Senior Centers Enhancing Lives

What do you think of when someone says the words “senior center”? Do you picture older people sitting around playing bingo and shuffleboard?  Eating bland meals while a television is blaring?

It is time to update your vision!  Senior Centers are not what they used to be. Today’s Senior Center is a vibrant, action-packed combination of fitness center, information and resources, volunteering headquarters, a transportation hub and tasty lunch dining.

For older persons at risk of losing their self-sufficiency, Senior Centers are an entry point to an array of services that will assist them as they “age in place.”

Across the country, more and more people are beginning to recognize that their local senior center has changed as a gateway for older adults to connect with others in their communities.  Senior Centers offer older adults vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.

Senior Centers offer a wide range of health, education, recreation, volunteer and other social interaction opportunities for their participants that enhance dignity, support independence, and encourage community involvement. Centers are also a resource for the entire community, providing services and information on aging, and assisting family and friends who care for older persons.

Senior Centers aren’t just for card games!  Sure, cards are available (and fun and challenging), but most Senior Centers offer far more than that!  Everything from trips and special events to fine arts and crafts, music and dance, lifelong learning, and fitness and health programs can be found at the centers.

Angel Dandrea, Volunteer Program Supervisor for Blair Senior Services, Inc., states “Some of our most popular things to do at the Senior Centers are the exercise classes, paint parties and our evening dinner dances.  The men really enjoy playing pool in our pool room at the Central Blair Senior Center.”

Senior Centers are a great place to find volunteering opportunities.  Older adults who are looking for volunteer opportunities or paid volunteer opportunities to supplement their retirement income, should stop by their local senior center to learn about what is available. Blair Senior Services, Inc. offers stipend volunteer positions with plenty of training, such as the Foster Grandparent Program where older adults are making a difference in young lives by volunteering, or the Senior Companion Program where volunteers spend time enriching the lives of another older adult through companionship. The Senior Center staff are always looking for seniors who want to share their talents and knowledge with others in the form of no cost workshops or leading clubs at the Senior Centers. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community.

Senior Centers are also a great place to get healthy. Health and fitness are areas that Blair Senior Services, Inc. has really expanded in recent years. Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers offer programs such as light aerobics, Zumba, Yoga, and Tai Chi.  According to Aubrey Lidwell, Community Services Program Coordinator at Blair Senior Services, Inc., “Our Centers have an overwhelming response to the exercise and Tai Chi classes with our four centers holding approximately 65 classes combined per week. Our instructors do a great job of incorporating all levels of fitness into the programs.  The best part is that it is free to the seniors!”

Angel Dandrea states, “Senior Centers play a very important role in the lives of older adults today by encouraging them to become, and remain, social. Socializing can help older adults improve their physical health, reduce risks of depression, increase their cognitive functioning and create a sense of belonging. We have so many different things to offer and it varies at each center, which really helps the consumers with a variety of things to choose from.  Participants can attend any of the activities at any center, not just the ones they may live closest to.  Our vans are available for transportation by appointment during daytime activities.”

Senior Centers are one of the most accessible, friendly, and inexpensive places that offer programs and services that promote active engagement and enjoyment of life by older adults.

The following list of activities and services are typical of programs offered by the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Senior Centers:


Nutrition Programs

Daily meals served at the Centers; Nutrition Education; Farmers Market Vouchers; Commodity Box Program


Fitness Classes

Light Aerobics; Yoga; Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention; Healthy Steps in Motion; Zumba; Cardio Circuit; Line Dancing


Wellness Services
Blood pressure checks; flu shots; hearing assessments; health presentations; chronic disease and diabetes self-management workshops, etc. 


Information and Assistance

Medicare counseling; referral and connection to appropriate community support services; Protective Services; caregiver information, etc.


Education Classes

Computer, Pinterest, Facebook Classes; Gardening Classes; Cooking Classes; Essential Oils Workshops


Financial

Tax preparation; rent rebate form assistance, etc.


Social Events and Programs

Musical entertainment, evening dinner/dances and paint parties; birthday parties; cards; pool table; paint and craft classes; etc.

These are just a few of the activities and services provided by Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers.  For more information or a complete list, visit their website at www.blairsenior.org.

Despite their variations, Senior Centers fill certain common purposes. “Whether it’s as a learning center or a place where people can come to find new ideas, to share their own ideas, be able to be creative, in a paint class or an exercise class, people want a common, safe, fun, helpful place to do that,” says Aubrey Lidwell.

“A personal touch is what sets our Senior Centers apart from other aging-related services,” Dandrea says. “If you talk to the people who come here, they would say it’s a warm and welcoming place. A place where they’re treated as individuals and responded to and respected. Where they’re known and can make it their place to socialize and meet friends.”

“One challenge is the term ‘Senior Center’, which can be off-putting in a culture in which people don’t want to think of themselves as aging or see themselves as older adults,” Lidwell states.  “This is why we try to reinvent or add programs that are changing with the needs and requests of the consumers.”

