Celebrate Spring!

SeniorCare Annual Breakfast Fundraiser for Meals on Wheels
Former Valentine’s Day Event becomes a Spring Celebration!

SeniorCare Inc. will hold its annual Fundraiser Breakfast at The Gloucester House, located 63 Rogers Street in downtown Gloucester on Friday, March 16, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $12 per person and include a buffet breakfast. Breakfast sponsorships are available at a variety of levels. Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program.

SeniorCare Inc.’s Meals on Wheels program brings a daily meal right to the door of homebound elders, Monday through Friday. Menus are designed by nutrition experts to meet the needs of older adults and are prepared by a professional caterer. In addition, homebound elders have a daily interaction with the delivery team—sometimes their only human contact that day. SeniorCare currently delivers Meals on Wheels to more than 550 elders each day. Annually, this means 136,216 home-delivered meals and 39,250 meals served at dining sites in Beverly, Gloucester, Essex, Manchester, Rockport, Ipswich, Hamilton, Topsfield, and Wenham.

Sponsorship opportunities for the Breakfast are available. For information about the breakfast or to become a sponsor, contact Paula Curley at 978-281-1750 x-560.

I Have a Dream

This weekend, we remember and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I recently read the full text of Dr. King’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave in August 1953 in Washington D.C. I had not read this speech since I was a high school student, and it struck me how true it was in 1953 and how it is still true 55 years later.

In this historic speech, Dr. King referred to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as a promissory note in which “was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King had an unshakeable belief that all people should be treated equal. This equality includes all people, regardless of any differences, including age and ability. The civil rights movement encompassed positive changes for Americans aged 60 and over.

The Older Americans Act, which passed in 1965, provides for adequate income in retirement, adequate health care, housing, long-term care, recreation community services, freedom and self-determination, and protection against abuse, neglect, and exploitation for people aged 60 and older. It was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults

As we age, we are prone to illness, disability and often lower income. All of this creates unique civil rights challenges. The older American act and its subsequent amendments are there to help support the rights of older Americans.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 people over the age of 60 are in some way serviced by the Older Americans Act. There is now an infrastructure across the United States known as the national aging services network. This network’s key service includes information and referral services. Regardless of where you live in the United States if you need homemaker or personal care services, home delivered or congregate meals, caregiver support, preventive health service, job training, transportation, legal assistance, or elder abuse prevention resources you can find that information at your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). SeniorCare Inc. is the local AAA for nine towns on the North Shore– Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham. Our neighboring communities are served by Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, North Shore Elders Services, and Greater Lynn Senior Services.

While older Americans are not recognized as a constitutionally protected class, additional legislation has been passed throughout the years to further protect the vulnerabilities of aging. The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

As we contemplate Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for fairness and equality this weekend, let’s not forget that equality, love, support and compassion are of the same family. We must ensure that all Americans are treated with respect and dignity.

Let’s remember Dr. King’s closing in 1953 “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

The full text of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech is available online at www.archives.gov.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

I write this column on Tuesday and Wednesday of each week. As I am writing this edition, we’re just ending a long, bitter cold-spell and we’re looking at a significant snow storm. The grocery stores are mobbed as everyone picks up items to make it through 24-36 hours of being home-bound and possibly without electricity. By the time this article appears in the Gloucester Times, we will be cleaning up after the storm. Sometimes I wonder why we live in New England!

I grew up in the southwestern U.S.—Southern California, Hawaii, and Arizona—and never experienced four seasons. My childhood seasonal experience was a mild winter and a long hot summer. The only time I saw snow was when our church youth group went camping in the Arizona mountains. I never saw autumn burst into color or learned to appreciate the appearance of the first crocus in spring. I never once had a snow day off from school. I didn’t own a pair of winter gloves, scarf or hat until I was 18 years old.

Growing up, I never experienced the winter blues or knew anyone dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of clinical depression that was first identified and named by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the early 1980s. More severe than merely the “winter blues,” signs of SAD can include a loss of energy, changes in appetite and sleeping habits, irritability, and loss of interest in socializing and other activities. There are a variety of treatments available, including medication, psychotherapy, vitamin supplements and light therapy.

