At Your Service

Offering directions for a new phase of life.If only retirement had a road map. As with any journey, it can be thorny to navigate without a guide. What’s out there? Where to go if you have questions? Who can help?Luckily, there are plenty of people and services right here in New Hampshire ready to give direction and help you segue smoothly into this next phase of life.Road map? Think of this as more as a full-fledged GPS.When you think of retirement, one four-letter word usually comes to mind. (Just to be clear: we’re talking about AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons.) “AARP represents 200,000 Granite Staters,” says Jamie Bulen, associate state director of communications for N.H’s chapter of AARP. Nationwide, AARP’s membership base is second only to the Catholic Church in the United States.”Our magazine has the world’s largest circulation,” adds Bulen. “We have a powerful brand and a trusted organization.” So it stands to reason that they should be a great place to start for information about any retirement questions or concerns you might have.Bulen points out that today’s aging population is confronted with many different issues: Baby boomers might still have kids at home with them or aging parents or both. Grandparents might be raising their grandchildren. AARP has the resources to conduct copious amounts of research as to what is important to seniors, and advocates around those issues on behalf of their members.She points out an example of how 62 percent of their members strongly support allowing funds that are currently used only for nursing home care to also be used for long-term care services that help people age in place in their own homes. Another 22 percent somewhat support the idea. “That really guides us in telling us what’s important to our members,” she says.AARP’s articles and information also varies because retirement itself has changed over the years, she says. “Traditional retirement is gone,” says Bulen. “Used to be that people retired at 62 or 65, but no more. They want to pursue hobbies and work part time or work at their current job for less hours or go back to school. When we’re talking about retiring we’re not going to mean not going to work.” It also means that most likely if it’s something you’re looking for, it’s in their magazine or on their website.The Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services is another statewide resource for seniors. As a part of the state’s Health and Human Services Department, the bureau provides a support system for those aged 60 and up.Wendi Aultman, program specialist for the BEAS, says it’s even a good place to start for those younger than 60 who are just starting to plan for the years ahead.As one component of their offerings, each year they hold an annual conference in May in honor of Older Americans Month. “The Administration on Aging at the federal level provides guidance on what the theme is, and we ‘New Hampshirize’ it,” she says. With more than 90 vendors, they estimated about 800 seniors attending this year, and that includes 10 complimentary sponsored buses that transport 300 seniors from around different areas of the state. (Just don’t call it the Blue Haired Express.)”[The conference] is a great place to start if you’re not sure what might be available in your community,” says Aultman. “It’s a great face-to-face connection.”Debbie Love, logistics coordinator for the Conference on Aging, says the vendor categories run the gamut from health care and financial advisors to massage therapists and bath fitters.”There’s a whole plethora of things to see and plenty of workshops. We cater to the conference’s population – asking what they’d like to hear about by surveying senior centers, and based on their responses, we base our workshops on that information,” says Love.Even if you missed the conference this year, you can still check out their website to take advantage of the different links. Along with the conference, and perhaps more importantly, year-round, the bureau partners with local communities to bring residents to ServiceLink Resource Centers. ServiceLink is a statewide network of 13 primary and satellite community-based locations that provide confidential help in finding services or support. In most cases, ServiceLInk partners with senior centers around the state, often sharing the same space for convenience and practicality.ServiceLink usually shows up on people’s radar around the same time, says Aultman. “Often we start working with individual people when they get the book from Medicare and say to themselves, ‘Now what?'” she says. ServiceLink can help them with free and confidential health insurance counseling, as well as assisting them with ways to reduce their Medicare costs or choosing the right prescription drug plan, among other things.”They want to talk to somebody about their benefits and we start that connection with people and that turns into other things they might have issues about, such as caring for their parents.” Among the subjects ServiceLink can help caregivers with are finding support groups, legal services, emergency preparedness and other issues.And while you’re in the senior center taking advantage of ServiceLink, check out the other offerings that senior centers have to offer.”From what I see senior centers play a huge role in retirees’ lives,” says Patti Drelick, president of the N.H. Association of Senior Centers (NHASC) and the director of the Salem Senior Center. Aside from all the programming, we are an informational resource, says Drelick. “Say someone is just retired and their insurance is changing. They might ask, ‘What do I do with that?’ We’re a resource to answer a lot of those questions.”She adds that senior centers in our state are run differently than in other states. Because senior centers receive no state funding – and therefore no federal funding – each senior center is very different from community to community. Some communities have no senior center at all.”Because we don’t receive any state funding there are no state regulations on how we operate or on what we have to provide,” says Drelick. Whether this is more challenging or more freeing depends on the community as well. “The taxpayers of Salem fully fund our budget,” she says. “It’s a tight budget but it allows me to do what I want to do, and liberates me.”As the senior population changes, so too do the places where those seniors congregate. “We’ve seen a great evolution in the past year,” says Drelick. “We’ve seen several senior centers who have had the same directors for 20-30 years with a new wave of directors. Senior centers are preparing for the aging shift rather than dealing with it.” As the boomers are coming along they’re actively seeking senior centers with exercise programming.In Salem, they offer 173 different programs – ballroom dancing, line dancing and tap dancing; bingo and bowling; cribbage and canasta; pinochle and poker. They have a Red Hat Society, trips and parties. Drelick likens it almost to a country club for seniors. “We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” she says. The center enlists nearly 200 volunteers, which is another way for a retired person to engage in the center.”It’s a win-win situation,” she says. “They keep themselves well and stay busy, and you’re helping yourself and 20 other people by giving an hour a week, which allows us to provide it free to them. Ninety percent of what we offer is free here.” As anything in life, she says, to what level it plays a role in a retiree’s life is an individual choice. “We have people who walk in the door and who have just retired with nothing but time on their hands who come to our senior center.” Some people just come for the socialization, some for the health and wellness programs. And still others, she says, might only come once or twice a year because they are still working or babysitting their grandchildren.”The key for us is filling in everyone’s different needs. They can come and talk to us and we can point them in the right direction.” NH

Categories: Health & Wellness