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Susannah Whipps, Representative - 2nd Franklin DistrictSusannah Whipps, Representative - 2nd Franklin DistrictI’m writing this at my kitchen table. Normally I’d be sitting in my office at the historic Massachusetts State House where I have a view of the Golden Dome from my office - if you stand on the window sill and crick your neck a bit. Since March and this pandemic, I’ve only traveled to the State House on weekends to pick up my mail. It’s a strange feeling to pull into the garage under the building and see no other cars. Even more strange to walk the empty halls which are usually full of hustle and bustle; lobbyists, visitors, demonstrators, tourists, and colleagues. Last weekend the only folks I saw were a few rangers.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately worried about our senior citizens, many of whom live alone.

The legislators continue to file bills and work remotely. Usually by this time of year we have a budget completed and on the governor’s desk. Not this year. We currently are working on a 1/12 budget to carry us through July, the first month of the fiscal year. We’ll most likely do this for the next few months until we can grasp what revenue in the upcoming year will look like.

I’m definitely saving on hours commuted, which is good as I’ve been needed in my district. When the stay at home advisory was announced, our office began taking calls the likes of which we have never seen. Constituent services have always been the most important part of this position. The number of unemployment claims filed started to grow exponentially. Our email inboxes and voicemail would fill up as soon as we emptied them. My legislative aide Rachel and I serve as the “go-between” for our constituents to many state agencies, but the vast majority of the calls in recent months have been regarding unemployment claims. The process is new to many people who for the first time in their lives find themselves without a job. The administration worked to expand their capacity and increase the number of people to process claims as quickly as possible. We still take calls every day from people looking for assistance and guidance as they navigate various programs and we’re always happy to help.

Beyond the financial distress COVID-19 has caused, I’ve noticed a great deal of emotional distress. Many of my friends haven’t been able to visit with or hug loved ones, especially those who live in assisted living or nursing homes. Kids are missing their friends, teachers, and staff from their schools. High school seniors missed proms, graduations, and parties. I applaud the creativity of some folks who have organized parades and ‘no-contact, socially distant’ celebrations, but it’s just not the same. My niece, who is expecting her first child any day now, had a ‘drive-by’ baby shower. I ordered a gift locally, paid for it online, picked it up curbside, drove to their location, and tossed it out the window of my car at the expectant parents as I sped through the driveway.

Desmond Tutu once said, “A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.” I’ve spent a lot of time lately worried about our senior citizens, many of whom live alone. Many of whom rely on their local senior centers and LifePath’s congregate meal sites. To them it’s not just lunch. It’s sharing. It’s socializing. It’s being human. When speaking with Tracy Gaudet of the Orange Senior Center, she said, “These folks are my family,” and I believe all of the people who work at our region’s COAs feel the same way.

We all understand that state closures and stay at home advisories had to happen to protect our Greatest Generation, but even before COVID-19 there were numerous studies about social isolation and loneliness in our senior population. Loneliness and isolation affect physical health. Some research suggests that isolation in senior citizens is linked to poor eating habits, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. LifePath, and many similar organizations who have Meals on Wheels programs, are combatting this by not only delivering nutritious meals to our seniors, but also providing an important welfare check on their clients. That delivery person might be the only personal interaction a senior has for several days or even longer. I’m so grateful for everyone who does this vital work for our communities.

As we move forward and start to inch our way through reopening the Commonwealth, I ask you all to think about your neighbors. A simple phone call or card could really brighten someone’s day and if you are struggling with this strange “new normal,” please reach out for assistance. LifePath can make referrals to resources, as can your local councils on aging, or feel free to give my office a call at (978) 895-9606. I serve the towns of Athol, Belchertown (A), Erving, Gill, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Templeton, Warwick, and Wendell.

