Fall 2017 Newsletter


In This Issue:

Partners are invited to learn more about new strategic plan
Tai Chi classes can help prevent falls for older adults
New warm-water aquatics exercise program to be offered
Explore volunteer opportunities at Senior Solutions
Senior Solutions to hold Annual Meeting October 25th
First and newest nutrition directors share common bonds
Grant provides respite for caregivers for people with paralysis
Energy efficiency program helps older adults save money
Companions sought in White River Junction and other areas

Partners are invited to learn more about new strategic plan

Senior Solutions recently completed and adopted a strategic plan that outlines the guiding principles and goals for the agency after a vigorous process that included a retreat as well as surveys and meetings with stakeholders and the community.

The result was a strategic plan that outlines how Senior Solutions honors and respects the life experience and autonomy of Vermont’s older adults and also recognizes the essential role of families, caregivers and communities in the lives of older adults.

The strategic plan embraces our role as advocates for older adults, including speaking out about current issues, identifying unmet needs, proposing solutions and believing that our collective voices can bring about change.

During the process, Senior Solutions identified a goal to become the “go-to” organization for everything senior-related in our service area as well as developing new services to meet the needs of today’s older adults and caregivers more effectively and on their terms.
Another goal identified was a need to share these new guiding principles and goals with partner agencies and the community.

We are seeking to explore common goals and strengthen partnerships throughout our service area to expand the collective capacity of our communities to support and meet the varied needs of older adults and their caregivers.

We would like to visit with community agencies and groups in our region to present the highlights of our plan, talk about our programs and share ideas about how we can work together on shared goals.

To set up a meeting, please contact Dianne Barden at (802) 885-2655 or DBarden@SeniorSolutionsVT.orgh. (Index)

Tai Chi classes can help prevent falls for older adults

Falls are the main reason that older people lose their independence and are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among people aged 65 and up. Every year, one out of three people in this age group experiences a fall.

Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, leading to a loss of physical fitness which in turn increases their risk of falling.

There are many activities older adults can do to help develop their physical fitness, improve their health and guard against falls by improving balance.

Senior Solutions helps support several programs proven to help older adults maintain or regain their strength and balance, including our newest free class—Tai Chi.

Tai Chi, in addition to many other benefits, improves balance, promotes correct posture, and builds up resistance to disease.

Earlier this year, seven new instructors received training and will be able to work with older adults in our area to help improve their health as well as give them balance to help prevent falls.

Jody Biddle, Chair of the Thetford Elder Network (TEN), provided this report: “Wanting you to know how grateful we are to you for letting us in on the Tai Chi program.  Ursula, who took the training, is just having more fun. She is an excellent teacher, she has drawn quite a crowd to her classes and the enthusiasm is tremendous. Ursula herself is just over the moon about her new role and we all are delighted with the whole thing. Now TEN has another offering for our seniors and it has taken off in a very big way.” (Index)


New warm-water aquatics exercise program to be offered

Senior Solutions is pleased to announce that evidence-based aquatics programs are coming soon to our area! Senior Solutions has been pursuing partnerships with recreation agencies in multiple locations in our region and providing financial support for instructor trainings in order to expand the wellness activities for older adults supported by our agency.

Seniors Solutions and the Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC), located in White River Junction, will be offering a new structured warm-water class, designed by the Arthritis Foundation, for older adults.

The free 45-minute classes will begin this fall and will be held back-to-back with the UVAC’s free senior fitness program. The class will be taught by an instructor who has taken 20 hours of training and passed an exam to be certified.

This warm-water exercise program is suitable for every fitness level, and had been shown to reduce pain and improve overall health. Exercises include range of motion, muscle-strengthening, socialization activities and an optional, moderate-intensity aerobic component.

The classes are held in water that is 83-90°F, which allows for a wide range of benefits for older adults who may be struggling with pain, inflammation, joint function and muscular strength.

The classes will:

  • Improve overall sense of well-being;
  • Foster socialization and promote better health;
  • Reduce pain and inflammation; and
  • Increase joint function and muscular strength.

Senior Solutions is working with the Edgar May Center in Springfield to offer a classes there as well, and is looking for a location for a program in Brattleboro.

If you are interested in volunteering to lead classes or would like more information, please call Nutrition and Wellness Director Catherine Wisniewski at (802) 885-2655 or email CWisniewski@SeniorSolutionsVT.org. Class schedules will be posted on our website at www.seniorsolutionsvt.org.

For more information about the Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC) start date, please call UVAC at (802) 296-2850 or visit online at
www.uvacswim.org. (Index)

Explore volunteer opportunities at Senior Solutions

Looking for a way to make a difference in your community? Whether you have just a few hours a month or 20 or more hours a week, you can make a significant difference by volunteering through Senior Solutions. Check out the volunteer opportunities listed below and contact us at (802) 885-2655 or information@SeniorSolutionsVT.org to get involved.