There are many benefits to older adults who visit the Senior Centers. Some of which include:

Emotional Benefits

Seniors who attend Senior Center activities on a regular basis are shown to have better emotional health. A Senior Center offers an escape from lonely homes, lonely lives and isolation.

Social Benefits

Socialization is extremely important to happy senior living. Seniors who participate in center activities enjoy being around others their age, sharing stories and participating in community activities. Older individuals who would normally be isolated are offered the chance to maintain friendships and create new ones.

Financial Benefits

This is probably the most important of the unspoken Senior Center benefits. Senior Centers generally offer services from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. This means that if a senior wants to spend their day at the center, they could have lunch, beverages, participate in free health evaluations and other benefits that would normally be far outside of their monthly budget. Just one balanced meal per day and the chance to socialize with friends offers many aging adults benefits beyond measure.

Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers are a treasure chest of not only a substantial daily meal, but a safe haven for companionship, health and wellness, plus numerous activities for the body and mind.

September is National Senior Center Month.  Make a plan to visit your local senior center this month and see all the benefits you can discover.

For a list of monthly activities by individual centers, lunch menus and more information on all the services offered by Blair Senior Services, Inc., please visit their website at www.blairsenior.org  or call 814-946-1235.

Did You Get Your New Medicare Card?

Social Security numbers are used for just about everything; including financial records, medical information and legal documents.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and people with disabilities, are removing Social Security numbers (SSN) off the cards it distributes to enrollees. Instead of identifying members by their Social Security number, the new cards will use a computer generated series of 11 letters and numbers. The cards will also no longer include a person’s gender or signature.

Pennsylvania residents were among the first affected by the change and they should have received cards between April 2018 and the end of June 2018.

The reason for this change is meant to help defend you against identity theft, which affects a large and growing number of seniors. By removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards this will help to prevent fraud, fight identity theft, and keep taxpayer dollars safe. 

The use of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards has long been problematic. Whether through theft or fraud, if your number falls in the wrong hands, it can be used to access your bank accounts, steal your Social Security checks, or fraudulently get medical care or prescription drugs in your name.

According to the Social Security Administration, a task force was created in 2006 to investigate identity theft. Because about 42 million Medicare cards display the full Social Security number, authorities feared that beneficiaries would be vulnerable to identity theft. Federal agencies have been recommending removal of the SSN for a number of years, and now the Department of Health and Human Services has until 2019 to issue new modernized Medicare cards to new beneficiaries and give out the new cards to those who already have existing Medicare cards.

“The change is long overdue”, states Melissa Hey, Blair Senior Services, Apprise Coordinator. “You show your health insurance card to a lot of people you wouldn’t share your Social Security number with”, she says. “The updated cards provide more privacy protection and lowers the risk of identity theft.” 

Ironically, the change has sparked a wave of new scams targeting people on Medicare. The new scams started almost as soon as the replacement card program was announced. In one typical scheme, fraudsters call Medicare beneficiaries on the phone and tell them that in order to get the new card they need to provide Social Security and bank account information, threatening to cancel their Medicare benefits if they don’t provide both. None of which are true.

Seniors who account for 50 million people using Medicare, the other million are people with disabilities, are especially vulnerable to scams. Melissa Hey says, “ Older adults are targeted more often because they are perceived to be more trusting. But scams can have a devastating impact on seniors who live on a fixed income and who don’t have time to rebuild savings.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR NEW CARD

You don’t need to do anything to get your card.
Medicare won’t call you to ask for personal or financial information.  Just make sure Medicare has your current mailing address. If it needs to be updated due to moving in the past year or two, contact Social Security, which administers the Medicare program. You can update it online by creating an online account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount, or you can call 1-800-772-1213. You can also go to a Social Security field office.

Medicare coverage and benefits will NOT change.
Getting a new Medicare card and number will not change the coverage or benefits that people with Medicare are currently receiving. The new Medicare Beneficiary Identification number (MBI) will be used for billing and for checking eligibility and claim status.

There is no charge for the new Medicare Card.
There is absolutely no fee to get the new card.  If anyone says otherwise, that should be a red flag that it’s a scam.

You may not get your card right away.
The process of mailing cards will take time, and you may not get your new card at the same time as your friends and neighbors. All people with Medicare will be mailed new cards by April 2019. You can make sure your mailing address is up to date by contacting Social Security at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213. TTY (Teleprinter/Teletypewriter) users can call 1-800-325-0778.

You can use your current card until January 1, 2020.
There is a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2019. After that, shred your old card—don’t just put it in the trash. The new card is smaller, the size of a credit card, so it fits in your wallet more easily. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, only the new card will be usable. 

You should keep your OTHER Medicare cards.
About one-third of people get their Medicare benefits through private insurance plans known as Medicare Advantage. Your Medicare Advantage card, which like the new Medicare cards, uses a unique identifier, not your Social Security number. This will not change and will still be your main card for Medicare. But you may be asked to show your new Medicare card, too, so take that with you for your initial appointments. Same goes if you have a separate plan for prescription drug coverage, Medicare Part D.