In closing, I want to thank all of the folks who have been working throughout this difficult time. As I travel this district, I continue to see the very best in people. The teams providing services to our local seniors have risen to the occasion. The volunteers at our local food pantries have worked non-stop to assist those experiencing food insecurity. Our state and municipal employees have done their very best to serve all citizens and have worked to keep people safe and informed.

colorful cartons of different types of berries and tomatoesCraving some fresh zucchini or ripe strawberries? LifePath will be distributing 625 free farmer’s market coupon booklets worth $25 each. One of these coupon booklets could be yours! The coupons are a part of a program from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, designed to help elders get fresh, local fruits and vegetables and to help local farmers sell more produce. In order to be eligible for the coupon booklets, you must be at least 60 years old and earn $23,606 or less as an individual or $31,894 or less as a couple. For each additional family member please add $8,288 to the income limit. You will need to sign your name to attest that you meet the criteria to receive a coupon booklet. You do not need to attend a senior center or participate in any other programs to be eligible.

LifePath will be distributing 625 free farmer’s market coupon booklets worth $25 each.

Each booklet contains 10 coupons worth $2.50 each. Please note no cash can be given as change, so you may want to bring small bills and coins so you can pay the difference instead of using only part of the value of a second coupon. Coupons will only be accepted by participating farmers at farmer’s markets or farm stands. Please check with each vendor to find out if they accept the coupons. The coupons do not expire until October 31, 2020. Each person can only receive one coupon booklet per year. You can use your coupons to buy fruits, vegetables, fresh-cut herbs, and honey. Other types of items for sale at the markets cannot be purchased with the coupons.

Coupon booklets will be available at the following locations, outside the buildings, on the dates specified:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

  • Athol Senior Center, 82 Freedom St., Athol, MA – 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Orange Senior Center, 135 East Main St., Orange, MA – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Senior Center, Shelburne, 7 Main St., Shelburne Falls, MA – 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

  • Greenfield Senior Center, 35 Pleasant St., Greenfield, MA – 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

  • Gill/Montague Senior Center, 62 5th St., Turners Falls, MA – 10:30 am to 12:00 noon
  • Erving Fire Station #2, 18 Moore St., Erving, MA – 12 noon to 2:00 p.m.
  • Northfield Senior Center, 69 Main St., Northfield, MA – 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon
  • Bernardston Senior Center, 20 Church St., Bernardston, MA – 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
  • South Deerfield, Town Hall, 8 Conway St., South Deerfield, MA – 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm

Come visit to pick up your coupon booklet for $25 worth of free, local produce! If you have any questions please contact Jane Severance, LifePath’s Nutrition Program Director, at 413-773-5555 x2271 or 978-544-2259 x2271, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

LifePath lifts its voice in concert with the voices speaking out against institutionalized racism. We strive to be heard in a new way in our own community, joining others across our nation. We cannot remain silent while the evidence and terrible consequences of racism continue to amass.

Today, as leaders in our community, we acknowledge these realities:

The current systems of power in our country were designed to preserve and nurture privileges for white people and leave black people with significantly less opportunity and freedom. The destructive impact of white supremacy, dominance, and privilege exists and is prevalent. The effects range from lack of financial and educational opportunities, to violence, imprisonment, and loss of life. Racism touches all institutions, including ours, and we commit to taking an active role in dismantling it.

The destructive impact of white supremacy, dominance, and privilege exists and is prevalent.

This system creates health inequities, in which black people experience worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. Our role in supporting wellbeing, independence, and dignity requires us to work directly to solve health inequities, which means working against racism. We will continue to focus on creating an inclusive and fair system of long-term services and supports, and to be an employer whose practices enable equal opportunity for all.

Working against racism and solving these issues requires a seismic shift in the approaches long taken by local and national leadership within municipalities, law enforcement, schools, hospitals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. This moment presents a tremendous opportunity to educate and capitalize on the love, trust, concern, and common ground that exists in our community to learn and make significant changes that address systemic racism. We want to make our community better, not just for those who have directly experienced the horrific effects of racism, but for everyone.

Please join us with a spirit of hope as we move forward with actions to attend to this difficult work. Getting results will not be quick or easy, but, together with your support, we will succeed and make our community stronger.

