been lifted, many of those who were available are being called back into work and are sadly leaving their positions as volunteer drivers. This puts us in a position of needing to find more volunteer drivers in many of our towns served.   If you have the time, and want a fulfilling and rewarding volunteer opportunity, please consider becoming a home delivered meals driver—it will change your life for the better.  As Rosie, a volunteer MOW driver for 21 years says, “Once I started I couldn’t stop!  My clients inspire me everyday with their stories, their good humor, and always their love.  They truly are the best part of my day.  Thank you LifePath for this wonderful program!”

The positive impact of the Nutrition program is clear and oftentimes life-changing for the recipient and for the volunteer driver as well.  Whether it is one day or five days per week, the offer of your time makes a difference.  Do you want to volunteer, or know anyone who would be willing to make a big difference in someone's day by delivering meals in their own community?  Stipend and mileage reimbursements are available.  Call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 and ask for the Nutrition department.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorWhen most people think of the 4th of July, they think of fireworks and flags and this country’s freedom from British rule. For me, Independence Day raises thoughts of self-determination and the ability to live an independent life. Our right to independence should not be impacted as we age, we should be able to enjoy equal opportunity to gainful employment, to continue in our right to determine where and how we want to live, and, if we need assistance, to determine who will provide the care.

Sadly, ageism continues to be a tolerated form of social bias, evidenced in our attitudes, our language, and our stereotypes. As is the case with other forms of discrimination, internalized ageism oftentimes impacts our self-perception, devaluing ourselves as less of a person, with diminished autonomy, especially when we need to look to others for assistance. Our mission at LifePath is to combat the influences of ageism and to hold and honor the values and preferences of those we serve.

LifePath staff work with individuals and their families to help determine needs and assist the individual to make informed decisions regarding the type of care which best meets their personal preferences. 

At LifePath, we listen first, and then help each person find the best options for their unique needs. We assist older adults and persons with disabilities maintain independence and quality of life in their own homes and communities. We help caregivers to find relief and help loved ones to choose the right path. We have been doing this for 46 years and will continue to be there, creating new programs to help support and foster independence. Our Information and Caregiver Resource Center is the gateway to our organization, where Resource Consultants provide guidance to help the caller navigate the wide array of resources, services, and programs available.  

LifePath staff work with individuals and their families to help determine needs and assist the individual to make informed decisions regarding the type of care which best meets their personal preferences. In-home service options provide the support needed to manage daily activities, so individuals can maintain their independence and remain in their own home or move into the home of a caregiver. Our consumer-directed care programs offer individuals the opportunity to choose and hire their own caregiver.

We are excited to have established Franklin County and the North Quabbin as an Age- and Dementia-Friendly Community, a community-led effort that aims to bring about policy and systems-level change to make more liveable towns and strive to better meet the needs of their older residents by considering the environmental, economic, and social factors that influence their health and well-being. 

The 4th of July is a celebration of the Declaration of Independence, declaring that the 13 American colonies were no longer subject to the monarchy and were now united, free, and independent states. Independence Day is a day to affirm this to ourselves. We, the people, have the right to age in place and to self-determination. Stand up to ageism/ableism and say, “I am in control of my life and my destiny and I am going to live my best, independent life.”  LifePath will be right beside you.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorJune is recognized as International Pride Month marking the anniversary of the riot at the Stonewall Inn, in New York City, which led to a global movement for LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Agender) rights and annual Pride marches to build community, increase visibility, and advocate for equal rights. When it comes to civil rights we are thankful to those who have come before us to challenge the societal norms of the day and expand protections to those excluded or marginalized. 

For LGBTQIA+ people, the simple act of coming out of the closet meant (and can still mean) losing one’s family, job, status in society, or even their life. The social isolation of being outside the norm fostered a deep sense of community and support. LGBTQIA+ people relied on one another and helped each other to thrive in adverse conditions. For those who did, the brave act of coming out publicly paved the way for many others to be proud of who they are, and who they love, and come out as well.