Advisory Council. Meets monthly in Bellows Falls and advises Senior Solutions about the needs of older adults in the communities we serve. Representatives can either represent a particular town or an agency or association interested in aging.

Office Assistance. Help answer calls, gather information and make appointments. Help is needed with telephone surveys and calls to clients. We are especially in need of assistance during Medicare prescription drug plan “open enrollment” from October–December.

Friendly Visits. Many options are available for volunteers interested in working directly with older adults. Volunteers are needed to meet with isolated elders in their homes to provide companionship, take them to places in the community or assist with errands. Read more about Senior Companions below. Volunteers may also be trained to conduct home visits to help screen people for program and benefit eligibility.

Energy Efficiency Program. Trained volunteers help older adults to save energy and money by replacing light bulbs and shower heads with more energy efficient ones and insulating pipes. Read more about the Energy Efficiency Program below.

Host an Information Table. Promote community awareness and education by representing Senior Solutions at public events. Distribute information and answer basic questions about agency services.

Update Online Resources. Help us make sure the information we maintain about agencies and services in our region is accurate and up-to-date. This task can be done remotely.

Medicare Assistance. Volunteer for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Educate or assist people with understanding Medicare. Volunteers undergo free training in Medicare and health insurance in order to aid and counsel Medicare-eligible individuals. They assist and provide information on the easily confusing Medicare system.

Deliver Meals on Wheels or Assist with a Congregate Meals Program. Our local partners who operate senior meals programs rely on volunteers. Meals are delivered to a central location in the community where the volunteer picks up the meals and then delivers them to homebound people on a predetermined route. Volunteers are also needed to help at congregate meal sites.

Student Internship. Learn more about non-profit management with a hands-on internship with Senior Solutions. This position offers a valuable learning experience for any college student hoping to work in the non-profit sector.

Wellness Programs. Senior Solutions provides funding to train volunteers interested in leading exercise and wellness programs that meet evidence-based standards as recognized by the federal government.

Flexible Options. We have many one-time, occasional or highly flexible opportunities. Volunteers can be placed on a list to be contacted when a need arises. There is no ongoing commitment or obligation. Activities might include: help plan or volunteer at a fundraising event, take photographs, give someone a ride to an appointment, put up posters or flyers at libraries and other public bulletin boards, and office projects. (Index)

Senior Solutions to hold Annual Meeting October 25th

Please join our board, staff, and members of the community at our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the Nolin-Murray Center, 38 Pleasant St. in Springfield. Registration and refreshments are at 8:30 a.m. The meeting is from 9 to 11 a.m.

Join us as we recognize the recipients of this year’s Successful Aging awards. Seniors nominated from all over Windsor and Windham Counties will be honored. We will also recognize volunteers and celebrate our achievements, which would not be possible without our supporters and community partners.

Our guest speaker this year is filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer. He will speak about his film, Caregivers, a documentary-narrative hybrid film about eldercare in the hills of rural Vermont. Told over the course of four seasons and featuring accompaniment by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the film is produced in partnership with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Senior Solutions, Brattleboro Area Hospice, and the Vermont Folklife Center.

“Caregivers arrived without invitation over a decade ago, and has stomped and howled for attention ever since. A story about the complexities of grief, compassion and closure, this film extends far beyond my own personal experience,” he said.

Kreitzer is the founder of Lanterna, a film and video production company dedicated to stories of agrarian life and folk cultures. Kreitzer received his MFA, summa cum laude, in Cinema and Comparative Literature from the University of Iowa, and his BA, magna cum laude, in Visual and Media Arts from Emerson College.

Please RSVP by Friday, Oct. 13 by calling (802) 885-2655 or toll free at 1-866-673-8376. (Index)

First and newest nutrition directors share common bonds

Throughout its 40-plus year history, Senior Solutions has been blessed with conscientious, talented nutrition directors. It’s not an easy job; it takes a special person to meet daily budgetary and logistical deadlines to ensure our region’s elders receive this critical assistance through home delivery and congregate meals.

In a curious twist, our organization’s first nutrition director, Ronnie Friedman, and the newest, Catherine Wisnewski, share some of the same background.

In March 1975, gasoline was 57¢ a gallon and 30-year old New York City native Ronnie Friedman, fresh off a stint in Panama with the Peace Corps, decided to take a job in Brattleboro as meals coordinator for the Brattleboro Meals Project.

This May, 26-year-old Catherine Wisniewski, a Pennsylvania native, joined Senior Solutions after serving in South Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. Despite the decades separating their service, they share a common bond.

Friedman strongly advocated for expanding nutrition services, persuading skeptical town officials that it was needed.

“We convinced people that there was a need to grow congregate meals and increase home deliveries from once a month to once a week,” Friedman noted.

When she retired 26 years later, the results of her hard work and advocacy were readily apparent and appreciated. The nutrition services she pushed for in the 1970s have now grown to serve more than 4,000 clients receiving approximately 225,000 meals annually.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Friedman remarked. “I never could have imagined the program would grow that large and serve so many.”