You can get help if you are scammed.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft or Medicare fraud, contact your state’s Senior Medicare Patrol, a federally funded program to help Medicare beneficiaries, their family, and caregivers. You can also call the Medicare fraud tip line at 1-800-447-8477; the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 800-633-4227; or Blair Senior Services, Inc. Apprise office at 814-946-1235. Unlike a Social Security number, which is difficult to change, you can get a different Medicare number if needed.

Melissa Hey said, “Ways to cut down on fraud with the new cards is first and foremost, keep the card in a safe place. Do not carry the new card in your wallet.  After your initial visits with your doctors, pharmacy or if you have an appointment here with us, always return your new card to a safe, secure location in your home. Be sure to check and read all the statements you receive in the mail regarding your benefits. Check for costs not associated with any visits, prescriptions or ‘fake’ services you may be charged.”

“Overall the new Medicare cards will make identity theft and theft of services for Medicare recipients less common. But be aware, scammers always find new ways. Please feel free to call our Apprise office at 814-946-1235 if there are any questions we can help answer for you.”

For more information on the new Medicare cards you can go to www.Medicare.gov.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Adds Two New Vans to Their Fleet

Blair Senior Services, Inc. has added two new vans to their transportation services. Both consumers and drivers are giving a thumbs up to the new Ford Transit vans that have several unique features.

Craig Russell of the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department agrees sharing, “We’ve received good comments from our consumers about the new vans. The seating is comfortable and easy to access. The new vans are narrower than our other vans which makes it easier to navigate while driving especially through the smaller city streets. And due to their more efficient engines, we are getting twice the miles to a gallon of gas.”

The new vans also have a unique floor system that allows for reconfiguration of the seating. This will enable the vans to be used in several ways by adding to the number of seats or changing the layout of the seating. Typically, the van will be set up for six seats and one wheelchair. One of the vans is being used for the rural routes and the other is being used in Altoona.
Currently, there are 36 vans in the fleet which are all handicap accessible that offer door-to-door transportation to Blair County residents. Anyone of any age can ride the van. Having reliable transportation during the week can help to change consumers’ lives. It offers freedom and independence.

Some programs exist to help pay for transportation services for those under age 60. Funded trips for residents between the ages of 60-64 are limited to medical appointments and federal buildings, such as the Social Security office. Consumers age 65 or older may use the van for multiple purposes, such as transportation to medical appointments, stores or hairdressers. Every trip is based on mileage and is a very inexpensive way to get where you need to go. Trips must be scheduled 24 hours in advance. Contact Blair Senior Services’ Transportation Office at (814) 695-3500 to schedule a trip or to get rate information.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Announces the Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service

For years, Blair Senior Services, Inc. wanted to have an award to recognize their Transportation Department employees who are held in high esteem by their peers and demonstrate excellence in every aspect of the job.

According to Dennis Wisor, Transportation Program Manager of the Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Transportation Department, “We had tried many times to launch a recognition awards program. I am very happy we now have the “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” to recognize the employees who do such good work every day.”

For the first year, Dennis said they kept it simple and the only restriction was that nominees must work in the Transportation/Medical Assistance Transportation Program. Employees of the Transportation Department were encouraged to submit nominations for employees they felt were deserving of this honor based on their dedication to the mission of Blair Senior Services, Inc., quality of service, or any related factors they felt makes them an exceptional employee.

The award was named in memory of the late Rex Fahr, a past Transportation Department driver from June 2013 to January 2016, who was well loved and respected for his exceptional work and personality. “Rex was universally loved by all of his fellow drivers and consumers. He battled cancer for over two years while working and left a mark on the entire Transportation Department,” shared Dennis.

The first recipient of the “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” is Chuck Alessi, Vehicle Operator. He was recognized and received his award at the HIPAA training held in December 2017. Dennis stated, “Chuck is a peer trainer and an overall great driver. He is simply what we strive to be every day.”

Chuck was surprised by the award, but very grateful. “I believe we should be courteous on and off the van, a good representative and ambassador of the company,” shared Chuck. “You appreciate the job and want the company to succeed and it is important to the consumers. For a lot of them, it is the only transportation service they have and they appreciate it.”

He has many fond memories of Rex and his consumers. Recently, Chuck encouraged one of his consumers, who was having difficulty remembering, to do the brainteaser puzzle that appears in every issue of the Seasons Magazine. The next time she rode his van, she told him how much she appreciated the driver that suggested she do the brainteaser puzzle and how it was helping. Her daughter even bought her three-word search books which is making a big difference. She did not remember it was Chuck who made the suggestion, but that is fine with him. He is more concerned with her well-being. “Many of my riders use our transportation service often and I get to know them.”

Rex and Chuck shared similar religious beliefs as Christians and often prayed together before they “took off each day.” Now Chuck is continuing this with the other drivers and keeping Rex’s tradition going. Chuck has been driving for Blair Senior Services, Inc. for five years. He served in the U.S. Navy, was a coal miner and retired from working at Berwind Railroad in Hollidaysburg. He majored in psychology in college.