Despite the fact that LGBTQIA+ people can marry legally, and the many advances in equal rights over the years, as LGBTQIA+ individuals age, challenges arise with healthcare, housing, and long-term care due to lack of training and understanding of their needs.

This past year is not the first time that LGBTQIA+ elders have faced a pandemic and had to adapt. The AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) crisis was a global pandemic that was not recognized as such due to the populations being affected initially. The actions that LGBTQIA+ activists took to raise awareness led to a push for developments in HIV treatment, and access, and ultimately a worldwide reduction in deaths from AIDS. 

The lessons and experience of the past helped many LGBTQIA+ elders adapt once again.  LifePath’s Rainbow Elders group quickly made the shift to virtual gatherings in March of 2020, and took an intergenerational approach to help participating older adults become more technically savvy. As Massachusetts progresses towards reopening, the group is considering a hybrid model in order to continue to include older adults  who are homebound, or otherwise cannot attend live events. Click here to learn more about Rainbow Elders events.

Despite the fact that LGBTQIA+ people can marry legally, and the many advances in equal rights over the years, as LGBTQIA+ individuals age, challenges arise with healthcare, housing, and long-term care due to lack of training and understanding of their needs. To begin to address this, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, in 2018, signed into law “An Act Relative to LGBTQIA+ Awareness Training for Aging Services Providers.” The first-in-the-nation law will require that all state funded or licensed providers of services complete training in how to provide meaningful care to LGBTQIA+ individuals and ensure that they can access services. Training is underway but there is still a long way to go in this area to recognize unique needs and provide relevant care with dignity and respect. 

Beginning in June, LifePath’s Healthy Living program is launching a 7 week course “Living Well as LGBTQIA+ Older Adults with Long-Term Health Conditions.”  This free, remote workshop will be led by two LGBTQIA+ leaders, who are also challenged by chronic conditions, and will be held Tuesdays, June 22–August 3, 1–3:30 p.m.

Over the past year one thing we have all learned is that we are all in this together, despite our differences.  If you are LGBTQIA+ or know someone who is, please take inspiration from the easing of the pandemic restrictions to reach out and support one another, whether there is a pandemic or not. We will all benefit from a supportive community.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorAs I reflect on this past year, there is much heartache to hold with all the COVID related suffering and losses, but what stands out is an overwhelming sense of gratitude and hope created by the goodness of the human spirit. At LifePath, we have experienced the outpouring of care and courage, and selflessness and generosity, manifested by the many volunteers who have stepped up to attend to the needs of our community. 

April’s National Volunteer Week, as recognized by the Points of Light organization, “is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities, and to be a force that transforms the world.” Our tradition of bringing volunteers together at LifePath to honor their contributions was not possible this year and instead, we offer our   expressions of gratitude from a distance.

Over 200 individuals, looking for opportunities and a sense of purpose with the intent of making a difference, responded to our call to action to fortify our service offerings. 

Dedicated volunteers give of their time, energy, compassion, and passion.  As a mainstay of many of LifePath’s programs, those they serve are healthier, safer, happier, and far less isolated as a result of volunteer  interventions.  Whether it is a Meals on Wheels driver providing a nutritious meal and a wellness check, a Rides for Health volunteer transporting someone to a medical appointment, a Money Management volunteer assisting with bill paying, or a SHINE volunteer providing access to vitally needed health insurance, volunteers truly save lives by doing what they do.

Volunteer efforts gave rise to new COVID related programs and initiatives.  Over 200 individuals, looking for opportunities and a sense of purpose with the intent of making a difference, responded to our call to action to fortify our service offerings.  Volunteer seamsters made hundreds of face coverings, packed thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), and provided grocery shopping and prescription pick up and delivery to those unable to leave their homes.  

