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Generations Michigan

Summer 2005


Seniors Discover the

High-Tech World


Remote-controlled cabinets glide up or down, talking robots light up, computers monitor your health.

Also in This Issue: ■ A Look at Area Agencies Around Our State Published quarterly by Michigan’s Area Agencies on Aging

Welcome to Michigan Generations Michigan is divided into 16 AAAs, each serving a different part of the state.

AAAs— Gateways to Community Resources


Whether you are an older adult yourself, a caregiver or a friend concerned about the well-being of an older adult, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are ready to help. AAAs in communities across the country serve as gateways to local resources, planning efforts, and services that help older adults remain independent. AAAs were established under the Older Americans Act in 1973 to respond to the needs of Americans aged 60 and over in every community. The services available through AAA agencies fall into five general categories: information and consultation, services available in the community, services in the home, housing, and elder rights. A wide range of programs is available within each category.



7 5


3A 3B



4 Region IV Area Agency on Aging 5 Valley Area Agency on Aging 6 Tri-County Office on Aging 7 Region VII Area Agency on Aging 8 Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan 9 NEMCSA Region 9 Area Agency on Aging 10 Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan 11 Upper Peninsula Area Agency on Aging 14 Senior Resources of West Michigan Visit the AAA’s state website at

6 1A

The services offered by Michigan’s 16 AAAs cover a broad spectrum of needs, such as information and referral, case management, in-home services, home-delivered meals, senior centers, transportation, and special outreach. To read more about each of Michigan’s AAAs and the services available, turn to page 10 of this issue. MI





Generations SUMMER 2005 Published quarterly

through a cooperative effort of Michigan’s Area Agencies on Aging. For information contact: Jenny Jarvis 248-262-9202


Editorial Project Development: JAM Communications, Atlanta, GA Design and Production: Wells-Smith Partners, Lilburn, GA Cover and feature photography by Green Frog Photography, Grand Rapids, MI.

On the Cover: An exciting array of new products, based on cutting-edge technology, is reaching the senior market. Here, Irene Koziol of Madison Heights tries out a kitchen cabinet that is lowered by pressing a button. Insets: NurseBot robot and the Memory Mirror. Turn to story, page 4.

Summer 2005, Volume 3, #1 © 2005 by the Michigan Area Agencies on Aging. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, the Michigan Area Agencies on Aging and JAM Communications make no warranty to the accuracy or reliability of this information. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission. All rights reserved.

Michigan Generations



They are:

1A Detroit Area Agency on Aging 1B Area Agency on Aging 1-B 1C The Senior Alliance 2 Region 2 Area Agency on Aging 3A Kalamazoo Cty.Human Services Dept.Region 3A 3B Burnham-Brook Region IIIB Area Agency on Aging 3C Branch-St.Joseph Area Agency on Aging IIIC


JOBS for Older Workers



fter a successful pilot project with Home Depot to incorporate older Americans into its work force, AARP recently expanded the program to include over a dozen major companies. The AARP Featured Employers Program provides older workers with online links to the participating businesses. Job openings, training and information about member companies are provided. Participating businesses pay a fee, based on their number of employees, to cover the cost of the online service. AARP said it expects other employers will apply to participate: To join, companies must be financially sound and must have demonstrated a commitment to older workers. Each company has different jobs available, which require different skills. Each has a different application process. The initiative is seen as an effort to help employers avert possible labor shortages that may occur as boomers retire and fewer younger workers enter the workplace. By 2010, according to AARP, almost one in every three workers will be at least 50 years old.

DID YOU KNOW… Some 27 million family caregivers in the United States provide more than 20 hours of care each week? These family caregivers provide an estimated $257 billion in unpaid services annually — more than twice what is spent on nursing homes and paid home care combined. Given those statistics, it’s not surprising that caregiver support groups are growing so quickly.You can find community support groups in your town, which provide an opportunity for face-to-face contact with individuals who share your experiences. Or you can go online to find Internet support groups, which are made up of people all over the world who have similar challenges. As a caregiver, you should never feel “alone.” To find a community support group, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, check the yellow pages, or call a local organization that deals with the kind of problem you’d like to address in a support group.