Other nominees for the award included; Jim Fouse a driver for 8 years, Katie Brinkman a Transportation Program Assistant for 4 ½ years, and Rick Freet a driver for 3 years.
Frances Fahr, Rex’s wife, believes Rex would be happy to know his peers are being recognized. “I have the best job,” Rex would tell Frances every day when he came home from work. “As soon as he got home, he would tell me about the people he drove, always with a smile on his face”, shared Frances. “He would talk about them as he would a special friend or family member which is how he thought of them.”

When asking others to describe Rex, the words caring and compassionate were often repeated and Frances agreed. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for someone in need.”
Everywhere he went people knew him and he loved talking with them. He told me, “God really blessed me that He gave me this job.” Even as the disease progressed, Frances said it was the desire to care for others that kept him going.

Rex Fahr was a very special man in every way. After a very courageous battle with pancreatic cancer for three years, Rex passed in 2017. But his incredible and unselfish service and compassion for others will always be remembered.

Frances now rides the van and talks with other consumers on the van. When they learn that Rex was her husband they are quick to share their own personal memories of him. Even some who did not get to know Rex share how they have heard stories about his sincere concern and unselfish services for the van riders.
Congratulations to Chuck and all of the well-deserving nominees. Thank you to the hardworking and dedicated Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department Team for making a positive difference in the community.

Is It Time To Date Again?

Re-engaging in dating, or dating for the first time as we get older can be just as challenging as when we were much younger. While the choices of where we’ll go and what we might do are different, the anxious feelings we may have are very familiar. But as we found in our research and interviews with five charming couples at Blair Seniors Services, Inc.’s Senior Centers in Altoona and East Freedom, that is not holding many seniors back, and love is definitely in the air!
Despite growing interest, just 14% of eligible singles, aged 57-85, are currently in a dating relationship. However, a record number of older adults are open to dating, and the number will only rise as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. After all, one third of all Boomers are currently unmarried. And as quality of life continues to improve for older adults, the benefits that can come from dating—fun, companionship, and emotional support—seem more attainable, while the demands—time, energy, and money—feel more manageable. While the very prospect of dating might have once felt absurd to many older adults, more and more seniors are giving the idea a serious second look. Are you?
Earlier in life, most men and women report that they date primarily to find a spouse and start a family. For young daters, the intrinsic benefits of dating like social connection, fun, companionship, and emotional support are often secondary. To be sure, some seniors who date are also doing so to find a spouse. But many older adults feel that new long term commitments, like marriage, aren’t necessarily a priority later in life and very few seniors are looking to start new families.
Older adults who are in dating relationships or are looking to date often report that their main interest in dating is to have fun and find companionship, not necessarily to marry. Of course, many seniors do date with marriage in mind, but if you’re interested in dating, consider the benefits that may extend beyond the prospect of marriage!

Donna Gorman and Bob Lafferty originally met at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona. Bob was working his volunteer shift when Donna, who normally went to the Claysburg Center, arrived and immediately caught his eye. “She was pretty attractive,” Bob shared. Donna said she didn’t noticed him right away, but it wasn’t long before they went to dinner on their first date. She had been out with friends for lunch earlier that day and recalls it was ironic that she ate fish. When Bob took Donna to dinner the special was, you guessed it, fish. “I got the fish and she got a salad. People must have thought I was cheap,” laughed Bob.
That was the summer of 2015. Now you can find Donna and Bob shopping, going to dinner, traveling to Rocky Gap, and frequently at the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom for lunch, playing bingo and dancing. Both encourage others their ages to start dating again and believe it is good to be with someone. Donna commented that her daughter doesn’t need to worry as much about her and she likes that he’s great at helping fix things around her home, inside and outside. Bob said, “If I knew we had ten more years I’d ask her to marry me. I already bought her two rings, one with a diamond.” Donna’s reply, “They didn’t count, what does count is that I know he loves me.”

When seniors date, they find a companion that can accompany them to social engagements and activities at which a partner is often traditionally expected or even required, such as weddings and dances. They also gain the frequent company of someone who shares similar interests, which can enrich recreational experiences and present new opportunities for seniors to do the things that they most enjoy.
Sure, platonic friendships can accomplish some of those goals, but most adults agree that the company of a companion is different and fulfilling, and seniors with just platonic relationships might miss out on that kind of connection. Meanwhile, the emotional intimacy of a romantic relationship exceeds and differs from the emotional closeness that friends develop. Many seniors also draw emotional intimacy from their adult children, but most seniors say that they would prefer to also have close relationships, trust, and warmth with their peers.

For Mary Ann Sollenberger, she said it was love at first sight when she met Ken Miller. They have been dating for two years. “We met here at the Center and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” said Mary Ann. “He was and still is a handsome man.” Ken felt the same way. “I liked her right away. We sit beside each other in the van to come to the Center and hold hands,” shared Ken. “We kissed on the first date!”
For this couple, the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom is the hub for their dating. They enjoy the entertainment, dances, playing games, and talking with their many friends they’ve made.