For the elders in our lives, falls and hypothermia are typically what we focus on during the icy winter months, but seniors are also at risk for SAD. When conditions are slippery and cold outside, many seniors choose to stay home rather than risk a fall or other cold injury. By decreasing their time outdoors during the sunlight hours, they increase their chances of depression. If there is pre-existing depression then the condition is often aggravated further in the winter months.

A few suggestions to help avoid SAD are:

  • Daily walks in the outdoors should the weather permit.
  • Let in as much light as possible by opening blinds and curtains.
  • Exercise regularly, even if it is indoors.
  • Find suitable company and wile away the hours in social activities when you cannot go outdoors.
  • Eat a healthy diet as vitamin deficiencies are sometimes an underlying component in depression.
  • Spruce up your home with winter plants and even opt for brighter colors on walls to distract from the gloomy conditions outside.

So, you might wonder why I live in New England. I moved to Gloucester in the mid 1980s. Gloucester is so different from the world where I was raised. It took a while to adjust and acclimate to the changes. But, now Gloucester is my home. I have a full and wonderful life here. And, that life includes winter—with all of the difficulties it can bring.

But, the winter brings its own charm. I love the laughter of children playing in the snow. I love cuddling up on the sofa with the cat, a warm blanket, a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. I love that initial blast of cold on your face when you first leave a warm building. I love the comradery that we all share as we deal with whatever nature throws at us.

Winter can be hard and we have to remember to be smart in cold and icy weather. But, winter is also a time of hope and renewal. Why else would we get such a thrill from seeing those tiny, brave little crocuses poke up through the snow?

Older Adults with Developmental Disabilities

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org), there are an estimated 641,000 adults aged 60+ with cognitive and other disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury). This number is projected to double to 1,242,794 by 2030, as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age.

Families are still the primary caregivers for adults with developmental disabilities and are themselves aging. About 76% of individuals with developmental disabilities reside at home. In 25% of these homes, the family caregiver is over 60 years of age.

As we age, we need to have conversations with our families about our expectations for the future. These can be frightening for some as the reality of our mortality comes into focus.  For families with a son or daughter with intellectual or developmental difficulties, these conversations can become even more difficult, but are critically important.  As a caregiving parent ages, they must consider what will happen to their dependent adult child as that child lives beyond the parents’ ability to be a caregiver.

SeniorCare is pleased to offer a free presentation of the documentary “Mimi and Dona” on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Cape Ann Cinema, located at 21 Main Street in downtown Gloucester.

“Mimi and Dona” follows the story of Mimi and her daughter, Dona, who must face the reality that Mimi is in her nineties and is becoming unable to care for her dependent daughter, who is in her 60’s. After a lifetime together, both women must adapt to a new life apart. This poignant, heartbreaking and, at times, humorous documentary traces this process through the story of a quirky and deeply connected mother-daughter duo.  The New York Times describes “Mimi and Dona” as “Heart-wrenching. As unflinching as it is beautiful.”

Filmmaker Sophie Sartain says, “This is an untold story happening all around us, with caregivers like my grandmother facing agonizing decisions, often with little support or guidance.”

The Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, the Greater North Shore Link, and SeniorCare offer a variety of services and assistance to adults with disabilities and their families. For more information about resources and services available, call SeniorCare Inc. at 978-281-1750 and ask to speak with one of our Options Counselors. Options Counseling is a free service for people aged 60+ or to adults aged 22+ living with a disability.

The presentation of “Mimi and Dona” is sponsored by The Residence at Riverbend, with additional support from Tufts Health Plan Foundation.

Winter Preparedness

Is it my imagination or did we move straight from summer into winter this year?  A couple of weeks ago, I was running around in a light sweater and now I’m using my heavy winter coat every day.

It’s always hard to predict what conditions winter will bring.  This being New England, we can expect some frigid days in the coming months. When winter temperatures drop below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Wind with cold air intensifies the potential dangers – heat can leave your body more rapidly and leave you at risk of health problems. Older individuals don’t always feel cold weather shift like younger people. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, more than half of all hypothermia-related deaths happen in people over the age 65.

