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.”(

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!