Older adults in a dating relationship often indicate higher spirits than their single friends. When you’re in a relationship, you have someone who you want to dress up for and spend time with, someone to make plans with, someone who you think about warmly when they’re not around, and someone who provides support and comfort when they are there. All of this can help older adults feel happier and more fulfilled, which can even buoy their physical, psychological, and spiritual health.

Ken Lingenfelter agrees, although he had to work when it came to convincing Alice Parker. Ken liked to hand out his phone number to all the ladies at their lunch table at the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom. Alice resisted and even said she ran from him. “I wasn’t looking for a date and when he offered me his phone number, I declined,” shared Alice.
It’s now been three years since their first date and they continue to enjoy coming to the Senior Center. “I like the female companionship, having lunch, using the treadmill, and taking part in cooking classes especially the ones on healthy eating here,” said Alice. Ken said he likes the socializing and the attention he gets wearing a different Superman shirt every day of the month. “She likes to eat fruits and vegetables. I like anything that doesn’t get away before I eat it.”
Their advice on dating once again, “There are no rules on age and dating. Go for it, you only live once!” As for the future, Ken says he bought Alice a pre-pre-pre-engagement ring and a pre-pre-engagement ring. The next one might be it!

Overall, there are plenty of advantages to dating: you’ll meet new people, form new friendships, open yourself up to new experiences, and you’ll probably end up happier and healthier.
These days, there are more opportunities than ever before for seniors to date. Of course, there’s the old fashioned way: talk to people! Seniors who are open to dating tend to be more socially connected, which means they generally participate in lots of social events where you can find them, approach them, and strike up a conversation. And your chances of finding another single person are pretty good, since more than half of people age 65 and older aren’t married.
One of the best ways to find a potential person to date face-to-face is to seek out opportunities to connect with your peers by attending plenty of social events in your area that are geared towards older adults. Every issue of Seasons Magazine has a whole season’s worth of great events hosted by Blair Senior Services, Inc. (See pages 4 through 7.) Keep in mind that one of the advantages of dating as an older adult is finding a companion who shares your interests, so be sure to choose the events that you actually enjoy and attend them.

Dolores (Dee) Watcher and Dave Port have been dating for eight years after meeting at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona. “We met in the old lunch room where they put numbers on the tables and called you up to get your lunch,” said Dave. “My table was called before her table and I convinced her to move to my table. It worked”. Dee said she was reluctant at first due to her late husband telling her not to trust men. She would not give Dave her correct home address, but he kept trying. “He asked me if I liked chicken. I didn’t know him very well and met him at the Center before going to the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ebensburg. We’ve been together ever since,” said Dee.

Both their families support their dating and like knowing they have each other even though her daughter still checks on her every day. Dee goes to the Center often with her friends for the exercise and ceramic classes. Dave likes to enjoy the entertainment and listen to the music. “The Center is a good place to get to know others. It’s never too late to fall in love if you meet the right person,” said Dee.
But for many, the idea of approaching someone out of the blue, striking up a conversation, and broaching the subject of romance is completely nerve-wracking. Most people found that stuff scary during their teens and twenties, and many find the prospect even more daunting later in life, when dating is not as common. After all, rejection is always a possibility, especially since many single seniors choose not to date, and that can be an embarrassing and hurtful prospect.

For Laurel Meres and Ron Reeseman, it was family members who encouraged them to become more active. That was August of 2016 and just one year later they got married!
“I came for lunch at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona and sat with my brother’s lunch group,” said Ron. “He told me I needed to get out and get a life!” For Laurel, it was her daughter who encouraged her to start being more social. “I started going for lunch and after a while Ron asked me to join their lunch group. One year later, we were married,” shared Laurel. “I asked God for a Christian man with a great sense of humor, who would love and adore me. I got all that and more.”
Ron shared it was her personality and how she likes to give to others that attracted him. Their first date was at an Altoona Curve Baseball game with tickets they won from Blair Senior Services, Inc. Not long after that, Ron proposed, they were married and went to another Altoona Curve game for their honeymoon. And for wedding gifts, they bought each other season tickets for the next year!
Both Laurel and Ron believe older adults do not need to be alone. They shared that if you hold back from engaging in a new relationship you may miss out on the companionship and joy that help you feel full and complete. “We laugh all day. Learning to let someone help you, cuddle and smile at you, there’s something special in that.”

