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17 June 2016
Henry Allen, North Shore Folklore Theatre Company
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Everyone has a story. Telling our stories can be a healing, life affirming act.  Hearing stories, or better yet, experiencing them through theatre, can be transformative.

Henry Allen is the founding Director of North Shore Folklore Theatre Company. He understands the transformational power of storytelling, of preserving history, and the role that theater plays.

Allen’s own story is quite remarkable. His ability to share it with warmth, humility, and love creates a space made of sincerity that can hold tender truths.

Allen came to the North Shore via Minnesota where he was raising his son Cameron as a single dad. Tragedy struck his family in 2006. Cameron was diagnosed with brain cancer. Two years later, in 2008, Cameron died. Devastated, Allen packed up and headed East to Massachusetts’ Cape Ann. But it was not random.

When Allen was younger he attended classes at the Art Institute of Boston. A teacher suggested he visit Gloucester to take note of its beauty. After a few hours visiting Gloucester, Allen knew one day he’d be back. As a matter of fact he and Camron often spoke of eventually making Gloucester their home. To honor that memory, as well as a deep inner calling, Allen came to Gloucester.

With deep conviction Allen says, “I didn’t choose Gloucester, Gloucester Chose me.”

Allen found a place to live in Manchester before he settled in Gloucester. “I didn’t go looking for how I could make a living,” he says. His approach to life in Cape Ann and Gloucester came from the question “how can I best serve this community?”

With a yearning to help others born of grief, an MFA from the National Theater Conservatory, and an interest in education through the arts Allen deeply considered this question. He discovered that despite its rich, tapestried history Gloucester did not have a theatre to capture and hold its historic stories. So with the support of the community Allen moved to Gloucester in 2011 and opened the Cape Ann, a unique folkloric theatre company that quickly became known as “The Annie.”

The Annie’s first production was Greasy Pole, The Musical. It was a great risk to capture the meaning and history of this great Gloucester tradition, but it was well received and honored for its authenticity.

The theater has become the community’s vault to not just hold Gloucester’s historic and present narratives, but to give them three-dimensional, living form.

The theatre also opens its arms to the precious, individual stories we all hold.  “The theatre has the power to give permission to people to tell their stories,” says Allen.

And that is what the now named Folklore Theater Company is doing. “We always do a talk back after each performance. Stories would come to light, people would confess their stories, testify publically. It’s happened with every show that we’ve done,” says Allen.

For the fifth year running, Greasy Pole, The Musical is back by popular demand. It will be running from June 17 – July 3. Go to to purchase tickets. Admission is always a suggested donation: $10-$30 per ticket. Or you can buy season tickets for a subscription of $15 a month. The theater offers 4-5 productions each year.

“No one is ever turned away,” says Allen. “It’s most important to just show up.”

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM | Link
10 June 2016
National Men’s Health Week
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

National Men’s Health Week is June 13- 19, 2016.

Men! It is that time of year that the CDC suggests you review how you are caring for your health and take action to be healthier and safer.

Most people know that women live longer than men. But why is that and what can you do about it?

Men experience both biological and sociological disadvantages when it comes to longevity:

  • Biologically it starts early. Many scientists believe that more male embryos are produced than female, but less male embryos survive.
  • Men tend to exhibit riskier behaviors than women: unintentional injuries is the third leading cause of death in men (the sixth leading cause for women).
  • Males are more likely to die of heart disease before the age of 50 than women.
  • Studies show that women have stronger social networks. Studies show that people with strong social connections have a 50% less chance of dying young than those with few social ties.
  • Men skip out on recommended screening services at a much great percentage rate than women and men are less likely to get a general checkup.
  • According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women.

There is not much that can be done about the longevity of embryos, that has to be left to the doctors and scientist, but if you are one of the lucky males to be born there is a lot you can do to improve your health.

  • Slow down! What choices are you making and how risky is your behavior? Why are you making the choices you are making? Stop speeding and driving recklessly, on average motor vehicle accidents account for the highest causes of death for all age groups.
  • Protect your heart the best you can. Science seems to say that men are biologically more apt to experience heart disease younger than women. All the more reason to eat heart healthy foods, and exercise regularly.
  • Grab a couple buddies and start a men’s night out. A network of good friends helps you stay healthy longer.
  • Go to the doctor, then follow through with her advice! Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Mental health is very important. What is your family history – is there depression, bipolar, substance abuse, or other mental health issues in the family closet? Mental health checkups are just as important as physical health checkups.

The consensus of most the studies and articles I read is that men, on average, do not take as proactive approach to their health as women, and it shows in the higher level of chronic disease that men live with, and in the life expectancy statistics.

This lack of attention to preventive health care by men has been described as a hidden crisis in men’s health. One doctor anecdotally noted he saw a decline in boy’s visits to their primary care physician as early as mid-to-late adolescence. The primary psychological theory behind this behavior is that men believe health problems threaten their masculinity.

To that I’ve only one thing to say, there is no bigger threat to a man’s masculinity than an early death.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
01 June 2016
World Elder Abuse Awareness Month
SeniorCare is committed to stopping Elder Abuse!

Elder Abuse Awareness Events

Beverly, MA
Saturday, June 11, 2016, 9am-12pm
Beverly City Hall
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Gloucester, MA
Thursday, June 16, 11am-2pm
Fitz Henry Lane lot, Rogers Street, Gloucester
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Rockport, MA
Friday, June 17, 10am-12pm
Five Corners, Rockport
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June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month and June 15, 2016, is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. SeniorCare Inc. and several non-profit and civic organizations are holding special events on Cape Ann and the North Shore to increase awareness of this growing issue in our society.

