LifePath develops 4-year plan to aid area elders

  • The LifePath entrance on the north side of the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2021 5:28:00 PM

GREENFIELD — LifePath has released its proposed Plan for Area Elders, following a recent assessment of local seniors’ needs.

The needs assessment, which consisted of focus groups, interviews and a survey, identified seven main areas of concern for elders in Franklin County and the North Quabbin. Those concerns included maintaining independence, housing and upkeep, accessing health care, mental health, transportation and legal services.

The Greenfield-based LifePath, as the local Area Agency on Aging, is responsible for creating a plan every four years after assessing the needs of elders and creating a plan to meet them, according to Lynne Feldman, director of community services/planner at LifePath.

“This plan is another opportunity to get the word out that as people age — if they have questions or concerns about how to age in place — Life Path … can help you navigate those issues, whether it be issues with health care, or ... home repair,” Feldmann said. “Those are all things we may be able to help with, and if we can’t, we can guide you in the right direction.”

Although many of the main issues were consistent with past assessments, Feldmann said she felt like accessing health care was identified as an “even greater concern” this year.

“We do have a shortage of primary care physicians and dentists,” she said. “It can be hard to get doctor’s appointments and it can be hard to get a specialist appointment as well, especially if you don’t have access to telehealth.”

Housing was also a common theme during the assessment process. Focus group members reportedly said that although they want to stay in their respective communities, “there doesn’t seem to be a way to downsize locally.”

“People also remain very concerned about how they’re going to manage their home as they age,” Feldmann said. “For that reason, we have applied for several grants around housing, and we recently received an award from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to provide 180 local elders with access to home repair services and home modifications.”

Participants in the study also expressed concerns over service access issues such as not understanding eligibility, exclusion of elders with no internet access from online programming, and the inadequacy of interpretation support for those with limited English proficiency.

Part of the 2022-2025 plan, Feldmann explained, involves looking into adding a medical advocacy component to the nonprofit’s services.

“If you’re struggling with understanding your medical situation, we can match you with a volunteer who can help you advocate and get you the information you need, and get those appointments,” she said.

Following the fall review, a public hearing was held Sept. 10, and written comments were accepted through Wednesday.

Feldmann said LifePath will submit the final proposal to the state Executive Office of Elder Affairs for review and approval, but in the meantime, those plans are already being put to practice.

“We’re already getting started,” she said. “We’re doing what we need to do and of course appreciate any guidance the state has and a review of our plan. We’re getting busy.”

The final document will be accessible on the website (lifepathma.org) for anyone who is interested in learning more. A draft can be found at bit.ly/3AeL0Er.

Mary Byrne can be reached at Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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