While seniors can find fun, companionship, and emotional satisfaction by dating, it is not for everyone. Many seniors decide that dating is not for them, and they still manage to form completely fulfilling relationships through their friends, adult children, grandchildren, pastors, and others. There are many legitimate reasons why seniors choose not to date.
Some older adults, especially women, report uncertainty about dating because they fear that some seniors are in the dating pool primarily because they are looking for a caretaker, not a romantic companion. Many older adults value their independence, and they don’t want to risk losing it, particularly when a new marriage forces them to alter their lifestyle or become responsible for their spouse. While marriage is a serious commitment that involves responsibilities, including caring for an ailing spouse, seniors should not start dating because they are looking to marry quickly and get a new caretaker. And seniors should not be pressured to date or continue dating out of any feeling of social or personal obligation.
Regardless of whether you choose to date or not, your golden years are about enjoying life by doing the things that interest and energize you and spending time with the people you care about. For most seniors, the point of dating is to enhance this experience by seeking out a companion and a confidante with whom to share life’s great experiences. During all our interviews at the Senior Centers, the one thing that was most apparent and repeated by all the couples was the importance of having a good sense of humor for forming and keeping a relationship.
Clearly the large number of opportunities for socializing, great variety of activities and entertainment in a safe environment make the Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Senior Centers a good choice for older adults considering getting back into the dating game!

The Silent Epidemic

Stories about the opioid epidemic are all over the news these days, and for good reason: the opioid crisis is the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in American history. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died because of an opioid overdose, and experts estimate that that figure might have grown by as much as 20% in 2016. Opioid overdoses now exceed car crashes as the leading accidental cause of death in the United States.
According to numbers provided by Heather Dick, LCSW, MAC, CAADC, Regional Outpatient Director at Pyramid Health Care in Altoona; Blair County ranked #20 out of all 67 counties in the state for fatal overdoses in 2016, with 33.8 persons per 100,000 dying from drug related overdose. This rank was up from 2015 when Blair County was at #40. Blair County alone saw a 95% increase in 
drug-related overdose deaths from 2015-2016.
Often ignored in stories about the opioid epidemic and other stories about substance abuse are America’s older adults, who make up 20% of opioid overdose deaths in the United States. And while myths persist that seniors are less susceptible to addiction, the truth is just the opposite: seniors are often more at-risk than the general population of developing a serious substance abuse problem, be it to alcohol, prescription drugs, or even recreational narcotics.
While opioids have long been a useful and manageable short-term pain treatment option for patients recovering from surgeries or injuries, by the late 1990s doctors were writing long-term prescriptions for opioids to help patients manage chronic pain.
Contrary to myth, older adults are actually often more susceptible to substance abuse, including dependence, addiction, and overdose. Compared to younger generations, seniors are much more likely to experience chronic pain that can make life difficult, and pain associated with surgeries and injuries can last longer and require more treatment. Therefore, seniors are more likely to be prescribed long-term drug treatments and multiple medications, including potentially addictive opioids. While seniors comprise just 13% of the population, they account for more than a third of all prescription drug consumption. Meanwhile, their kidneys and liver function less efficiently, which means it takes longer for drugs and alcohol to filter out of the systems of older adults. Seniors are also more likely to use drugs improperly because of memory loss. Finally, seniors are more likely than other generations to view addiction primarily as a moral failing rather than as a medical condition, which can make it very difficult to admit that there’s a problem and to ask for help.
Though opioids understandably receive much of the attention, substance abuse among seniors spans across all potentially addictive materials, from prescription opioids to alcohol to recreational narcotics. In 2015, about 20% of adults aged sixty and over were affected by some kind of substance abuse, and experts expect the total number of seniors struggling with substance abuse to double by 2030. The majority of instances of substance abuse among older adults involve alcohol because it is commonly used and widely available. Additionally, older adults experience a lower tolerance to alcohol as they age, meaning it takes fewer drinks for use to become excessive or abusive. Other factors that aggravate the risk of substance abuse for seniors include emotional triggers, such as frequent deaths among family, friends, and peers, loneliness, 
co-morbidity with mental illness or physical disability, and Seasonal Affective Disorder otherwise known as the “Holiday Blues”. Pyramid Healthcare’s Heather Dick says, “This is a major factor for all ages, but particularly with older adults. They are more likely to have lost multiple close relationships, due to death or relocation, making holiday times emotionally difficult as well as isolating. During colder months people tend to experience an increase in pain due to arthritis which may lead to an increased desire for medication. The chronic pain alone, can cause an increase in depression and/or anxiety leading to increased risks of substance use/abuse. Finally, it is more difficult to get out and socialize with dangerous weather conditions further exacerbating isolation.”
While substance abuse is a serious and tragic dimension to the story of seniors and the opioid epidemic, seniors also interact with the opioid crisis in a surprising way: as suppliers. Especially as national awareness of the opioid crisis grows, doctors and pharmacists face increasing pressure to use extra caution when prescribing and distributing opioid painkillers to patients. Well-meaning older adults will simply give their excess pills away to friends and family who claim to need the medication to manage pain. And sometimes family members and others will pilfer pills from seniors without their knowledge.
Thankfully, the widespread national conversation about opioid addiction and other issues of substance abuse means that there are a myriad of resources available. Awareness is at an all-time high, and communities around the country are exhibiting an unprecedented commitment to helping addicts and substance abusers get the help they need.
Amy Lowey, a Pharmacist at Dick’s Pharmacy in Altoona, PA, sits on the Pharmacists Roundtable with Operation Our Town, a nonprofit in Blair County dedicated to preventing illegal drug use. Lowey noted that in June 2016, Pennsylvania adopted a narcotic monitoring system to help physicians and pharmacists work together to communicate better and form a first line of defense against opioid drug abuse. Now, any time a Pennsylvania physician prescribes a narcotic, they are required to report that information into a centralized data system within 24 hours. Physicians and pharmacies all have access to that information, so they can monitor patient drug use and detect early warning sides of abuse and addiction.
Lowey said that part of her work as a pharmacist includes educating consumers about proper opioid drug use. For her, it’s not just about properly filling out prescriptions, it’s also about making sure that those prescriptions are used safely and properly. “We have a conversation with the consumer regarding storage, keeping track of how much they have on hand, and also where and how to store the narcotic,” she said. She added that if a narcotic is prescribed and it seems like a gray area as to why, she will inform the consumer about the possible dangers of the medications and possible alternatives to narcotic pain management, and she suggests that they have another conversation with their doctor about the best treatment plan.
Lowey also has experience working specifically with seniors on this issue, including giving presentations about prescription medications and opioids. She pointed out that there are legitimate uses for opioid pain medications, and the risk of abuse and addiction can be mitigated with education, counseling, and monitoring. “It’s important not to scare seniors from using their medication,” she said. “If they truly need the medication, they should take it as needed.” She gave several examples of proper opioid pain management, including short-term prescriptions related to an acute injury or treatments for some long- term situations including hospice care and some serious illnesses like cancer.
Instead of scaring seniors, the best approach is to work with them to manage their treatment plans, educate them about proper prescription drug use, and monitor the pills to ensure they aren’t misused and don’t fall into the wrong hands. “If you have additional prescriptions or unwanted medications, there are ways to dispose of them,” Lowey concluded. “There are four local Police Departments in Blair County that have drop off boxes for unwanted prescriptions: Altoona, Logan Township, Hollidaysburg, and Tyrone. Times for drop off may vary, so I would check before going.”
Dick’s Pharmacy in Altoona also offers Deterra Pouches to help dispose of prescription drugs. Consumers can put up to 45 tablets into the pouch, then fill it with water and seal it. The medication dissolves so that it is no longer effective, and then the consumer can throw the whole sealed pouch into the trash.
Heather Dick provides this advice on treatment, “Treatment options for Opioid Use Disorders (OUD) are most effective with long-term treatment and start with a thorough assessment conducted by a qualified drug and alcohol professional. There are an array of community based supports including 12-step meetings and SMART Recovery. Individuals with OUD have a greater level of success the earlier they start treatment and the longer they engage in both treatment and supports.”
The opioid epidemic and broader struggles of substance abuse have hurt individuals, families, and communities around the United States, including many older adults. However, unprecedented awareness at the local and national level has created a unified national will to beat the crisis and help people in need. Through education and awareness, seniors and their families can learn about preventing addiction and detecting signs of substance abuse early.
Heather states, “Drug and alcohol treatment providers, like Pyramid Healthcare, provide the continuum of care to address and treat Substance Use Disorders. For family members who have loved ones with addiction, there are community support and peer based support services such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. In Blair County, we have the HOPE group aimed at providing group peer support to those who have loved ones struggling with SUD. Assist your loved one in getting connected with treatment, resources and social events. The less time they spend alone the better. Senior centers are a great way to increase social engagement and connection with peer supports. SAMHSA is a great resource to find literature and resources to educate yourself and your loved ones about Addiction.”(https://www.samhsa.gov)