10,000 people turn 65 in the US every day.  That trend is going to continue for the next 20 years.  Our demographics are shifting, and we will soon have more elder people in the US than ever before.  At the same time that the population is growing, we know that a startling number of elders face abusive conditions.  Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

Elder abuse can be physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, financial, neglect by a caregiver, or self-neglect. Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races. In Massachusetts, an elder is anyone 60 or older.

If you suspect abuse or self-neglect, don’t assume that someone has already reported it. In cases of immediate danger call 911. Otherwise, you can call SeniorCare at 978-281-1750 during business hours or the elder abuse hotline at 800-922-2275 after hours. 

This year, SeniorCare is participating in three rallies to increase awareness of Elder Abuse. The first rally will take place in front of Beverly City Hall on Saturday, June 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Beverly’s event is supported by the Beverly Police Department, HAWC, SeniorCare and the Beverly Council on Aging. 

Gloucester will hold a rally on Thursday, June 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to meet at the flagpole in front of the Gloucester Police Station on Main Street at 11:00 a.m. The rally will march down Main Street, continuing along Rogers Street to the Fitz Henry Lane parking lot (across from Walgreens on the corner of Rogers Street and Harbor Loop).  Following the march, there will be a cookout in the Fitz Henry Lane lot until 2:00 p.m.  Gloucester’s event is supported by the Gloucester Police Department, HAWC and SeniorCare.

Rockport’s “Show You Care” rally will be held on Friday, June 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Five Corners (the intersection of Broadway, Railroad Avenue, and Main Street). This event is supported by the Rockport Police Department, the Rockport Council on Aging and SeniorCare. 

Concerned citizens are invited to participate in any or all of these events. Join SeniorCare and our local safety agencies in bringing light to the horrendous crime of elder abuse. Please stop by to show your support!

SeniorCare is committed to stopping Elder Abuse!

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Safety | Link
27 May 2016
Lee Steele, Folly Cove Designs
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Lee Steele tells me that she and her fellow Folly Cove Designers used to hang out on the rocks. I turn and point to the rocks butting the ocean in her back yard. “Those?” I ask.

“Yes, yes we’d sit on the rocks there,” says Lee.

Lee laughs a lot when telling stories. There is tremendous joy in her spirit.

We sit at a table on the back deck of her house and flip through a November 1945 Life Magazine that featured the Folly Cove Designers. She points out Jinnee in one of the photos.

Virginia Lee Burton, Jinnee, originated Folly Cove Designers as a simple bartering proposition. According to lore, Jinnee traded teaching her neighbor, Aino Clarke, the principles of design if Aino would teach Jinnee’s sons the violin. And so it began. Eventually more and more neighbors became interested and a formality embraced the group.

Jinnee taught design and its principles and was adamant that each person be responsible for the entire project, from its original conception to the carving of the linoleum.

“I carved my first block when I was pregnant with my second child,” says Lee.

The Folly Cove Designers created fabric art including tablecloths, wall hangings, dresser runners, skirts and more.

In 1948, ten years after the first design class, the Folly Cove Designers opened “The Barn” which was a summer retail outlet for the designers.

“You can see the barn from my kitchen porch. Want to see?” Lee says to me. We walk back into the house, through the kitchen, she opens the kitchen door, we step outside and she points across the street.

“We used to set it all up, then sit and have tea on the front lawn as people would come and go,” she says.

Lee, born in August 1925, is one of the youngest of the 45 Folly Cove Designer. When she first considered learning design she wasn’t convinced she could draw. But, it turns out she could. Her first design was of the geraniums in her back yard. “I copied what I saw,” says Lee.

Lee, creative by nature, graduated from Smith College in 1946 with a bachelor degree in music and married Robert Steele the same year. She realized she did not have the commitment and drive to craft a career in music. So she stayed on at Smith and in 1948, received a master’s degree in social work and enjoyed a long career in social work.

As a self-proclaimed “aging hippie” Lee continues her artistic pursuits. She is an avid gardener, she is working on a few writing projects, and prefers the abstract work of silk painting over the detailed work she learned as a Folly Cove Designer print maker.

Much of the work of the Folly Cove Designers can be found at the Cape Ann Museum. According to the Museum, its Folly Cove Collection is the single largest repository of work by this talented group of individuals. The Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM | Link
26 May 2016
Senate Passes Elder Home Care Amendment to Add Near Poor

In one of its final budget votes of Thursday night around 9 pm, the State Senate approved on a voice vote an amendment that increases funding for the state’s elder home care program by just over $1 million, to create a program for elders whose income is just over the limits allowable ​under current eligibility guidelines.
The amendment allows the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to admit elders whose annual income is between $27,015 and $31,066. This includes seniors who “​(i) are unable to afford sufficient unsubsidized home care for their needs; (ii) pose a risk of higher-cost state-provided care in a nursing facility should they be ineligible for home care; or (iii) lose home care eligibility as a result of a spouse’s death;”
Al Norman, the Executive Director of Mass Home Care, said the Senate action “will provide some much needed relief to ‘near poor’ seniors who cannot pay the full cost of home care services on their limited income.” Norman said elders who qualify for this program will pay for some of the cost of their care on a sliding fee basis.
“When we keep an elder living independently at home, we are also saving the taxpayers the cost of keeping them in an institution,” Norman said.