Combating Loss of Appetite


ndividuals in poor health may commonly experience weight loss, which can be frustrating and difficult for caregivers. The cause might be attributed to the treatment of their illness, medications or physiological problems. It’s also possible the person you are caring for has a loss of appetite simply from not feeling well. Here are some tips from for encouraging your loved one to eat. 1. Make sure the person you are caring for has plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 2. Instead of three regular meals a day, serve six small meals a day.

Surfing the Net Each issue of Michigan Generations offers several websites of interest to older adults and their caregivers … right at your fingertips. showcases the upcoming 2005 White House Conference on Aging to be held in Washington, DC on December 11–14, 2005. It’s held once every decade to make aging policy recommendations to the President and Congress., the website for the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, is an excellent source for attorneys in your area who have practiced estate law for at least 10 years. Look for more helpful websites in the next issue of Michigan Generations. Summer 2005

3. Bulk up on the amount of calories per meal — for instance, add protein powder mix to shakes or drinks. 4. Serve soft foods such as pudding, ice cream or fruit smoothies, which are easy to digest. 5. Make it tasty. Don’t serve bland or sour-tasting foods. 6. When possible, give the person you are caring for the decision-making power to choose what they would like to eat. 7. Present appetizing-looking meals by decorating the plate with a garnish. 8. Make the experience pleasant by playing soft music or talking about the day’s events.

More About

AGING& DRUGS The right medication can make a huge difference in your health. But it’s important to realize that aging plays a role in how your body reacts to medications. For example: • Age-related changes in the kidneys can affect how fast drugs are eliminated from the body. • Changes in body weight can influence how much medicine you need. • Many drugs, including certain antihistamines, can cause confusion and behavior changes in the elderly. A drug that worked well on a 60-year-old patient may no longer work the same in someone who is 70. The lesson: Doctors need to routinely reevaluate their patients’ medications as they grow older. 3

y g o l o n h c Te The

Connection The world of high-tech gadgets is not just for the young. In fact, more and more products are being offered for seniors and their caregivers. Here’s a look at what’s available.


NurseBot robot is a friendly reminder — and a friendly face — for seniors.

hen you think of the senior population, “technology” may not be the first word that leaps to mind. In fact, the high-tech world has long been considered the exclusive domain of the young and hip. That thinking is as outdated as a Model T. Today, there is an abundance of products and technologies that can improve the health and independence of seniors. In fact, technology may well hold the key for maintaining independence and quality of life. “The great thing about assistive technology is it focuses on what is still possible,” says Joanne Feutz, an occupational therapist with Disability Advocates of Kent County in Grand Rapids. “It keeps people doing whatever they used to be able to do and encourages a positive, can-do attitude.” When seniors turn to assistive technology, it is generally to serve at least one of three sometimes overlapping needs: to monitor and maintain their health; to remain independent in their homes; and to compensate for specific disabilities, such as low vision, hearing loss and mobility problems. The good news is this: With the aging of the population, a virtual deluge of high-tech products has hit the market to serve each of these areas. What’s more, they’re becoming more mainstream and less expensive, making the technology much more accessible to larger numbers of seniors. “When I went to occupational therapy school, the only place you could get any of these devices was in a medical supply store,” says Karen Halsted, associate director of the Disability Resource Center in Kalamazoo. Michigan Generations


“Today, you can go into Target and find large-handled kitchen utensils that were originally designed for people living with arthritis. You can find large display clocks and watches. Go to Home Depot and you can find grab bars, remote controls that can turn lights on and off and hands-free faucets that come on automatically when you put your hands under them.”

How to Find Help It’s still unlikely you’d find a power wheelchair or a remote blood pressure monitor at a local retailer. To find the more specialized products, the best place to start is your local Area Agency on Aging. “We maintain a list of all the different companies and services that are available,” says Tina Abbate Marzolf, director of contracted services for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B in Southfield. “When you’re trying to find a resource, you should always start with your AAA. That’s what we’re here for.” Additionally, Centers for Independent Living, nonprofit community-based organizations located throughout the state (including the Disability Resource Center in Kalamazoo and Disability Advocates of Kent County), can provide referrals and support in obtaining assistive products and services. To find the Center closest to you, contact the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (see “Where to Find More Information,” page 20.) A number of counties in Michigan have or are implementing a 211 call system for information on human services and health programs. The Community Access Line of the Lakeshore (CALL) in Muskegon Heights is typical of such systems. “We act as a clearinghouse for all the other agencies that offer referrals, support and services,” says Susan Howell, the CALL program director. “The site lists detailed information about all the programs available in our area and the criteria for using the programs.” Despite the various tools for locating needed assistive technology, paying for these products remains a big hurdle for many seniors. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, in general, cover little in the way of assistive devices. Fortunately, Michigan residents can take advanSummer 2005