Understanding Medicare Benefits Made Easy

Let’s face it: Medicare can be confusing. Enrollees encounter a lot of tough decisions when it comes to choosing the right coverage plan and sorting through all of the different benefit options. The process sometimes feels plastered with red tape and laden with unfamiliar jargon. And who can keep track of all the different policies and benefits for Medicare Parts A, B, and D, let alone all the private supplemental options that are out there? To make matters worse, people face harsh penalties if they fail to register properly, and confused enrollees risk missing out on discounts and financial assistance. Some even end up paying for coverage they don’t want or missing out on coverage options that they need.

Continue reading “Understanding Medicare Benefits Made Easy”

2017 Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Begins

It’s time to enjoy the great fresh produce, remember proper storage by September 29, 2017 and used fruits and vegetables locally grown and available at our area farmers’ markets. Blair Senior Services, Inc. is pleased to once again be administering the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) in Blair County for 2017. The program began on June 1 and issues vouchers for income-eligible older adults to exchange for fruits and vegetables at local farmers’ markets.

Including fruit and vegetables in your daily diet is important. They contain vitamins and minerals that can help keep you healthy and feeling energized. They can also help protect against some diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

Be sure to buy the right produce by selecting ones that are not bruised or damaged. When buying pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce, choose only items that are refrigerated or stored by ice. After purchasing your fresh is also important for both quality and safety. Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below.