Norman credited Senate President Stan Rosenberg for guiding the amendment to its final passage. “The President has taken a personal interest in looking after the well-being of our seniors.” Norman said.
The measure now goes to a Joint Conference Committee to work out the final provisions of the budget.

Here is the text of the amendment adopted this evening by the Senate:

Further EHS 469.2

Home Care Rates

Ms. Jehlen, Ms. L’Italien, Ms. Lovely and Ms. Chang-Diaz moved that the amendment be amended by striking out the text in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:-

the proposed new text be amended, in section 2, in item 9110-1633, by inserting after the word “provided”, in line 5, the following words:- “, that the secretary of elder affairs shall develop a pilot program to provide home care services to certain persons whose annual income exceeds, by 15 per cent or less, the current income eligibility limit based on regulations promulgated by the secretary; provided further, that such persons may include those who:

(i) are unable to afford sufficient unsubsidized home care for their needs; (ii) pose a risk of higher-cost state-provided care in a nursing facility should they be ineligible for home care; or (iii) lose home care eligibility as a result of a spouse’s death; provided further, that an amount not to exceed $1,075,000 shall be used for the pilot program which shall be allocated between items 9110-1630 and 9110-1633; provided further, the secretary shall report to the house and senate committee on ways and means not later than February 1, 2018 on: (a) caseload and expenditures made from the pilot program; (b) projected cost effectiveness from the piloted population including, but not limited to, estimated savings from reduced medical costs, avoided nursing facility admissions and cost sharing by recipients; and (c) the estimated fiscal impact and cost benefits of expanding home care to all eligible persons whose annual income exceeds the current income eligibility by 15 per cent or less; provided further”; and in said section 2, in said item 9110-1633, by striking out the figure “$51,482,919” and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- “$52,557,919”.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Legistlation | Link
20 May 2016
Willie Alexander, A Legend in the Boston Music Scene
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Willie Alexander, a legend in the Boston Music scene, is a wiry 73 year old with an ageless creative spirit. His commitment to continue producing albums provides the consistent beat of his punk rock fame. 

A humble story of a gifted musician. He was a member of the revered 1960’s Boston band Lost, a keyboardist with The Velvet Underground, he played at the infamous Rathskellar numerous times – immortalizing it with the punk rock hit “At The Rat,” and he toured the United States and Europe with his own Boom Boom Band.

There are many wonderful aspects to Willie’s discography, but one thing woven into most of his lyrics – Gloucester.

Willie grew up in Gloucester. He lived in a house on Washington Square. His father was the minister of the First Baptist Church and his mother a piano player.

“I think I got all my musical talent from my mom,” said Willie.

We were conversing over coffee at the Pleasant Street Tea Company. Willie pointed out the window toward the parking lot on Pleasant Street and said “that’s where the church was,” referring to his dad’s church, which adorns the cover of his 2014 album The East Main Street Suite.

“It was like living in a fish bowl,” recalls Willie. “Parents of friends would always say something like ‘you’re not supposed to do that, you’re the son of a minister.’ I asked the obvious question: did he think he rebelled against being raised by a preacher. He responded with a wry chuckle and a “maybe.”

As a kid Willie remembers walking along the inner harbor and seeing hundreds of small fishing boats. “Those days are gone, and it’s really sad,” recalls Willie. “I remember when I was a boy I’d go to a friend’s house and there’d be this guy standing there with an armful of fish saying ‘we got plenty of them, have some fish.’ I can’t imagine that happening today.”

Willie threw out the suggestion that there may be more artists, writers, and musicians in Gloucester than fisherman these days. Gloucester does have a flair for the arts. It’s a place that is conducive to the creative mind.

In his most recent album, I’ll Be Goode, Willie reminisces about being a Gloucester kid with a delightful imagination in I Can Hear Louise: “So, there I am again/innocently galloping home from the North Shore Theater/Cutting to Middle/via the Woolworths/big two floor Woolworths/at Sterling Drug entrance/to Pleasant Street and the tall trees/in the tall church of the first B/Galloping past the Robinson sisters’ white house on the corner. . .” It’s about galloping home on a pretend horse after watching a cowboy movie at the old North Shore Theater that used to stand where Liquor Locker is now on Main Street. You can purchase Willie’s music at Mystery Train Records or Book Store, both on Main Street, Gloucester.

Willie and his wife Anne Rearick purchased a condo in Gloucester and moved back to his boyhood home in June of 1997.  Willie, now a local legend alongside his larger fame, continues to play at venues in around Gloucester, Cape Ann, and occasionally in Boston.

Willie will be playing at the Gloucester Writers Center, June 18, 2016.

The Gloucester Writers Center is celebrating the opening of the Maud/Olson Library on June 18, 2016, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 108 East Main Street followed by Night at the Tavern. Willie will join other local artists for some live music, poetry, dance and film starting at 7:30 p.m. Check out the calendar at

“I am excited and grateful for the music that passes through me,” says Willie. “I am part of the world famous nonstop seagull opera here in Gloucester. I love music and sounds of all kinds and rhythm.  It’s what holds us all together.”

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM | Link
13 May 2016
Roy Spittle's history of Gloucester
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

It was 1933 in Gloucester and he was 5 years old. He would put his hand in his mother’s, they’d leave by the front door of the house on Washington Street, and together walk to the corner of Commonwealth Avenue. There they would let go of each other’s hand, and she would continue her trek to work at the Tavern on the Harbor, and he’d return to the house. This is Roy Spittle’s earliest memory.

