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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorWe, as an agency, continue our commitment to combating systemic racism and fostering multicultural growth, equity, and inclusion. While LifePath had previously been involved in diversity initiatives, our renewed investment began in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, when taking action against racism was explicitly named as our primary focus. We came together at that time to engage in discussions, learn from one another, and raise our personal and collective awareness. We began our journey through a series of anti-racism trainings, which provided the insight and recognition to begin a lifelong commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization. 

According to Anneliese Singh, PhD, anti-racism/social justice scholar, “The term ‘antiracist’ refers to people who are actively seeking to not only raise their consciousness about race and racism, but also take action when they see racial power inequities in everyday life.” Our anti-racism work has united staff, volunteers, and our board of directors in our commitment to social justice. As an organization providing care, we look to dismantle systems of inequity and combat racism as a barrier to health care and home care. We strive to provide access, resources, and safety, while empowering those who have been historically disenfranchised.  

Though our learning has been significant, we are still in our infancy with much work ahead. As stated by United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, “Wherever we see racism, we must condemn it without reservation, without hesitation, without qualification.” We must interrogate our established systems and make necessary transformational changes to weave diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into the fabric of LifePath. We will continue to build our framework, looking to achieve our goals through education, outreach, and examining our personnel and programmatic policies through an equity lens.

Wherever we see racism, we must condemn it without reservation, without hesitation, without qualification.

Ongoing training and education will provide staff and volunteers with the necessary tools to develop self-awareness and insight. From the point of initial onboarding onward, staff and volunteers will have the opportunity to develop their foundational knowledge and skills. Curriculum inclusive of understanding bias, microaggressions, white supremacy, and white privilege will help us move towards more equitable engagement.

We strive to diversify our staff and volunteers to better reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of our region. Sharing of cultures both in our organization and community will foster greater cultural competency and build bridges for enhancing trust and familiarity. We are confident that growing our multicultural and multilingual capacities will provide a more welcoming environment for staff and volunteers who will, in turn, deliver culturally-appropriate services to members of our community. 

One of our next steps will be to create a code of conduct to articulate and uphold our guiding principle of fairness and respect for all. We will look to other organizations who have created guiding statements to provide protections against bias and discrimination. For example, Mass General Brigham, Massachusetts’ largest hospital system, recently implemented a code of conduct which does not allow offensive remarks about race, accent, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal traits. Mark Murphy, Mass General Brigham spokesman, said the code of conduct was developed in response to the national rise in violence and hostile behavior at health care facilities. He states, “Just as we strive to provide the best clinical care and experience possible, Mass General Brigham aims to be a safe, welcoming environment for both our patients and our staff.”

LifePath’s code of conduct will provide guidelines regarding acceptable behaviors and treatment to ensure respect and safety for individuals in all instances. LifePath will look to build protections for staff, volunteers, vendors, and those we serve. Such a policy will safeguard against offensive comments, threats, inappropriate behaviors, and refusal to engage with someone based on personal traits. Situations which fall outside of what is considered acceptable behavior will be reviewed with the hope that training and education will positively impact the situation so that care can continue in a respectful manner for all involved.

Community engagement is essential to effectively work against racism, prejudice, and inequality. We look to partner with organizations in our region with shared missions as well as extend our efforts to those we serve. To address racism in a meaningful way, consider exploring the different ways racism manifests and look to take action to create change. There is an abundance of resources available to educate yourself about racism and its impacts. Here is a list of recommendations to get started and join us in this intentional work. 

Learning to be anti-racist requires an ongoing commitment to analyzing and evaluating your own personal beliefs, but learning is only part of the picture. What steps can you take to combat racism and promote equity and inclusion? At first, this may seem like an insurmountable question, but upon further consideration there are many ways to start taking concrete steps towards being anti-racist. Act with intention; anti-racism requires a conscious decision to pursue it as a goal and way of being. Be courageous and vulnerable in the face of the shame, blame, guilt, or anger that often surfaces during the learning journey. Approach situations with humanity and empathy to break down the “us vs. them” divide. Lastly, be an ally; take on this struggle as if it is your own. Through our collective actions, we can embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging not just as a cause, but as a way of life.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorIt seems like everywhere you go today, you find “help wanted” signs. From stores, to restaurants, to doctor’s offices and local municipalities, the national labor shortage continues to impact a wide array of industries and occupations. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 47 million workers left their jobs in 2021, many of whom were in search of an improved work-life balance, greater flexibility or work from home options, and increased compensation.

Sadly, this labor shortage has not spared older adults and people with disabilities who need in-home support to be able to live and age in their home. Sarah Leimberer, LifePath Home Care Supervisor, reports, “One of the biggest barriers we’ve seen recently assisting elders age in place is getting consistent care . . . We’ve had people staying in nursing facilities much longer than they would, just because we’re unable to find that coverage, to find that care at home.”