Prior to eating or preparing your fresh produce remember to wash it thoroughly under running water. After washing, dry the produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.

Farmers’ Market vouchers are distributed at the Central Blair Senior Center, located at 1320 Twelfth Avenue in Altoona, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. while supplies last. Throughout June, vouchers will also be available at the Northern Blair, Southern Blair and Williamsburg Senior Centers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Each eligible individual receives four vouchers worth ve dollars each. Vouchers must be picked up by November 30, 2017. Please be aware that vouchers will be distributed until the supply is depleted and you are encouraged to pick up your vouchers at your earliest convenience.

To be eligible to receive the vouchers, you must be 60 years of age or over and a resident of Blair County. Eligibility is also determined by your total 2016 household income. Proof of age and residency, such as a driver’s license or photo ID, are required.

This summer, plan on visiting our area framers’ markets and enjoy the wide variety of nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only will it be good for your diet, it will make for a great outing. For more information regarding the program’s guidelines and distribution centers, please call Blair Senior Services, Inc. at 814- 946-1235.

“No Place Like Home”

A common saying is “there is no place like home!” For many people, this is true because as they view their home as their own personal safe haven. However, there are some people in our community who cannot relate to this statement because they do not have a place to call home. Most people are familiar with the foster care system available to children without adequate housing and supervision. But what happens when an adult is unable to care for themselves independently, but does NOT require skilled nursing care? An option that many people are not aware of is Domiciliary Care.

Domiciliary Care (Dom Care for short) is a home-like living arrangement in the community for adults ages 18 and older who are not able to live independently. These individuals require assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and grooming, and are dependent upon the provider for three meals a day, supervision, medication management, and money management when necessary. Unlike larger personal care homes, Dom Care homes are much more intimate as they are within the provider’s actual home. All certified Dom Care homes are inspected annually to ensure that they continue to meet all health and safety standards.

Due to the intimate nature of Dom Care, it is very important that Dom Care consumers are matched to homes that best meet their special needs, preferences, and interests. In Blair County, there is a wide range of Dom Care consumers. Some consumers are high functioning and independent in most areas and require limited supervision, while others may be lower functioning and totally dependent upon the provider to meet their everyday needs. Most Dom Care consumers have a mental health or intellectual disability diagnosis, but this is not always the case. It is up to both parties (consumer and provider) to determine if they feel they would be a good match for each other. New potential consumers are always introduced to the provider and allowed to tour the home to make sure both parties are comfortable with each other before move in day. Just like the consumers, there is also a wide range of providers. In Blair County, there are providers ranging in age from their early 20’s to late 80’s. There are both male and female providers. The providers come from all different social, religious and economic backgrounds.

They have all held different careers throughout their lives. The one thing they all have in common is that they have a desire to help others and have made the choice to invite others into their home.

An example of such a provider is Wanda McCarron. She has been a Dom Care provider for over 20 years, and has opened her home to six consumers over those years. She has three that live with her at this time (Sandy, Barb and Mary). Sandy has lived with Wanda for 20 years; Barb for 18 years; and Mary for 17 years. Wanda reported that when she rst became a provider, it was mutually beneficial because she needed a source of income at the time and the ladies needed someone to take care of them. But over the years, Wanda has proven herself to be someone who goes the ‘extra mile’ for her consumers. They are more than just Dom Care provider and Dom Care consumers. They have become a family. Some of the ladies’ favorite memories with Wanda throughout the years include going swimming, shopping, renting a cabin, visiting Jellystone, going to Knoebel’s Amusement Park, attending a dinner cruise on the Proud Mary, visiting Delgrosso’s Amusement Park, and going to Living Treasures Zoo. The ladies consider Wanda to be like a “mom” to them. During an interview with the consumers, Barb stated that she would “be lost without Wanda” and that living in the Dom Care home is “worth more than a million dollars.” When asked about her favorite part of Dom Care, Mary, who grew up an orphan, stated “It is nice to have a family.” Wanda simply stated that she feels this is her contribution to society. She reported that she loves the women and promised to never let them “go without” because they deserve the best life has to offer. All four women agreed “there is no place like home.”

Blair County is currently experiencing a shortage of Dom Care homes. With that being said, are you someone who would be interested in opening your home to provide a room, meals and supervision to individuals in our community who require a structured living arrangement? Interested Dom Care provider applicants should have room in their homes and time to provide assistance with daily living activities to individuals who have difficulties performing these activities independently. Home providers may assist with medications and grooming as well as provide meals, laundry, and transportation to doctor’s appointments. Dom Care homes are approved by the certifying agency, Blair Senior Services, Inc., after meeting strict re, safety and health standards. Providers are paid a standard monthly fee for each person residing in their home. The current rate is $979 a month per consumer and providers can have up to three consumers living in their home at a time. If this is something you might consider, please contact the Domiciliary Care Coordinator, Stephanie Sanford, at Blair Senior Services, Inc. to start the process!