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The Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) began as a national program, authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1969, to create opportunities for engagement, activity, and growth for older Americans. It became a presence in Hampshire County in 1973, in Franklin County in 1999, and in Hampden County in 2017.  In the course of our 45-year history in the Pioneer Valley, RSVP at different times has functioned as a part of the Hampshire County Action Commission and the United Way. Currently, we are under the umbrella of the Hampshire Council of Governments.

In 2003, RSVP received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community.  In 2010, RSVP was awarded a Programs of National Significance grant to expand our award-winning Healthy Bones & Balance program. In 2018, eight of our volunteers were honored with a President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for completing 4,000 or more hours of service to improve the quality of life here in the Pioneer Valley.

The mission of RSVP has always been to work closely with local organizations to develop interesting volunteer assignments, and to provide mature men and women with a host of service opportunities.  Today, RSVP of the Pioneer Valley partners with more than 60 agencies and almost 650 volunteers to help make our communities grow and prosper.

If you are 55 years or older, whatever your background, skills, and interests, RSVP will match you with a rewarding volunteer opportunity.  Residents of Hampshire and Franklin Counties should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone 413-387-4558 x1; residents of Hampden County should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone 413-387-4558 x5.

Become a part of RSVP history!

Lorraine York-EdbergLorraine York-Edberg

To apply, fill out a simple one-page application.

Medicare buy-in programs, also called Medicare Savings Programs, can help low-income Medicare beneficiaries pay their share of the standard Medicare Part B premium, which is currently $135.50 monthly. Medicare beneficiaries may be eligible for different buy-in programs based on their income and assets.  The three programs are called QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary); SLMB (Specified Low Income Medicare Beneficiary); and QI-1 (Qualified Individuals).

Eligibility Guidelines for these programs are as follows:

  • QMB is at 100% Federal Poverty Level as follows for an
    • Individual $1,041 monthly and less than $7,730 in assets
    • Couple $1,410 monthly and less than $11,600 in assets
  • SLMB is at 120% Federal Poverty Level as follows for an
    • Individual $1,249 monthly and less than $7,730 in assets
    • Couple $1,691 monthly and less than $11,600 in assets
  • QI-1 is at 135% Federal Poverty Level as follows for an
    • Individual $1,406 monthly and less than $7,730 in assets
    • Couple $1,872 monthly and less than $11,600 in assets

These programs are not subject to estate recovery since January of 2010, so the state will NOT place a lien on your property to recover benefits following your death.

And better still...

If you qualify for any of the three Medicare Savings programs, you will also automatically qualify for a full subsidy under the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS), which is also known as "Extra Help."  This program will pay the monthly premiums for your Part D plan, provided you are enrolled in a qualified plan.  The LIS will also assist with covering drugs during the Part D deductible and coverage gap.

If you are eligible as a Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), this program will pay for your Part A (hospital insurance) deductible and Part B annual deductible of $185 annually.  The 2019 Part B standard premium is currently $135.50 monthly, and the hospital deductible is $1,364 for each hospitalization.

If you are eligible as a Specified Low Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) or the Qualified Individual Medicare Beneficiary (Q I-1), this program will pay for your Part B (medical insurance) premium.

To apply, it is a one-page application, and simple to fill out.  To get this application, you can contact MassHealth at 1-800-841-2900 and request the Medicare Buy-In application, and they can send it to you.  We also have applications available here at the regional SHINE office upon request. If you need assistance filling it out, we are happy to assist.

The SHINE program (Serving Health Information Needs of Everyone…on Medicare), provides free, confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries.  To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the Regional Office at LifePath at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555, or contact your local Council on Aging.

Attorney Lisa L. HalbertAttorney Lisa L. Halbert, Northampton, 413-584-1287A friend of mine recently referred to estate planning attorneys as “professional pessimists.” As a self-described cheerful person, it stung a bit to be called a pessimist. But while the remark wasn’t personal, it was accurate. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we estate planning attorneys would do well to consider our “pessimism” a vitally important part of our profession.

It’s true, we ask clients hard questions. We ask about illness, we ask about end-of-life, we ask about finances, family relationships, hopes, dreams, and expectations. Then, we work to plan for preferences and likely circumstances, while simultaneously trying to anticipate and plan for the unexpected.

A properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney document is one of the most important elements of estate planning. New clients often tell me they do not want Durable Powers of Attorney, because all their assets are jointly owned. While joint ownership of assets is sometimes desirable in estate planning, such designations do not replace the authority of a Durable Power of Attorney, which allows for transfers during lifetime.

Consider this common pattern: Two spouses are married and own their home. They want their estate plan to provide for the survivor between them, and then for their children. They also want to avoid spending their savings on end-of-life care. One spouse is older and ill, with the other spouse providing care for the first. They ask for Wills leaving all their assets to each other.