tage of the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund. The lowinterest loan fund is available to people with disabilities or their families regardless of income. Seniors can borrow up to $30,000 for needed devices and have as long as seven years to pay it back. There are several application sites around the state to assist seniors in completing the application. “We’ve been in effect since the Fall of 2001, and we have 165 loans out right now,” says Michele Seybert, program manager of the loan fund. “The money can be used to pay for everything from ramps to home adaptations and from wheelchairs to hearing aids.” With help or information available from so many sources, the question is: What are the latest cuttingedge products? Here’s a look at some of the newest products and technologies that can help you or a loved one for whom you are caring:

Health Care One of the biggest issues for seniors living independently is maintaining and monitoring their health. Are they taking the medications they are supposed to take when they are supposed to take them? Are their health conditions remaining stable? Can they get immediate assistance when they need it? “Most of innovation and technology is looking toward keeping people more independent in their own homes as a way to reduce health care costs,” says Russ Bodoff, executive director for the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST). “We spend $1.77 trillion on health care right now — that’s ‘trillion’ with a ‘t.’ Well over 60 percent of that is spent on people over 65 years old. With 77 million boomers coming forward, our health care system is poised to be totally swamped.” Bodoff and other experts see technology as the key to ameliorating the burden. Consider the potential benefits in quality

Above: Computerized blood pressure monitor transmits data through telephone lines. Left: Response pendant enables seniors to stay in their homes.

of life and health care costs offered by medication dispensers and reminders alone. “This is a critical area because it represents billions of dollars of wasted health care costs,” says Bodoff. “As people get older, they tend to forget to take their medications or take them incorrectly. It’s a quality-of-life issue as well as a cost issue.” Myriad products are available to help, from the very sophisticated to the very simple. Guardian Medical Monitoring, for example, offers a medication organizer and dispenser that can hold up to 60 doses of medication. The caregiver or senior loads all the medications at one time. Then the machine will dispense medications (which are dropped into a small cup) up to six times a day. When the medication is dispensed, the machine alerts the senior by blinking a brilliant red light and voicing a verbal reminder. If, after 90 minutes, the senior has not taken the medication, the machine will log what dose was missed and send an alert to the Guardian monitoring staff. 5

Monitoring for emergencies, changes in routine and specific medical conditions is also key to keeping seniors independent. There are various emergency response systems that use a pendant or bracelet worn by the senior. In the event of a fall or any other emergency, the senior just pushes a button on the pendant or bracelet and the monitoring staff is alerted. Some devices bypass the professional monitoring system — and its monthly fees — by programming the emergency response button to dial up to five phone numbers — adult children, neighbors and caregivers, for example. If no one answers one number, the device automatically dials the next. Several systems allow adult children or other caregivers to monitor a senior’s activities remotely. ADT Security Systems has begun selling the QuietCare system, and Guardian offers a similar product called Virtually There Care. With the QuietCare system, five small wireless sensors are placed throughout the senior’s house. Each sensor sends information to a base unit located in the home, and that information is relayed by phone line to a monitoring center. The system “learns” normal activity patterns and alerts caregivers to any change. Remote monitoring can also be used to track specific medical conditions. “We have gotten into tele-health with blood pressure monitors, weight scales, glucose monitors and pulse monitors,” says Guardian’s Crawford. “All of these monitors can be plugged into one device, which in turn is plugged into a regular telephone line. The client takes his own readings, and the information is sent to our database, where a physician can access it. If the readings are outside certain parameters set by the physician, it will trigger an alert and we will contact the physician.” “Within the next 10 years, there is no question that more health care is going to move into the home,” says CAST’s Bodoff. “And I think we will actually be able to provide a higher level of care at lower costs, thanks to the advances in assistive technologies.”

Programmable phone features photos on memory buttons.