As a boy in the late 1930s, young Roy enjoyed watching the horse-drawn carriage that carried the ice being delivered from house to house. He was fascinated by the strength and precision of the horse as well as the quick, spry nature of the man who’d cut the ice, strap it to his back, and deliver it to the houses.

Roy has been drawn to and influenced by strong work ethics from a young age.

It was a few years later, that Roy began taking on odd jobs. Errands, snow-shoveling, cutting grass, weeding gardens, shucking clams, whatever was needed — “for 10 cents an hour or so, I was there,” Roy says. “We were very poor.”

Roy grew up in that house on Washington Street with his mother, his grandfather and two sisters. The house was a cold-water flat — no hot water and no heat, except for the stove in the middle of the kitchen. “We’d huddle around the stove to stay warm,” Roy says.

In the summer of 1942 at the age of 14, Roy was granted a work permit based on family hardship. His first job that summer was as an electrical apprentice at Gorton-Pew Fisheries.

In the fall, while he was attending Gloucester High School’s Vocational Program, he worked at Parks Brothers Electrical Company.

“There was a week of academics and a week of shop, mom let me work the week of shop,” recalls Roy.

Roy would get picked up from school around 2:30 p.m. and work sometimes until 8 p.m. Despite this demanding schedule, Roy was the very first Gloucester High School Vocational student who made the honor roll.

Always able to find time for fun, Roy spent a lot of his youth playing sports. He made lots of friends that way. One of the advantages of a small city is that you can find friends for life.

“When you are growing up and making friends, you don’t realize you’ll be friends for life. You meet them in school and you’re playing sports together, then you’re golfing, and the next thing you know, you’ve known them for 70 years,” he says.

Roy eventually found himself back at Gloucester High School’s Vocational School, but this time as a teacher. He was a tough teacher by his own account, but his kids must have liked it; 91 percent of all his students became involved in electrical work, one way or another.

Roy’s teaching was a second job for him. He also served Gloucester for more than 70 years as an electrician, and he was the successful owner of Roy Spittle Associates for many years.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in SeniorCare's New Blog | Link
06 May 2016
Raising your grandchild is no small feat
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Frieda Collins has lived a rich and storied life. Thrown curveball after curveball, she caught each with grace and courage (a feat she may have picked up from her dad who was a semi-professional catcher on a baseball team).

Frieda grew up in Gloucester and gave birth to seven children, three girls and three boys. One of her daughters died at the age of 7 months. Frieda went on to raise six children. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, she celebrated 21 years cancer-free on February 1, 2016. Her siblings were not as lucky; of her seven sisters, only two are living.

At 76 years of age, Frieda is holding fast to the last curveball she caught — seven and a half years ago she took custody of her granddaughter Sophia. Frieda joined the ranks of more than 2.5 million grandparents in the United States raising their grandkids.

Sophia’s parents, who both will celebrate three years clean and sober this summer, were struggling with active addiction when Sophia was born. Seeing the inherent danger, Frieda took Sophia into her home and eventually became her legal guardian.

Sophia, who just celebrated her eighth birthday, always has a smile on her face. “She’s just so lovable,” says Frieda.

Recounting a story from when Sophia was about 3, Frieda is visibly filled with joy and love. “I had to go to California for a wedding,” Frieda says. “I left Sophia with her Aunt Kathy, but I called her every day. When I returned three days later and walked in Kathy’s house, Sophia was so excited — she didn’t know if she wanted to laugh or cry.”

Sophia has her own room at her Aunt Kathy’s house. Frieda feels fortunate that her large extended family is so supportive of Sophia. On birthdays, Christmas and other holidays, Sophia receives gifts from nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. One niece in New York sends Sophia new clothing as the seasons change. “She has two boys and loves to buy little girl clothes for Sophia,” Frieda says.

Frieda, who is retired from Gorton’s, works part-time as a site manager at the Rockport Council on Aging for SeniorCare’s Nutrition Program. She believes it is important that Sophia experiences arts and culture. Not having a lot of money, they often go to local theaters. Most recently they went to see “Beauty and the Beast” presented by the Beeman Elementary School Chorus, and last summer they saw the Annisquam Village Players’ production of “Peter Pan.”

During the last school vacation, Sophia went into Boston for the day with a friend of Frieda’s. They went to a museum and Faneuil Hall. While at Faneuil Hall, Sophia was relaxing on a bench, and became engrossed in people-watching. “My friend told me Sophia was just like me when I’m around a lot of people,” says Frieda. “She definitely has picked up some of my traits,” she adds proudly.

Frieda is fortunate that she has a large extended family and that she is aware of programs, services, laws and policies that relate to grandparents raising grandchildren. Many people in Frieda’s position are often isolated and unaware of the help that is available. If you are a grandparent raising a grandchild or know of someone who is, you can get information at or at

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
02 May 2016
Older Americans Are Blazing A Trail
Celebrate Older Americans Month in May

Older adults are a growing and increasingly vital part of our country. The contributions they make to our communities are varied, deeply rooted, and include influential roles in the nation’s economy, politics, and the arts. From 69-year-old NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. to 84-year-old actress Rita Moreno to 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who took her seat as a Supreme Court Justice at age 60, older adults are blazing trails in all aspects of American life.

In 1963, we began to acknowledge the contributions of older people by using the month of May to celebrate Older Americans Month. Led by the Administration for Community Living, the annual observance offers the opportunity to learn about, support, and celebrate our nation’s older citizens. This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” emphasizes the ways older adults are reinventing themselves through new work and new passions, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail of positive impact on the lives of people of all ages. 