Wisniewski also is a strong believer in the value of nutrition services.

“Nutrition and wellness are my passions and having the opportunity to share knowledge with so many outlets is incredibly exhilarating!” she exclaimed.

“This job is constantly moving forward to fit the communities’ needs and I’m working hard to meet the ever-changing demands.” (Index)


Grant provides respite for caregivers for people with paralysis

Senior Solutions is proud to announce that it has received a Respite Care grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The Respite Care Grant Program recognizes family caregivers and the vital role they play by supporting nonprofits that address the episodic respite care needed to prevent caregiver ‘burnout’.

This grant supports Senior Solutions’ expansion of services from an aging and dementia-focused respite program to include individuals from younger populations with paralysis. We will partner with the Vermont Center for Independent Living as well as other organizations reach this population.

Earlier this year, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation funded a total of $160,000 in Respite Care Grants to recognize family caregivers and the vital role they play. This new Respite Care Grant Program awarded one year grants to 19 nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Organizations applied for grants to provide four to six days of respite (per family), allowing a caregiver to tend to their own medical needs, appointments and overall well-being.

“One of the goals of the Paralysis Resource Center is to provide caregivers and families the support they need to properly care for the loved ones living with paralysis and themselves without feeling overwhelmed,” said Maggie Goldberg, VP of Policy and Programs.

“Adding the Respite Care Grant furthers our mission and Dana Reeve’s vision of making sure that the caregivers of the world also have the proper resources and support at hand to help them succeed,” she continued.

About the Reeve Foundation
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. The organization meets all 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charity accountability and holds the BBB’s Charity Seal. The Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) is a program of the Reeve Foundation, and is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Administration for Community Living.
For more information, please visit The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation website at www.ChristopherReeve.org or call 800-539-7309.

To apply for a caregiver respite grant, please contact Mark Boutwell, Director of Social Services, at MBoutwell@SeniorSolutionsVT.org or call (802) 885-2655.(Index)

Energy efficiency program helps older adults save money

A program designed to save electricity and reduce utility bills is available to older adults and people with disabilities in southeastern Vermont. Senior Solutions has partnered with Efficiency Vermont to offer a free home energy visit program throughout its 46-town service area, which includes installing energy efficient light bulbs, shower heads and hot water heater pipe insulation.

A team of trained staff members and volunteers for the program will also identify other energy-saving opportunities and provide assistance with replacing older appliances and accessing home weatherization programs. The program is available to homeowners, those who rent, and landlords.

Volunteers are still needed especially in the Windsor County area. Please contact us if you are able to assist with this program.

Much of the savings comes from reducing the amount of energy used in lighting the home. The replacement LED lightbulbs last up to 25% longer than incandescent bulbs and use less energy. Team members can replace lights in ceiling fans, overhead fixtures, lamps, in the basement, outside, globe bulbs found on vanities and candelabras.

Additional savings can come from replacing inefficient showerheads with new low-flow showerheads that allow for easier use by older adults and reduce hot water usage, and by installing faucet aerators as well as an advanced power strip.

Senior Solutions is now scheduling home visits. If you are interested in participating, please contact Vicki Mastroianni at (802) 885-2655 or VMastroianni@SeniorSolutionsVT.org. (Index)

Companions sought in White River Junction and other areas

Do you want to help seniors in your area? We need volunteers to provide home visits and fellowship for elderly, homebound clients.

We welcome friendly visitors of all ages and income levels who are willing to volunteer for any amount of time. Those who meet the criteria for the federally-funded Senior Companions program are eligible for a stipend and mileage reimbursement.

Senior Companions is a home visit program that matches concerned mobile older adults with their aging peers. The program is administered by Senior Solutions. Senior Companions are needed throughout the region, but particularly in White River Junction and Springfield.

Senior Companions provide friendly visits and companionship to help alleviate loneliness. During a visit, a Senior Companion may help clients write a letter, read, visit a senior center or provide rides to medical appointments or shopping, share a hobby and occasionally prepare a meal.

To qualify for the stipend and mileage reimbursement, volunteers must be over age 55, able to serve 15 hours a week, be income eligible and have a desire to serve home-bound elders.

Senior Companions volunteers receive:

  • Orientation and training;
  • Mileage reimbursement;
  • A tax-free stipend; and
  • Satisfaction of helping others.

According to the testimonies of program participants, the Senior Companion program can be as beneficial to the person providing the service as to the clients receiving it. Volunteers in the program know they are helping someone. It truly makes a difference in the lives of everyone involved. The Senior Companion program is very popular with clients, who say it’s very valuable to their well-being.

There is no charge to the person visited; the program is funded by the National Community Service Corporation.

If you are interested in finding out more, call Vicki Mastroianni at (802) 885-2655 or VMastroianni@SeniorSolutionsVT.org. (Index)

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