Home Modifications

For most seniors, there truly is no place like home. “Much of a senior’s identity is attached to being able to remain independent at home,” says Mary Doezema, publisher of Senior Resource Guide and Compass, a guide for adults, families, caregivers and professionals in Traverse City. “In fact, to some degree, their wellness is centered around being able to remain in their home. Aging in place is clearly something they want very much to do.” There are many adaptations that can be made to a home to make it easier for a senior to stay there. The most basic modifications include adding grab bars in the bathrooms, replacing knobs with levers and adding a ometimes the smallest things present the biggest problems.With that in mind, ramp on an exterior entrance. the Marquette County Commission on Aging, United Cerebral Palsy of For the bathroom, you can find roll-in Michigan’s Assistive Technology Center and Michigan Technological University showers and tubs with doors, so there is no Department of Biomedical Engineering recently collaborated to obtain a grant, lip to step — and potentially trip — over. You to identify common challenges for seniors and devise solutions. can get raised toilets (originally called handiOccupational therapists visiting seniors’ homes identified three unmet needs: capped toilets and now dubbed “comfort Meals on Wheels recipients were not drinking their milk because they could not height” and “right height”), or even an autoopen the cartons; seniors with arthritis were unable to brush their teeth adequately; matic toilet seat that raises you back up to a and seniors using walkers or canes could not carry items around the house. standing position. In the shower, you can Michigan Tech students then set out to meet those needs. One group created a install a showerhead that slides up and down small device that punches a hole through the top of the milk carton so the senior on a bar and lifts off on a hose. And for the can pour the milk out. Another team fashioned a toothbrush with bristles all around, tub, you can get a bath transfer bench, which like a bottle brush. And a third group created a device called the Lift and Transport will allow you to sit on the seat outside of the System for the Elderly that can lift an item weighing up to 20 pounds from the floor bathtub and then slide you over and lower to as high as countertop level and move it around the house. you into the bath. Funds were provided by the National Association of Home Builders Research In the kitchen, side-opening ovens and Center’s National Center for Senior’s Housing Research through a grant from the roll-under cooktops with knobs on the front U.S.Administration on Aging. rather than on the side can make cooking

A New Generation of Inventors



Michigan Generations

possible for seniors confined to wheelchairs. Nearly every surface in the kitchen, as well as the cabinets, can be motorized so they can move up and down with the touch of a button, putting them within reach of everyone. Accessible Homes, a Madison Heights-based home remodeling company specializing in the aging and disabled market, sells motorized cabinets, countertops, sinks, cooktops and tables. “These are all very popular in Europe, but we don’t see them much here yet,” says Tom Johnson, president of Accessible Homes, which has the state’s only showroom of accessible home modifications and products. “I think they will catch on here, too, because they really make everything in the kitchen accessible for everyone.” Stairlifts — seats that glide up and down the stairs on a thin rail — and home elevators keep second stories and basements accessible, and home hydrolic lift systems can transfer seniors with very limited mobility in and out of beds, chairs and bathtubs. Basic furniture can double as assistive devices as well. Power lift chairs can raise a person to standing position or recline into a fully prone position at the touch of a button. All of these devices can mean the difference between remaining in the home and moving into a senior residential facility. “With everything that is out there to help, it is more possible than ever to stay in your own home,” says Doezema.

Special Situations Aging often brings change — loss of vision, of hearing or mobility — that impact independence. A variety of assistive technologies can restore or enhance many of these functions.

VISION The last word in products for people with low or no vision is talking technology. “I just keep seeing more and more talking devices,” says Mike Katz, president of Active and Able Inc., an online retailer of assistive technology. “And these items are incorporating more features. For example, we’ve had talking clocks. Now we have a talking atomic clock that automatically sets itself to the correct time. An alarm clock with a very large number display also has a bed shaker feature, so it can shake you awake yet let your partner sleep.” Other talking products include watches, scales, thermometers, blood pressure monitors and glucose monitors., an online retailer of assistive products, offers a Color Teller (a small device that identifies the color of an object), a Note Teller (a small device that identifies the denomination of paper currency) and a Talking Bar Code Scanner (a small device that can give information about objects not identifiable by touch, such as cans, jars, CDs, cassette tapes and file folders). A variety of magnifiers, scanners and readers are available to seniors to access the written word. “For people with some vision, closed circuit TV magnifiers are popular,” says Roger Yake, rehabilitation counselor for the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center in Kalamazoo. “They magnify the print — books, newspapers, mail — and put it up on the TV screen. And while these devices used to be bulky and take up a lot of room, today they are lightweight, portable and easy to use.” In addition, screen reader software programs, such as Jaws for Summer 2005