Statistics about Older Americans Month:

  • When Older Americans’ Month was first established by President John F. Kennedy in May 1963, there were 17 million Americans age 65 or older. As of 2014, there were   44.7 million Americans age 65+, and they account for approximately 14.5% of the U.S. pop.  In the next 25 years 1 in 5 Americans will be an older adult.
  • 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, and this year marks the first time that members of the baby boomer generation will turn 70 years of age.
  • Older Americans are more active and engaged than ever. 19% of older Americans are employed, and many of them, 4.9 million, have fulltime year-round jobs. This number has tripled since 1993. Furthermore, the number of Americans age 75 or older that are working has increased by 140%.
  • It is estimated that by 2033 the number of Americans aged 65 or older will outnumber Americans aged 18 or younger.

While Executive Office of Elder Affairs promotes the independence, empowerment, and well-being of older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers adults year-round, we see Older Americans Month as a way to focus on how older adults in our community are leading and inspiring others, how we can support and learn from them, and how we might follow their examples to blaze trails of our own.

According to Secretary of EOEA, Alice Bonner, PhD, RN, “At Executive Office of Elder Affairs we share a vision where all adults and individuals with disabilities will have access to the resources they need to live well and thrive in every community in the Commonwealth.  We encourage you to get involved by engaging in your community, participating in the dialogue about Older Americans month, and by blazing your own trail! “

For more information about connecting with elder services, contact SeniorCare Inc. at 978-281-1750 or go to

About SeniorCare

SeniorCare Inc. serves an area that represents more than 27,000 residents aged 60 and over.  We provide services to adults with disabilities and elders in nine communities. Established in 1972, SeniorCare has approximately 100 employees and nearly 400 volunteers. The volunteers and staff work to fulfill its mission as a consumer-centered organization which provides and coordinates services to elders and others. This allows them to live independently at home or in a setting of their choice, while remaining part of their community.

Posted by senior care blog at 9:06 AM in Older Americans Act | Link
29 April 2016
Celebrating baby-boom generation
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

May is Older American Month — a nationally celebrated month to honor the contributions people ages 65 and over have made and continue to make in our community. Older adults are a growing and increasingly vital part of our community. We are all aware that the baby-boom generation has begun to turn 65 and will continue to do so for the next 13 years. Cape Ann has seen a 17 percent increase in people age 65 and older since 2010, and that percentage increases daily.

What exactly is the “baby boomer” generation and why is there so much hype around it?

The hype stems from the sheer numbers: In 1946, 3.4 million — 20 percent more than in 1945 — babies were born. This was the beginning of the so-called “baby boom.” In 1947, another 3.8 million babies were born; 3.9 million were born in 1952; and more than 4 million were born every year from 1954 until 1964, when the boom finally tapered off. By then, there were 76.4 million “baby boomers” in the United States. They made up almost 40 percent of the population. A generation of that size demands a lot of attention, and certainly garners a certain level of cultural and political power.

It is a generation that never thought they would grow old, but alas, it happens to us all. Boomers began turning 65 in 2011. It is estimated that 20 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030.

The baby-boom generation benefited greatly from the post-war’s remarkable economic boom. It is the generation that came of age in the 1960s. With high ideals and tremendous moxie, this generation set out to change the world, and they did. One example of this change is the number of nonprofits in America.

Nonprofit organizations are formed for a greater purpose, generally with the intent to improve neighborhoods, communities, and/or the world at large. In the mid-1960s there were less than 400,000 nonprofit organizations in America. In 2016, it is estimated that there are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations.

Sal Zerilli, who started Awesome Gloucester, says that 12 out of the organization’s 20 trustees are baby boomers. Greg Bover, one of the baby boomer trustees, ties part of his commitment to the community to his coming of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“The whole anti-war thing, we saw that as a group we could effect change,” said Bover. With an instilled belief that he could make a difference by working with others, Bover is involved with many nonprofits in Gloucester.

With a motivation to improve life for themselves and their children, the baby-boom generation has bred many community-minded individuals. Cape Ann is bursting with baby boomers, and others, who are dedicated to creating change, providing support for others and serving the larger community.

Throughout the month of May, I will highlight an older person each Friday who has had a significant impact in helping to create a positive, fun and welcoming community on Cape Ann. I hope you will join me in getting to know a few of Cape Ann’s community-minded seniors.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Older Americans Act | Link
22 April 2016
Learning new skills in the company of others
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Computerized brain training is becoming a booming business. There are numerous websites that tout the benefits of brain games for the aging population. There is,, and others. I’ve been using for a couple of years now. It’s great fun. You compete against yourself and you can see how you compare to others that play the games. The website claims that the 50-plus cognitive games they offer were created by scientists and game designers. I started playing because I wanted to strengthen my cognitive muscles and get ahead of the cognitive decline that can come with aging. I was having fun every morning playing the online games, but I began to wonder, do brain games actually improve cognitive function?

What I discovered is, no, there is no scientifically grounded proof that brain games improve your cognition. In October 2014 a group of leading cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists came together to examine brain games and programs. They concluded that the brain game industry’s claims that these computerized games will improve memory and cognition and stave off dementia are not scientifically based.

The problem is, most brain games are not skill-based, and studies show that it is the learning of new skills that improves your memory and cognitive abilities. I’ll keep playing the Lumosity games, because it’s fun and I enjoy watching my scores improve. But I’ve also begun to explore developing new skills.