But I, now a Proud Professional Pessimist, must protect them by playing the “what if” game. What if the older spouse needs a nursing home? What if the younger spouse happens to die first? Without the proverbial “crystal ball” to tell us exactly what will happen and when, we run the risk that either or both spouses may require expensive (and potentially long-term) care in a nursing home setting, thereby jeopardizing assets they had hoped to leave behind for their children.

In a situation like this, the flexibility of the Durable Power of Attorney document is invaluable. The Agent named in a Durable Power of Attorney has the ability to transfer any and all assets, including the spousal home. Additionally, a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney will allow the Agent to act quickly and in real time, as specific needs arise. Depending on each unique situation, this may mean transferring assets to or away from a spouse with a terminal illness, or in some cases transferring assets directly to children or loved ones.

These procedures are not appropriate for every situation, and naming an Agent to take charge of family assets requires very careful consideration. But when illness or infirmity strikes, and minds or bodies might no longer be capable, the Durable Power of Attorney document offers important protections.

Attorney Lisa L. Halbert practices law with the regional firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C. Lisa focuses her practice on all aspects of asset protection, including estate, tax, and long-term care planning, together with matters related to trusts and estates, probate, guardianship, and conservatorship. Lisa works primarily from Bacon Wilson’s Northampton location, and may be reached at 413-584-1287, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The views expressed in this column represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs, consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311. Elder law resources may be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Massachusetts Chapter, at massnaela.com or 617-566-5640.

Community Legal Aid (CLA) provides legal services free to people age 60 and older for civil legal matters with an emphasis on access to health care coverage (MassHealth and Medicare) and public benefits, as well as tenants’ rights. A request for legal assistance can be made by phone at 413-774-3747 or toll-free 1-855-252-5342 during their intake hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.) or any time online by visiting www.communitylegal.org.

Poet's Seat team at the 2018 Meals on Wheels WalkathonPoet's Seat team at the 2018 Meals on Wheels WalkathonFor the past 10 years, Poet’s Seat Health Care Center has consistently appeared on lists of walkers and supporters of LifePath’s annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon, now in its 27th year.

“We and our residents look forward to joining the Walkathon again in 2019,” shared Poet’s Seat Health Care Center walkathon team member and Human Resources Director Marjorie Huslander, as they gear up for the April 27th event.

They appreciate the service LifePath’s Meals on Wheels provides and are happy to support fundraising efforts. Plus, employees have a competitive spirit, so capitalizing on that has been helpful and fun. She also points out that this support of elders feels like a true extension of their own philosophy of providing care at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center, and it brings awareness to the needs of many in the community while offering an opportunity to contribute.

“This support of elders feels like a true extension of their own philosophy of providing care at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center.”

At LifePath, we are fortunate, year after year, to have dedicated teams like the one from Poet’s Seat Health Care Center return to participate in our largest fundraiser of the year.

Join Poet’s Seat Health Care Center and the other 35 teams we will welcome back this year by forming your own team to fundraise in support of our Meals on Wheels and congregate dining centers.

More information and pledge forms may be found online.  For question, please contact Carol Foote, Development Director, at 413-773-5555 x2225 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laurie DeskavichLaurie DeskavichDecluttering and downsizing can be overwhelming. Whether it’s to move from a family home to a small apartment, into an assisted living facility, or for some other reason, the task at hand can be challenging for all those involved.

Q: When I want to declutter my home or helped a loved one, where do I begin?

A: It is important to recognize that although this task is necessary, it can be emotionally and physically draining. Remember that there may be items that you or your loved one cherish and need to keep. Start slow, and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.

Begin by identifying your possessions into categories, such as:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Discard

Have a system for identifying which category each item belongs in. This is also a perfect time to designate or give items to loved ones.

“Start slow and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.”

The Family Care Alliance at www.caregiver.org encourages those helping another with the process to “be patient and allow time at this stage for your [loved one] to talk about memories, to reminisce about family activities or relatives no longer with you, to acknowledge emotions. This can be a nice opportunity for you both to remember the stories and incidents that are part of your history and that make each family unique.”

Decide what paperwork is important to keep, and shred what is no longer relevant. Pack photos and go through them at a later date, as this takes time and may be emotional.

Then begin the process of donating, selling and discarding the items. There may be items you wish to have appraised if the value is not known. You may want to contact estate sale companies or consignment shops, or hold a yard sale to sell items. Contact local charities for them to pick the items you wish to donate.

People who feel overwhelmed by clutter and do not know where to begin may not be ready for the steps outlined above. Fortunately, there are programs available to help people feel more ready to declutter. For local resources, reach out to the Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath: call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit LifePathMA.org.