A Glimpse into the Future of Assistive Technology


f you think there are a lot of products available today to help seniors remain independent, just wait until you see what tomorrow brings! Assistive technologies are poised to explode. Here’s a look at just a few of the projects that are either under development or are being researched: ■ Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan are collaborating in developing NurseBot (pictured, page 4), a robot that reminds seniors of appointments, when their favorite TV show is on and when to take their medications. The NurseBot is also meant to provide a degree of companionship. Its robotic face displays emotion, smiling at certain verbal cues and responding to questions. ■ The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Aware Home project uses cameras, radios and infrared sensors to monitor individual activities and provide reminders. The Memory Mirror, shown at right, uses radio frequency identification tags on household items (medication bottles, food containers, keys) and radio frequency identification readers where these items are stored (medicine cabinet, pantry, desk drawer). The system tracks the removal and return of the tagged items and displays a picture of the items on a computer screen. That way, the senior or caregiver can look at the screen and see if he or she has fed the cat or taken their medication that day. ■ The University of Washington is developing Opportunity Knocks, a portable assisted cognition device for seniors with memory problems. A pocket-sized global positioning system beacon sends data to and from a cellular camera phone. The phone displays tiny photographs of destinations. So the user could choose the picture of his doctor’s office, and the system would lead him there, street by street. ■ The University of Virginia is developing a sensory floor tool that “listens” to a senior’s footsteps and walking patterns for signs that he is at increased risk of falling. Researchers are also working on a smart chair, which can detect an older person’s heart rate and breathing rate, and a smart bed that can monitor restlessness and detect episodes of sleep apnea.

Windows and Window Eyes, open the world of email and the Internet to seniors with vision problems.

HEARING Products that flash and shake can help those who have hearing loss or impairment. Telephones, doorbells, alarm clocks and smoke detectors alert seniors with a flashing light and a shaking bed (if they are sleeping). A variety of portable amplifiers, such as the PocketTalker Personal Listening System from, can help seniors carry on a conversation, talk on the phone or Continued on page 18 7


Identity THEFT How to Protect Yourself

the age of 65 than other states, and that number is growing. More than 7,000 Michigan citizens reported an identity theft crime to the FCC in 2004 — up nearly 1,000 complaints from 2003. Unfortunately, your identity is often exposed to people who want to empty your bank account and charge your credit cards with unauthorized purchases. Identity theft does not care what age you are, where you come from or where you live. It’s an invisible mugging that can have a devastating effect on bank accounts and credit reports. As your Attorney General, I am committed to fighting this growing threat with a program called “It’s MI Identity.” One of the program’s goals is to help citizens like you become aware of identity theft and how to stop it. One of the first ways to prevent identity theft is by continually checking your credit reports. Credit reports contain confidential information, such as addresses, telephone numbers and a detailed credit history, including accounts opened and unpaid debts. You can detect fraudulent activity early and limit the potential damage

By Mike Cox, Attorney General


dentity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Michigan and the United States. Credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers and other personal identification can net criminals thousands of dollars almost instantly. According to a recent study by the Federal Trade Commission, 9.3 million Americans lost about $5 billion to identity theft last year. The cost to businesses was almost 10 times higher — more than $47 billion. Michigan’s seniors are particularly vulnerable to identity theft. Our state has a higher percentage of identity theft victims over





Identity (ID) theft is the wrongful use of YOUR personal information — such as your name, Social Security number, or credit card number — without your permission by another person to commit fraudulent or criminal acts.

ID thieves steal wallets, purses and mail, submit phony change-of-address forms to the Postal Service and rummage through trash containers. They obtain credit information by posing as a landlord, bank or employer. Or they get personal information from the Internet.

ID theft can destroy your credit standing, cause adverse employment actions, result in wrongful criminal conviction and, in general, create nightmares for citizens trying to restore their good names.