Extreme cold temperatures are often accompanied by winter storms, so you may also have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Staying indoors during winter storms can reduce the risks of car crashes and falls on the ice, but you may face indoor hazards. Power failures, inadequate heating systems or the inability to afford the cost of sufficient heat can cause homes will be too cold. When people use space heaters or fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

The American Red Cross offers ten tips to staying safe during the cold winter months:

  1. Layer up! Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.
  2. Remember the three feet rule. If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
  3. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  4. Don’t catch fire! If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  5. Protect your pipes. Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
  6. Better safe than sorry. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
  7. The kitchen is for cooking. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
  8. Don’t forget your furry friends. Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  9. Use generators outside. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  10. Knowledge is power. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

As we enter the winter of 2018, please stay safe and keep in touch with your older friends and family who may be living on their own. If you find yourself needing information on energy assistance, Action, Inc. in Gloucester is ready to help. You can reach them at 978-283-2131 or online at www.actioninc.org.

How Home Automation Gives Seniors Independence

Seniors often face the unwanted decision of either remaining in their homes, at risk of injury and isolation, or moving into assisted living facilities and thereby forfeiting their independence. However, because of today’s modern technology, they may not have to make this difficult decision anymore. A significant number of seniors choose to age in place rather than leave their familiar surroundings. With the help of various home automation technology, they may be able to do this independently with minimal or supporting help from caregivers.

Establish an Enjoyable Living Situation

Making a home comfortable to live in is important whether or not you’re a senior aging in place. Virtually all smart home devices were made for efficiency and convenience. For example, many smart thermostats on the market aim to learn your schedule. These products may be able to adjust automatically. Smart lights can be controlled remotely from a smartphone or remote and be set on a schedule or automatically turn on or off if someone walks in or out of a room. Both can be set up with one smart hub and be controlled through a single device. Smart plugs are able to make virtually anything with a cord “smart” and can turn on or off said appliance remotely. If you are using a smart plug, be sure to not overload the plug.  For example, just as a space heater should not be connected to an extension cord, neither should it be connected to a smart plug.

If a home has several smart devices, they can be controlled from a single smart hub device that connects to the internet via a WIFI or wired router. One of the many benefits of owning a smart hub for your home automation is that you can pick and choose more connected appliances piece by piece to make for a cozy indoor environment. Smart hubs are also often “smart speakers,” such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and can play music as commanded, which can be beneficial for seniors who may often spend time in silence.

Defend Against Accidents

While these systems are convenient and can work together to make a comfortable environment, they also have a role to play in the safety of your loved one. Smart lights are able to properly light up a room without having to flip a switch, preventing any falls from unseen clutter on the floor, while various other wireless sensors are able to detect when a senior is getting up or if they have already fallen and can alert the appropriate contacts. Doorbell cameras allow their users to check who is at the door without them having to get up and smart locks enable you to unlock or lock the door remotely, preventing the additional risk of walking up or down stairs or walking through the house.

Stay in Touch

Many senior citizens, especially those aging at home, are often at risk of depression, or at least severe loneliness, as they may not be able to maintain social relationships as well as they once could. In perhaps no other area does modern automated equipment excel than in keeping people connected.

Smartphones enable chatting with pretty much anyone from anywhere. Video chat applications, like Skype, permit an experience that’s just a small step removed from actually sitting in a room talking to the other person, either on a phone, computer or even television. It can sometimes be challenging to set up the appropriate hardware and software, but this has become less true in recent years, and a number of devices come pre-configured and ready to go without demanding any specialized technical acumen. Voice controlled smart hubs also make it easier to call someone or remind the user to call them because they do not have to fiddle with any keypads, keyboards or apps. Simply say “call mom” and it will do it for you.

Defenses Against Wrongdoers

One important system that can also connect with your smart home automation hub are home security systems, which may be the most obvious tool for a home and its occupants’ safety. With a smart security system, users can set up a variety of connected tools such as surveillance cameras and motion sensor outdoor lights, to create an all-encompassing and effective home defense system against unwanted intruders and potential burglars.

Because elders are often taken advantage of by those who want to prey on the weak, there is no such thing as being too prepared. Additional technologies that you can add onto your security system include smart locks and window sensors that sound an alert whenever a window is unexpectedly opened.