Glasses of fresh lemonadeWe have all heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Life has given us all a big lemon in the form of the COVID pandemic, but many RSVP of the Pioneer Valley 55 and older volunteers are busy making lemonade. One of the attractions and satisfactions of volunteering is the ability to use life skills and be creative in pursuit of helping others. This win/win situation is playing out among our 650 volunteers in Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties.

Life has given us all a big lemon in the form of the COVID pandemic, but many RSVP of the Pioneer Valley 55 and older volunteers are busy making lemonade.

Just some examples of those who impact LifePath and its elder clients include a volunteer who helps with database and online assistance for the Healthy Living program. Another, an RSVP Healthy Bones and Balance exercise class leader, cannot lead her class of older adults, but now participates in a weekly walking group. This group recently supported LifePath's 2020 Virtual Walkathon with pledges of over $1,500. Other volunteers are delivering meals to homebound elders while using protective gear and social distancing. All report a sense of satisfaction when being creative and using their time, talent, and experience to make a difference during this period of difficulty.

If you have language skills and want to lead an online workshop in French or Spanish, or if you are making masks at home and can donate them to local organizations, your volunteer time is needed. Can you make social companion calls from home to area homebound elders? Are you interested in becoming a “pen pal” to socially isolated elders? If you answered yes, or want to learn about these opportunities, contact Pat Sicard, RSVP Volunteer Manager for Hampshire and Franklin counties, 413-387-1286, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For Hampden county opportunities, contact Ginger Elliott, 413-387-1296, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Enjoy the lemonade!

Two womenAdults retain all their civil and constitutional rights as they get older.

Adults have the right to be safe. They have a right to live free from abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Adults who can understand the consequences of their actions have the right:

  • To decide where and how they want to live.
  • To make decisions that may be seen as risky or that do not conform to societal norms.
  • To decide whether they want to request, accept, or refuse services.
  • To appoint a person to make health care decisions for them if they become unable to make or communicate informed decisions by signing a health care proxy document. They also have the power to end this proxy’s authority.
  • To appoint a person to assist them with financial transactions by signing a durable power of attorney document. They also have the power to end the power of attorney’s authority.
  • Adults are presumed to be competent (have decision-making capacity). Only a court can find someone lacking in capacity to make decisions. If a court finds an adult lacks the capacity to make decisions, it can appoint a guardian (to make health decisions) or a conservator (to make financial decisions) or it can affirm the power of a health care proxy to continue to make decisions.
  • Adults have the right to an attorney to represent them, for free if they are indigent.
  • Only the judge can decide if an adult’s right to make their own choices will be limited in any way.
  • If a judge decides that a guardian or a conservator must be assigned, or the named health care proxy will continue to serve, they are required to act on the adult’s behalf and in the adult’s best interests.

Adults have a right to choose whether to participate with Protective Services.

  • Mandated reporters have to report suspected abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. A report doesn’t necessarily mean there will be any action taken.
  • Protective Services is mandated to do an assessment of an adult’s situation. However, an adult can refuse to participate in that assessment at any point in the process.
  • An adult can also accept or refuse any proposed action or intervention to help with their situation, as long as they appear to understand the consequence of their actions.

Adults have a right to disagree with their doctors.

  • Adults have the right to leave a skilled nursing facility or hospital against medical advice. (This might affect planning for services in the community and may cause a gap in services.)
  • If a doctor requests the revocation of an adult’s license, the adult has the right to request a driving evaluation with the Department of Motor Vehicles which can determine if they get their license back.
  • A doctor has a right to refuse to prescribe pain medications or refuse to see an adult if they skip appointments.
  • Adults may or may not choose to follow doctor recommendations, may seek a second opinion, and may make their own decisions regarding health care and treatment. Adults have a right to make a choice that could adversely affect their health.

If you live in the community and have questions or concerns about your rights, feel free to contact LifePath’s Information and Caregiver Resource Center at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, extension 1230.

Residents of a Long-Term Care Facility enjoy these rights plus additional protections as required by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. For more information, contact the Ombudsman program at LifePath, at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, extension 2241.