Our state has a higher percentage of identity theft victims over the age of 65 than other states, and that number is growing. done by identity thieves by ordering one credit report from each agency every four months. Together, we can and will make a difference in stopping those who prey upon our senior citizens. To obtain your credit report copy via the Internet, go to the Michigan Attorney General website at, or to The websites will link you to the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can also order a free credit report by mail from: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281, or by telephone at 1-877-322-8228. To learn more about free credit reports and identity theft, or to report suspicious activity on your credit report, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division online at, call toll-free at 1-877-765-8388 or write to: Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909. MI MIKE COX was sworn into office as Michigan’s Attorney General in January 2003. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, he was previously with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in Detroit. Michigan Generations


Priscilla J. Kimboko, Ph.D

After Retirement

The New Bonus Years

What is retirement like today? RETIREMENT CAN BE A MAJOR LIFE

change event for individuals who throughout adulthood have devoted much of their daily lives to their careers. To many people, their work has become their primary identity, the way they think of themselves, their claim to social status and meaning for their lives. While there are many other factors that can contribute to a sense of personal meaning and value, stepping out of the work role through retirement is one of the major transitions in an adult’s life. Patterns of retirement have changed over the past century. Where once people retired primarily due to diminished physical or mental capacity, over the past 50 years the age of retirement has declined while the years of life expectancy have increased. The result is a significant period in adulthood that never existed before — a period of 20 to 30 years of relatively good health and significant capacities, both physical and mental, in which a mature adult is not in the “regular” work force. These years present both challenges and blessings.

What are the challenges of the bonus years after retirement? MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE

prepared for retirement when they have a

Do you have a caregiving question? Write or email your question to our “Expert” at: Jenny Jarvis,Area Agency on Aging 1-B, 29100 Northwestern Highway, Suite 400, Southfield, MI 48034; will make every effort to answer your question in an upcoming issue of Michigan Generations.

Summer 2005

plan for their finances. And finances are very important in retirement years, especially if an individual does not plan to continue to earn an income in any way. However, there are many other challenges that individuals may overlook — for example, what type of home they will live in and, if choosing to stay in their own home, how long they will be able to stay in this environment as they age. It is helpful to consider the living arrangements early and plan ahead. Similarly, folks may not have paid much attention to the behaviors that contribute to maintaining good health and disease prevention. Recent research shows that nutrition, regular physical activity and weight training can all help improve physical health and/or slow down the rate of physical decline. Even the very elderly can regain muscle, strength and balance. Regular exercise fights many chronic diseases and contributes to positive mental health as well. How an individual spends his or her time, the flow of activities throughout a day or week and the types of activities should also be considered in preparing for retirement. We know that finding meaningful activities and roles is a key to well-being in retirement. Images of retirement that focus on golf or bingo or rocking chairs rarely are sustainable. Many people miss most the feeling that what they do “matters” or makes a difference. So, one of the major challenges of retirement is to find activities that will fulfill personal, social and spiritual goals. Another key to making the most of retirement years is good planning for all family relationships (marital, parental and grandparental). It will be important to clarify your preferences in many familial domains. This can range from discussing your willingness to care for grandchildren to issues such as

preferences for care in end-of-life circumstances. Time after time, it has been shown that social relationships are a major factor in happiness and well-being for older adults, so planning for retirement should include careful consideration and attention to maintaining quality friendships and social ties.

What can you look forward to in the bonus years? WITH THE INCREASES IN LIFE EXPECTANCY

have come years of relatively good health and vigor. Many retirees now view these as “bonus” years, a new phase of adulthood. It is a time during which mature adults can revisit old dreams — and this time around, pursue interests and opportunities that they missed out on in their young and middle adult years. It may be a time to indulge in favorite pastimes that one couldn’t during the career years. Or it may be a time to review one’s life and decide that certain talents and skills have been unused (or underused). You can choose now to further develop these talents, try new things, go new places and take on new roles that appeal to you. You may be able to take a hobby and make it into a business, or find ways to use your talents, knowledge and skills as a volunteer. Alternatively, you may take on a more active role in the lives of family and friends. Many retirees engage in creative endeavors. Others seek to deepen their spiritual life. The bonus years are ripe with potential. To make the most of these years, it is important to think ahead and take steps to make sure that you are really ready for the journey. MI PRISCILLA J. KIMBOKO, PH.D., is the dean of graduate studies and grants administration at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 9

REGIONALNews In communities across the U.S.,


Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) serve as gateways to local resources, planning efforts and services that help older adults remain independent. Here are the programs and services offered by Michigan’s AAAs.