"It's very sacred work for me. It's really a blessing to be of service, truly of service, to another human being."

-Sue Pratt, Executive Director, The Care Collaborative Executive Director

Consider your own town or neighborhood. Are there individuals you know that would be unable to remain active members of the community if they lacked family or other formal and informal support systems that allow them to stay safely in their homes? Perhaps you have even experienced the importance of in-home care yourself.

Home Care Workers often form very deep and meaningful relationships with individuals they assist. They are welcomed into homes, many times like members of the family, to provide essential services that allow older adults and people with disabilities to make decisions about how they live and be a part of their communities. The tasks Home Care Workers help with, such as bathing, dressing, getting out of bed, meal preparation, housework, laundry, and shopping, are critical to supporting health and safety. The majority of Home Care Workers report a deep sense of fulfillment and job satisfaction knowing that they are empowering the individuals in their care to live and age as they choose.

Are you retired or seeking part-time work, in search of a sense of purpose, or have a desire to be more involved in your community? Perhaps you have a family member, friend, or neighbor who is looking for a new career path and would enjoy this wonderful way to serve the community while also getting paid for rewarding work. It only takes a few hours a week to make a huge impact in someone’s life. Home Care Workers are well trained, can schedule hours around other commitments or responsibilities, and are an integral part of an individual's care team. Please consider becoming a Home Care Worker and help spread the word that Home Care Workers are vitally needed in our area, now more than ever.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive Director

As much of our region experiences its first whispers of winter, it’s wise to take time to prepare yourself for the months to come. For many, this means thinking about tangible steps such as insulating and heating your home; getting out winter coats, boots and shovels; and stocking up on sand for icy sidewalks. While New England winters bring the splendor and peace of fresh fallen snow and crisp sunny days, it’s also important to prepare for the less tangible effects of winter, like those on your mood and mental well-being.

Approximately 10-20% of the American population experience “the winter blues,” noting lower energy levels, mild lethargy, and feelings of sadness during colder months. Another 4-6% experience more severe symptoms associated with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), including episodes of depression, sleep disturbances, extreme fatigue, over or under eating, irritability, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms oftentimes begin in the fall, extend through the winter, and abate during the sunnier days of the spring and summer. Triggering factors for SAD and winter blues are shorter days and overcast weather, both of which lead to a lack of sun exposure and vitamin D deficiency. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD occurs more often in women than in men, but men’s symptoms can be more severe. Medical experts urge everyone to make a plan to help keep the blues at bay.

Let the light in: When the sun comes out, take full advantage by opening up the curtains and sitting in its warmth inside. This will help boost vitamin D production. When the dark skies abound, use full spectrum light bulbs to brighten your home. Light therapy has also been shown to increase positive mood.

A woman exercises outdoors in the winterIf you are able, bundle up and go outside.Activity: Activity is good for the mind, body and soul. If you are able, bundle up and go outside. Find ways to be in and enjoy nature, take a stroll through the park or neighborhood, a hike in the woods, eye the greenery outside your window, or cultivate plants in your home. If the weather is an obstacle, consider a yoga or exercise class at your local Y, gym, or senior center, or participate in online opportunities. Start your wellness today by visiting LifePath’s YouTube channel for our Healthy Living Home Workout Playlist. Reaping the many benefits of exercise can prevent or delay health problems, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve self-esteem and cognitive functioning throughout the winter and beyond.

Schedule: Are there hobbies or winter projects you want to consider? It is helpful to spend time contemplating what activities you find to be most meaningful, healthful, and joyful, and arrange your day accordingly. Unstructured time can lead to a sense of purposelessness, so create a list of tasks and a schedule, and maintain routines since they can help keep your mood stable and foster a sense of accomplishment.

Diet: Although the sun is the best source for vitamin D, foods such as salmon, oysters, eggs, mushrooms, fortified cereals, tofu, and orange juice are ideal for boosting vitamin D. For some, the best way to get enough vitamin D is by taking a supplement. Be sure to drink plenty of water as older adults are susceptible to dehydration due to a diminished thirst sensation and a decline in the amount of water stored in the body.

Sleep: Good sleep hygiene can help you have a restful night. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake, go to bed and get up at the same time each day, avoid the blue lights created by television and computer screens, and practice calming rituals such as taking a warm bath, listening to music, or reading a book.

Socialization: Winter can bring fewer social events, and an increased sense of loneliness and isolation. Call a friend or family member to catch up or reach out to a neighbor who might benefit from a check-in. Avoid canceling plans if you are feeling down and consider ways to make new connections.

Volunteering: Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and belonging, keeps us involved in the community, and is a way to put our skills and knowledge to good use. LifePath offers opportunities which don’t require leaving your home, such as our Phone Pals program—or you can provide support driving others to medical appointments, assisting with grocery shopping or home repairs, offering benefits and insurance counseling, advocating for nursing facility residents, providing office support, helping with money management, or delivering Meals on Wheels.