Benefits for Caregivers

Seniors aren’t the only ones who benefit from multifaceted home automation systems. They take many of the difficulties away from the challenging job of caregiving. Because many of the previously mentioned features of home automation allow seniors to gain back their independence, caregivers may be able to take half a step back. Instead of keeping an eye on their loved ones every second, they can leave the room, knowing that this tech can aid in their safety. Even if they’re away and out of the home, caregivers can check up on them through their smartphone, which work in conjunction with smart cameras. Smart security systems and smoke alarms also add a heightened sense of security as they often contact the appropriate authorities to call for help immediately.

Be Wary of the Drawbacks

Although smart home technology offers a plethora of benefits for the average user in addition to seniors and caregivers, it’s important to be aware of their pitfalls and to not solely depend on them in your daily life. For example, if you ever were to have an electrical or internet outage, which does happen occasionally in many neighborhoods, you would not be able to control smart home devices, in which case, you should prepare a backup plan if any of these systems are imperative to your or your loved one’s well-being. Many seniors are also not technologically savvy at all so it’s important to either teach them how to control certain systems and devices or do it for them yourself.

With smart home automation, both seniors and their caregivers can benefit from their rediscovered independence, even with the drawbacks. It’s important to remember what caregivers do for their loved ones and to reflect on how their jobs can be made easier. As seniors age in place, home automation technologies can make this process smoother and more comfortable, without sacrificing their independence.

Article written by:
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.

This article offers several examples of technologies available to assist seniors in their homes.  There are many more products that have proven to be useful in helping seniors remain safely in their homes and to assist caregivers. For more information, contact SeniorCare’s Information & Referral Department

#GivingTuesday 2017

For #GivingTuesday, please consider supporting SeniorCare’s mission of helping our elders remain in their homes and in their community. Your donation today could provide an elder’s lunch or dinner, help an elder manage their medications properly, or provide assistance with managing finances to an elder whose eyesight has deteriorated. It might also give a Caregiver the opportunity to take a break from the 24/7 demands of caring for their beloved spouse or parent. Thank you!

Make Your Donation Here.

Phone Scams on the North Shore

SeniorCare has received many reports of suspicious phone calls being made on the North Shore to elder members of the community. This is a situation that has been ongoing for several months.

The caller identifies themselves as calling from SeniorCare, and proceeds with a casual “how are you, is everything ok” sort of tone.  The caller then switches to questions about Medicare and durable goods.  There is considerable background noise that sounds like it could be a call center.

SeniorCare does not make calls of this nature.  SeniorCare does not make “cold calls,” nor does the agency represents itself as calling for Medicare.

SeniorCare recommends that anyone receiving any suspicious phone calls immediately hang up and not speak with the caller.

Volunteers are Lifesavers!

RSVP Volunteers of the North Shore and SeniorCare held their annual volunteer recognition luncheon at Danversport Yacht Club on November 1st.  A Business Showcase was once again part of the festivities along with a Photo Booth for all attendees to enjoy.

SeniorCare Chief Executive Officer Scott Trenti welcomed the 150+ volunteers, local officials, community partners, and event sponsors, saying “Many local agencies, including SeniorCare, would simply not be able to offer the level of services available to so many people without your help. Through this service, you improve the quality of life for all of us in each of our communities.” Ruth Lindsay, RSVP Director, also welcomed the group, saying “You are making an enormous difference in the lives of the people we all serve.”

Awards were presented to volunteers who achieved years-of-service milestones. Several were recognized for 20+ years of service.  They were Doris Weimer, Ed Chabot, Barbara Denis, Ann Richardson, Ida Christopher, Esther Galpern, Marie Messner, Catherine Morrocco, Bethline Georgeopoulos, Thelma Hartnett, Frank Clocher, Priscilla McKay, Beatrice Smith, Ruth Moore and Wallace Rowe.

Presidential Awards, given for 4000+ lifetime hours of service, were presented to Patricia Colbert and John McManus.

Congressional Certificates of Service were also presented to the 20+ years of service honorees as well as the Presidential recipients by representatives from Congressman Seth Moulton’s Office.


Thank you to our Luncheon Sponsors:

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Cape Ann Savings Bank

First Ipswich Bank