I’ve begun to knit. A 2011 study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that those who engage in crafts, such as knitting and crocheting, had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss.

In support of that, a 2014 study out of the University of Texas at Dallas showed that learning to quilt or do digital photography enhanced memory function in older adults. It is through continuous and prolonged mental challenges that cognition is strengthened.

Studies also show that learning to play a musical instrument improves brain function.

So you want to learn to knit, practice digital photography or play an instrument, but you don’t know where to start. A great place to start is online. A friend of mine showed me the basics of knitting. When I was home alone and forgot how to cast-on — that is, creating the first stitches of a project — I found multitudes of YouTube tutorials that teach the basics of knitting to the more complex patterns. Simply go to and search for “knitting basics” and you’ll be on your way.

You can also learn the basics of digital photography online. There are free and paid courses available The top paid courses range between $20 and $30.

And you guessed it, you can learn the basics of playing a musical instrument online as well. Whether you are starting new or refreshing your memory, there are numerous sites that can help. Pick your favorite search engine and type in “free piano lessons online” (substitute piano for the instrument of choice).

Learning at home on your own is beneficial, but if you invite others to join you as you pursue new skills, there is an added cognitive bonus. There have been numerous studies over the last couple decades that show maintaining rich and meaningful relationships is key to maintaining a sharp mind.

Learning new skills in the company of others is a great place to begin new friendships or strengthen old ones. 

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
20 April 2016

On April 14, 2016, the $15.4 billion MassHealth program announced a major “restructuring” campaign designed to create “a sustainable, robust” health care program for its 1.8 million members. This process is the culmination of roughly a year of “intensive design and stakeholder engagement,” according to state officials.

MassHealth accounts for almost 40% of the Commonwealth’s budget. The Administration of Governor Charles Baker has made overt moves to swap out the current fee-for-service payment model, which they says results in “fragmented, siloed care,” and replace it with a managed care delivery system experiment which places large hospital and physician networks, known as “Accountable Care Organizations,” in control of funding.

The instrument to make this change is a large federal 1115 waiver to support MassHealth restructuring. Financing for the current waiver ends June 30, 2017 with $1 billion in federal support. State law (Chapter 224) requires MassHealth to adopt alternative payment methodologies for promotion of more coordinated and efficient care. ACOs would represent for MassHealth a more “integrated” model of care. In ACO models, the health care providers are accountable for the cost and quality of care. MassHealth also has a number of existing managed care organizations (MCOs) already providing care for the low-income population. In most cases, these MCOs will remain the insurer, pay claims and will work with ACO providers to improve care delivery. Integrated care means bringing behavioral health (BH) and long term services and support (LTSS) under the control of the ACO, and strengthening links with social services.

MassHealth is finishing up work on a 5-year Delivery System Reform Investment Program (DSRIP) funding request to the federal government. To access the DSRIP funding, the Feds require the state to come up with matching funds for the new DSRIP investment, which will be financed through a $250 million increase in the existing assessments on hospitals. The hospitals will receive a $250 million annual increase in MassHealth payments, resulting in no net impact to hospitals as a class.

The DSRIP proposal will include investments to support providers who sign on for ACO model; funding for BH and LTSS Community Partner (CP) organizations; formal partnerships between ACOs and CPs; funds for more flexible services; investments in health care workforce development, improved accommodations for members with disabilities; and a major expansion of the treatment for Substance Use Disorder for addressing the opioid crisis

At the center of the “restructuring” plan are the ACOs. To be an ACO, providers must show they can coordinate care and partner with Community Partners, including primary, specialty, behavioral, acute, and community-based care. The ACO must have relationships with other providers to coordinate/ integrate care effectively. ACOs will be able to choose to create an integrated ACO/MCO entity or enter into ACO contracts with other MCOs; some ACOs may choose to contract directly with MassHealth.

MassHealth has also been working to improve program integrity, especially for LTSS, like home health service. Home health spending grew last year by $170M, or 41%, and over 80% of growth was driven by providers new to the Commonwealth since 2013. As part of its increased oversight of the home health industry, MassHealth has referred 12 home health providers to the Attorney General’s office for fraud, and imposed a moratorium on new home health providers, and added clinical prior authorizations for home health services.

In addition, MassHealth is attempting to “passively enroll” its members into managed and accountable care models. In its FY 17 budget, the Baker Administration sought authority to involuntarily enroll seniors in FFS into Senior Care Options (SCO) plans. But the House thus far refused to grant this power. The SCO plan by statute must provide for voluntary enrollment.

MassHealth’s timeline calls for pilot ACOs to launch by the end of calendar 2016, with a full roll out of ACOs, BH/LTSS Community Partners and DSRIP by October 2017.

In the LTSS field, the focus is on the relationships between the new ACOs and the new “Community Partners.” (CPs). The ACO plan calls for increased LTSS integration and linkages to social services in ACO models through “explicit requirements for partnering with LTSS Community Partners.” The state will encourage ACOs to “buy” LTSS care management expertise from existing community-based organizations, like the 26 statewide Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) vs. “building” their own assessment and care coordination capacity. MassHealth plans to invest in infrastructure and capacity to overcome fragmentation amongst community-based organizations.

The State will certify who becomes a LTSS CP. The ACOs will refer to BH, LTSS and social service providers, to help assess “social determinants of health,” ranging from housing stabilization, income supports, nutrition and utility assistance. These new certified CP will have to demonstrate expertise in care coordination and assessments and infrastructure/ capacity. MassHealth says that the CPs “can be providers but self-referrals monitored.” This process is not defined yet, but the goal is presumably to mitigate any conflict of interest between the assessment process and the direct service providers. ACOs themselves will not be allowed to have any direct or indirect financial ownership interest in a CP. In addition, LTSS CPs must demonstrate expertise across multiple populations with disabilities, such as those with physical disabilities, developmental or intellectual disabilities, brain injuries, the elderly, etc.