Loneliness and isolation, a chronic challenge for many older adults, was further intensified by the forced physical seclusion from neighbors, friends, and family.  Caring and attentive Phone Pal volunteers continue to enhance the physical and emotional health of program participants through their weekly social calls and wellness checks.  Video conferencing is yet another way we have maintained connectivity, and technology crackerjacks have gone to homes to provide hardware installations, training, and support to those interested in learning computer skills and accessing the internet. 

As we are finally turning the corner on COVID, LifePath’s volunteer-based Vaccination Access Program (VAP) is a resource that offers assistance scheduling appointments for those who do not have internet access, provides transportation to vaccination appointments, and arranges in-home vaccinations for  individuals not able to leave their homes.  Retired health care professionals are enthusiastically volunteering to assist in getting shots into arms and providing post-vaccination monitoring for potential adverse reactions.

Today, Saturday, May 1, marks a specific day that leans on the work of volunteers. It is LifePath’s 29th annual Walkathon, for which volunteer teams and individual fundraisers put efforts forward in support of LifePath’s work and those we serve. We are so fortunate to have this particular group of volunteers step up to ask their family and friends to make donations to LifePath because of their belief in the resource LifePath is to the community.  Thank you!

LifePath’s volunteer efforts will continue to thrive beyond this pandemic. Our volunteer force far outnumbers our employee numbers, and their incredible work fills the gaps in services we truly could not provide without their steadfast dedication.  We appreciate and depend upon their willingness to generously give of themselves, their time, skills, and talents.  Please consider joining this amazing team of volunteers.  Whether it is face-to-face interactions, phone work, delivering meals, advocacy, or providing office support to further our operations, we will connect you with meaningful work which is right for you.  Contact LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, ext. 1230, to speak with a Resource Consultant, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorThe COVID-19 pandemic has touched almost every human on the planet in some way or another. None have been more continuously affected than COVID-19 facing Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses and support staff. Despite the slow decline in infection rates and the promise of vaccination, ICU nurses and support staff continue to face suffering and death with regularity.

Family members, insatiable in their hunger for updates, depend on these nurses for glimmers of hope to soothe both their pains of worry and heartache, and their longing to be with their loved one.

Early on, in response to their commitment, each day thousands of individuals around the world appeared on their terraces and porches or called out their windows to thank and celebrate the health care workers and the first responders. It was an inspiring display of appreciation that they so richly deserve. Yet, here we are, a year later, and these nurses and support staff are still working as hard to save lives and provide care and comfort to COVID-19 patients and their families.

The ICU staff watch as those they bond with struggle and suffer to win small, but significant battles. Some patients find their way back while others succumb to their illness. Family members, insatiable in their hunger for updates, depend on these nurses for glimmers of hope to soothe both their pains of worry and heartache and their longing to be with their loved one. The ICU staff care for their patient’s every need, and as their patient passes, they hold their hand and provide them with love and care, as a proxy for family members who are unable to be present. The staff grieve, and then get back to work, only to repeat this again, with someone else and a new distraught family, on another shift. These are the lives of COVID ward ICU nurses and staff, and they are hard.

There are many successes too, where patients find their way back from the ravages of COVID-19 through lifesaving interventions. Much-needed affection and words of encouragement provided by the nurses and staff go hand in hand with their medical treatments. These acts are powerful, and invaluable to the recovery process.

Outside of their ICU shift, others might not know what they do, or how the pandemic has changed them. They go about their ordinary lives, interacting with family, grocery shopping, and finding safe ways to be with their loved ones. Their commitment and persistence is admirable, and I am so very thankful for all that they are doing and will continue to do until we are free from this pandemic.

What can we do to help these nurses, and to say “thank you”? We can observe precautions by staying socially distanced, wearing masks, washing hands, and sanitizing often. We can get vaccinated as soon as possible. Once most of us are vaccinated, the infection rate will decline, as will the number of people admitted to the ICU, lightening their burden. Then, these amazing, dedicated people who are holding the gravity of this pandemic in their capable hands will get to rest.