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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

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.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorIt is hard to think about laughter in the winter, during a pandemic. But it is laughter, precisely, that will help us overcome winter blues and the stressors of social isolation, and social distancing. Laughter, much like this virus, is contagious and a good hearty laugh is one of the best tools we have to combat stress and its side effects.

  • Laughter is an antidepressant. Laughter releases the neurotransmitter serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes our mood, our happiness, and our feeling of well-being. It also enables communication between brain cells and nervous system cells, and helps with digestion, eating, and sleeping. 
  • Laughter increases endorphin release in the brain. A study reported in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that 30 minutes of watching funny video clips with friends triggered an opioid release in the thalamus which reduced pain sensation, and increased pain threshold. It also increased pleasurable sensations. 
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Hearty laughter increases oxygen intake.  In turn, higher oxygen intake enriches many organs in the body, which can lead to better functioning. This, coupled with endorphin and neurotransmitter release has an overall effect of boosting the immune system. 
  • Laughter benefits heart health. By decreasing the body’s stress response through endorphin release, laughter has an impact on heart health by having an anti-inflammatory effect. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter increases and then decreases your heart rate and your blood pressure, helping your heart and leaving you feeling relaxed.    
  • Laughing is contagious. If you have been around someone laughing, after a while you end up laughing too even if you don’t know what you are laughing about. An example of this was the very popular segment in the show Laugh In where Goldie Hawn just laughed. As she laughed, viewers at home just started laughing.  Or who can’t remember the song I Love to Laugh from Mary Poppins? You don’t need to be physically together to catch laughter, and laughing together builds strong social bonds. 
  • Laughter flexes the brain. When we hear laughter, our brain goes to work to sort out what kind of laughter it is, where it comes from, where it is directed to, and how to respond to it. According to the National Institutes of Health, all this activity requires inter brain communication, which stimulates neural pathways and thus exercises the brain.
  • Laughter is a key factor in strong relationships. Couples who, in conversation, spent time laughing simultaneously ranked high in global evaluations of relationship quality, closeness, and social support.

Last year, the actor Goldie Hawn issued a laughing challenge on social media asking people to post videos of themselves laughing in order to help ease the stress of the pandemic which yielded lots of videos of people laughing. So think about what makes you laugh. Watch some comedy shows or movies, chat with friends, and find ways to make each other laugh. Or, just start laughing, and keep laughing until you have caught a serious case of the giggles. Have a good snort laugh and boost your mood, your friendships, your immune system, and your overall health.