Certified CPs and ACOs will both be able to get direct DSRIP funding. Social service providers will receive DSRIP funding from funds given to ACO designated for flexible services to address social determinants of health. The funding for both is contingent on ACOs and CPs formalizing arrangements for how they work together. MassHealth is not requiring ACOs to partner with CPs, but instead trying to use financial incentives to make this happen. But advocates for LTSS have pushed for a formal requirement that ACOs use LTSS CPs to provide an “independent agent” for members as a consumer protection against health providers self-referring to the services they own. Such a formal relationship has been available for years by statute in the Senior Care Options (SCO) plan, and the One Care plan—the state’s first two integrated managed care experiments.

The stated goals of the Community Partners initiative are as follows:

  • Create explicit opportunity for ACOs and MCOs to leverage existing community-based expertise and capabilities to best serve consumers with LTSS and BH
  • Break down existing silos in the care delivery system across BH, LTSS and physical health
  • Ensure care is person-centered, and avoid over-medicalization of care for LTSS
  • Preserve conflict-free principles including consideration of care options for consumers and limitations on self-referrals
  • Make explicit and scalable investments in community-based infrastructure within an overall framework of performance accountability
  • Create a certification process for BH and LTSS Community Partners
  • Encourage ACOs/MCOs and Community Partners to formalize how they work together, especially for care coordination and performance management

A CP must be a community-based organization with extensive and broad expertise in BH and/or LTSS in a geographic region. A CP can be a direct service provider but will have a limit on self-referrals. A LTSS CP must have competencies to work with at least 3 subpopulations with disabilities, and meet other criteria, such as strong relationships with social service organizations, IT infrastructure for data capture and maintenance, quality measurement and reporting, electronic encounter/billing capacity. MassHealth will encouraging formation of new entities and partnerships to be CPs, with the explicit goal of overcoming fragmentation and siloes that hinder care integration. The state will promotes entities to come together to serve the continuum of members, such as elders, adults and children with physical disabilities, and members with brain injury, ID/DD, mental illness, and SUD. LTSS CPs may receive DSRIP funding for MCO members if formal arrangements in place.

Certified Community Partners (CPs) must be certified by EOHHS, will be expected to develop infrastructure and meet performance requirements, and a  portion of their DSRIP funding will be contingent on meeting quality/process metrics and ACO/MCO review of performance. At the consumer level, the “Certified” LTSS Community Partners will offer LTSS expertise across multiple populations, conduct independent assessments, advise members on their care options, provide LTSS care coordination, and offer linkages to social services. The CPs will refer to/partner with Adult Foster Care, Personal Care Attendant, Adult Day Health, and other providers, as well as social service providers.

“This is a very ambitious restructuring,” said Dan O’Leary, President of Mass Home Care. “The key for us will be the role of the ‘conflict free agent’ in conducting assessments and care planning. Since this is a program being managed by large health care providers, we need to ensure that the consumer’s long term supports needs are fully recognized and addressed , and that they have an independent agent on their team to preserve open choice of services and providers.”

“Ensuring the consumer’s needs are met with the right care and services in the right place will be a major challenge,” O’Leary said.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Legistlation | Link
15 April 2016
Bobbi Gibb can do it, so can you
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Cape Ann has a special connection to the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to ever run the Boston Marathon, lives in Rockport. Gibb will be the Marathon’s grand marshal this year as she celebrates 50 years since her first Boston Marathon run in 1966.

According to the Gloucester Daily Times, Gibb, who is now 73, continues to run. She ran the Boston Marathon in 1966, 1967 and 1968 as a young person, and then again later in her life. She was going to run this year but bronchitis got in the way of her training schedule.  

According to the Boston Athletic Association, there will be 842 participants who are 65 or older running Monday’s marathon in Boston, which is almost 3 percent of the 30,000 expected participants. But none of the 842 runners 65 or older are from the Cape Ann area. 

Gibb discovered the joys of running at a young age and continues to enjoy it as she grows older. But what if you are 65 or older and running is new to you? The good news is that it is possible and quite healthy to begin running at age 65 or older. But proceed with caution as there are some age-related concerns.

■ Talk with your doctor before you begin

■ Ease into running, and if you haven’t been active, start with brisk walking

■ Warm up before your run and cool down afterward

■ Older adults have decreased muscular adaptation and elasticity, so stretching is especially important

■ Sense of thirst declines with age, so make it a habit to drink water every 15 minutes

■ Run with a group, it increases your motivation and helps you stay social

A 2015 article in the Atlantic highlights older runners. A growing number of seniors have begun competing in marathons. Years ago the mass majority of marathoners fell below the age of 40. In more recent years, runners known as “masters,” over the age of 40, represent more than 50 percent of those who complete marathons.

According to a 2014 article on aging and exercise published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, much of the physical deterioration seen in older people is related to a sedentary lifestyle, as opposed to aging itself. Physical demise and chronic diseases are substantially reduced or absent in older people who train and compete in athletic competitions.

Some loss of strength is inevitable as we age. But according to a 2011 study published in the journal The Physician and Sports Medicine, you can slow the process if you consistently participate in an exercise program.