It’s also important to prepare for the less tangible effects of winter, like those on your mood and mental well-being.

Wellness and reflection: The winter months are a good time to take whatever steps you can to optimize your well-being. Meditation and journaling are effective ways to reflect upon your present state of being and recognize when you are experiencing feelings such as sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. Seek help from a loved one, your primary care physician, or a mental health professional; or consider other resources such as support groups, peer counselors, or your faith community.

If you find yourself struggling with coping this winter, consider contacting LifePath’s Elder Mental Health Outreach Team which serves older adults whose challenges are impacting their emotional well-being, or participating in a Healthy Living Workshop, where you can make new connections and get support. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please call LifePath and speak with a Resource Consultant at 413-773-5555, X1230; 978-544-2259, X1230; or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We are here to help! If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call 988.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorThe U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of individuals over 75 years of age who are either working or actively looking for work will grow 96.5% by 2030. Those over 75 are the only age group whose labor force participation rate is projected to rise in the next 8 years. This can be attributed in part to the fact that the American population, as a whole, is shifting towards higher numbers of older adults, but the numbers also show that a higher percentage of the older adult population is returning to the workplace. Retirement is often the goal of one’s entire professional life, so why are we seeing so many retirees reentering the workforce?

Many choose to go back to work because of the emotional, psychological, or financial benefits that come along with having a job. A job provides daily structure, social connections, and a sense of purpose or responsibility that is lost for some, when they enter retirement. A 2022 survey conducted by Joblist found that 60% of surveyed returning retirees were primarily “looking for something to do,” and 53% reported being happy about going back to work. Today’s gig economy and heightened focus on hybrid/remote work has made reentering the workforce more appealing for older adults. Returning to work no longer means a daily commute and 9-5 hours. Gig opportunities such as Airbnb, Uber driving, or freelancing, allow older adults to work on their own terms, and many employers now offer hybrid or fully remote positions for those wishing to work from the comfort of their homes.

However, for some, returning to work doesn’t feel like a choice, it’s a necessity. According to a Kaiser Family foundation analysis, approximately 1 in 3 adults age 65 or older are economically insecure. A decades-high inflation rate has people paying higher prices at the gas pump, in grocery stores, and for home utilities, all while the falling stock market has impacted those with 401(k) retirement plans.

Whereas over 2 million workers entered retirement during the first 18 months of the pandemic, according to Forbes, many are ‘quietly returning’ to the workplace. Others are opting to forestall retirement due to looming financial concerns.

According to a Kaiser Family foundation analysis, approximately 1 in 3 adults age 65 or older are economically insecure.

Nationwide, with more than 10 million job openings, there are currently close to 2 jobs available for every unemployed adult. The longstanding notion, established during the depression, that older workers should step aside to make room for younger workers is fading. Yet, according to AARP, nearly 80% of older workers in 2022, report they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. This is the highest share since the group began asking the question in 2003. Age discrimination in the workplace manifests in job eliminations, in promotions, and in job advertisements.

Zippia, an online career expert, identifies some of the most common ageist stereotypes related to people over the age of 50. These assumptions include that older adults are difficult to manage, resistant to change, technophobic, and less innovative. As is typically true with negative stereotypes, these notions are based on false assumptions and beliefs about aging and ability.

Contrary to these beliefs, Zippia’s performance indicators have scientifically shown that “age does not correlate with ability, intellectual function, creativity, interest, or overall performance. What’s more, older workers do not cost significantly more than younger workers, and age-diverse teams are often more productive, improve organizational performance, and reduce employee turnover.”

Older adults looking to return to work might consider some of the following tips to strengthen skills and address ageism in the workplace:

  • To learn new technology skills, seek out free content from YouTube and other online sites, including direct contact with tech and software providers. Many free courses are available online, at community colleges, and extended learning programs as well.
  • Engage with employment services for job placement and resume support.
  • Role play interviewing ahead of time with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Don’t focus on what skills you might be lacking or underestimate the skill set you have acquired.
  • Showcase your wisdom and your work history.
  • If you suspect a hiring manager is concerned about your age, be proactive and indicate the software you have worked with.
  • If a hiring manager has concerns that you are overqualified and may leave for a better job, indicate the position is not a stepping stone, and is ideal for what you are looking for at this point in your life.

Here are a few of the many resources offering support for older job seekers, available both online and locally:

  • The National Council on Aging (NCOA) offers JobSource, which helps older adults find employment by helping users to define their skills and interests through free online courses to develop skills and earn free job certifications. The site provides resources and tips for the job search, successful resume and cover letter writing, and interview preparation to help older adults land the right job.
  • Hundreds of employers are advertising jobs on AARP’s website.
  • The MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center provides employment and training services at no charge to job seekers and employers in Franklin County, Hampshire County, and the North Quabbin area.

For more information about employment resources and opportunities, please call LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, and ask to speak with a Resource Consultant, 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 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.