If you are new to running, remember: going from a sedentary place to marathon training takes time, thought, patience and planning. Do some research, talk with your doctor and get moving. If you already have an exercise routine and are thinking of preparing for the next Boston Marathon, discuss it with your doctor, and increase your training program. It’s important to note, too, that any exercise is better than none at all •you don’t have to run a marathon to be healthy.

If you are interested in training for the 2017 or 2018 Boston Marathon, email me If I get enough interested Cape Ann folks age 60 or over, I’ll apply for the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program and see if SeniorCare can participate in the 2017 Boston Marathon as an official charity.

Happy running!

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
07 April 2016
April is Volunteer Month
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

A friend of mine is in the midst of planning her retirement. She has spent her adult life passionately working to make the world a better place. She is highly educated, has amassed significant skills, and her experience is diverse. Although she will be leaving her paid position, she has no intention of giving up her passion.

“I see myself volunteering because my commitment to how I want the world to be goes beyond whether I get paid or not, so I will continue to exercise those parts of my spirit. I just won’t get paid for it,” she says.

My friend’s retirement plans are similar to others in the baby boomer generation. People are retiring in record numbers and they have higher levels of skill and experience, and a passion to make a difference. Adults will turn 60 at an average rate of 10,000 per day for the next 16 years.

Are you one of the thousands of people entering the realm of retirement? Are you looking for an opportunity to stay active and engaged while making a difference in your community and/or the world at large? My friend is familiar with the nonprofit sector and has connections that will make transitioning into a volunteer position that matches her interests and passions less difficult than someone new to the nonprofit field. If you are retired or planning to retire and would like to learn more about what opportunities exist, SeniorCare Inc.’s RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) can help.

April is volunteer month. In recognition and celebration of the many volunteers and those who aspire to volunteer, SeniorCare is hosting the North Shore Volunteer Fair on Thursday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Cruiseport Gloucester, 6 Rowe Square. You will have the opportunity to speak with folks from more than 30 nonprofit agencies from Cape Ann and the North Shore that are seeking volunteers.

The ideal match is when your volunteer experience is equally meaningful and rewarding for you as for the organization you are helping. Visit the Volunteer Fair to see which opportunity you might want to pursue. You will find many ways to:

Make your community a better place to live

Meet new people

Try something new

Fill up your spare time

Do something you are good at

Learn new skills

To determine what you would enjoy, here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

— Would I like to work with adults, children or animals?

— Do I prefer to work alone or as part of a team?

— How much time am I willing to commit?

— What level of responsibility am I looking for?

— What skills can I bring to a volunteer job?

— What causes am I passionate about?

The North Shore Volunteer Fair at Cruiseport will also be a collection point for our local food pantries. Please consider bringing a nonperishable food item with you.

If you are unable to attend the event and you would like to explore volunteer opportunities on Cape Ann and the North Shore, you can call Ruth Lindsay, director of RSVP, at 978-281-1750.

With a little soul searching and some help from RSVP’s Volunteer Fair, I am sure you will find the perfect volunteer opportunity. With your help the world will be a better place.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Volunteer | Link
31 March 2016
Purposeful community benefits one's health
Gloucester Times, Senior Lookout

Healthy community can breed joy, peace and contentment. Community helps eradicate loneliness and combat social isolation — two conditions that a recent study found increases the risk of death. The study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found that those who felt lonely had a 26 percent increased risk of death, and those who lived alone and were socially isolated had a 29 percent increase.

Supportive senior housing communities can offer great opportunities for connecting with others in a healthy and helpful way. Supportive communities make available a contact person who is able to help set a tone of trust and mutual respect among residents, creating an environment where healthy community can thrive.

“The best volunteers are neighbors,” says Diane Gordon, supportive housing coordinator at SeniorCare.

Gordon, who works at many of the senior housing complexes on the North Shore, says she encourages residents to connect with their neighbors. She helps facilitate this through group meetings and various events, such as yard sales, summer cookouts, movie nights and holiday parties. These activities help foster a caring community and neighbors begin to look out for each other.

Gordon keeps a regular schedule at each complex and makes sure that new residents receive a welcome packet that encourages engagement with the community. Gordon is also a great resource that residents can turn to when in need. Gordon is able to connect folks with programs and services that supports long-term community living, such as Meals on Wheels, Home Care, Money Management and others.

“Community is about interacting with your neighbors in a manner that promotes a feeling of safety,” says Gordon.

Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director of Harborlight Community Partners, is passionate about the importance of supportive, affordable housing for seniors.

“Supportive, affordable housing for seniors is a critical part of our public infrastructure as a community. This is one of the key ways we can care well and smart for our parent, our neighbors, and our retired employees,” says DeFranza

Harborlight Community Partners owns and manages two elderly housing complexes in Rockport.

“Settings like Pigeon Cove Ledges and Rockport High School Apartments provide dignified and safe places to live, which enhance the quality of life for those who call these places home. Supportive senior housing provides comfort to adult children and security to their parents. It is a great model that is both cost-effective and humane. We are doing this across the North Shore and we need to do more of it,” he says.

Senior housing complexes are geographically conducive to creating an engaged community. If you live in your own home and not in close proximity to your peers, it may take a little more work as you will have to be your own advocate, but it is possible to create healthy, supportive community. You can participate in your local senior center, in communities online such as, where you can find peers who have similar interests, or call friends and start a coffee club.

Regardless of how or where community is created, if you are purposeful about creating a safe space for people to engage, you may live a more fulfilling and joyful life.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
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