1A Detroit Area Agency on Aging 1B Area Agency on Aging 1-B 1C The Senior Alliance 2 Region 2 Area Agency on Aging 3A Kalamazoo Cty.Human Services Dept.Region 3A 3B Burnham-Brook Region IIIB 3C Branch-St.Joseph Area Agency on Aging IIIC 4 Region IV Area Agency on Aging 5 Valley Area Agency on Aging





6 Tri-County Office on Aging 7 Region VII Area Agency on Aging 8 Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan 9 NEMCSA Region 9 Area Agency on Aging 10 Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan 11 Upper Peninsula Area Agency on Aging 14 Senior Resources of West Michigan


14 6 4


3A 3B 3C


1A 1C


Kalamazoo Cty. Human Services Dept. Region 3A Covering Kalamazoo County and its 24 municipalities

Information Is Power: Attend the Senior Expo


he 9th Annual Senior Expo will be held on Tuesday, October 4, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the County Center building at the Kalamazoo County Fairground on Lake Street. The Kalamazoo Gazette, Borgess Health Alliance, Bronson Hospital and the Region 3A Area Agency on Aging sponsor this free event. It is one of the largest expos in Michigan, with over 4,000 caregivers, older adults and professionals in attendance. Blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings have been a mainstay of the expo since its beginning. The 100 exhibitors bring a variety of information that is useful for people who are active and independent as well as those who need assis10

Annual Senior Expo draws crowds.

looking for volunteers, animal rescue and more. This year’s special emphasis will be on Medicare Part D, the new prescription drug benefit. Trained advisors will be available all day to answer questions. “The excellent information, focus on health and social atmosphere of the expo keep people coming back each year,” says Judy Sivak, director of the Region 3A Area Agency on Aging and coordinator of the expo.

tance with daily living. Exhibitors include legal and financial experts, in-home service AAA 3A Information & Assistance . . . . . . 269-373-5173 providers, senior housing representatives, legislators, supCaregiver Resource Center . . . . . . . . . . . 269-978-0085 port groups, funeral homes, organizations

Michigan Generations

Detroit Area Agency on Aging Serving Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and the five Grosse Pointes in Wayne County

New Healthy Aging Services Department Promotes Health Education Programs


any people assume that diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are a normal part of growing old.This is not true. A sad fact is that far too many Detroit area seniors are not healthy — they are living with multiple chronic diseases and dying at much too young an age. The 2003 Dying Before Their Time Study found that seniors living in Detroit were dying at a 48 percent higher rate than seniors living in other parts of the state. The study showed that two major contributors to the high mortality rate were higher rates of chronic disease and less access to health care. “The needs of the older persons in our service area are not the same as they were 25 years ago when DAAA first started,” says Paul Bridgewater, executive director of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging. “Like most AAAs, we were primarily social-service centered. However, we now recognize that our traditional method of operation has to be revamped to address the changing needs of our senior population.” “We want our seniors to live long and live well,” continues Bridgewater, “so we’ve created a new department within the Detroit Area Agency on Aging called Healthy Aging Services.” Marvin Cato, formerly the executive director of Detroit Medical Center/ Wayne State University Community Health Institutes, is the director of Healthy Aging Services.This department will work with older persons, community groups, senior advocates/ educators, universities, and health and faith-based organizations in developing health education programs that promote wellness, preventive care and selfmanagement of chronic disease. Additionally, the Healthy Aging Summer 2005

Marvin Cato, director of DAAA Healthy Aging Services Department, speaks on the importance of physical fitness.

Services Department will train organizations and/or groups on how to start health programs or min-

istries; how to manage a health program or ministry; and how to organize and convene a support group. “Healthy aging means healthy living,” says Cato.“That means healthy thoughts, positive attitudes, loving relationships, healthy eating, physical activity, proper rest and spiritual or inner peace. “The DAAA will address the total person through our health promotion efforts because we recognize that health and wellness is more than freedom from disease. It is also love, fun and purpose.” Cato says that community partners must work together to address the issues of economics and access to health care for the under- and uninsured. “If government, corporations and citizens have the will, I believe we can develop a strategy that will allow us all to live long and live well.” For more information on the Healthy Aging Services Department, call the Detroit Area Agency on Aging at 313-446-4444.

Employee Health Day


AAA kicked off its healthy aging initiative by holding a

“Health Employee Day” at the agency. Representatives from various health organizations provided health screenings, counseling and maintenance sessions for employees.

Employees enjoy massages provided by Simple Touch.

Rosie Staples has her blood pressure checked at the Employee Health Day kick-off.


Area Agency on Aging 1-B Serving the counties of Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw

Your Help Is Needed: Become a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Enrollment Volunteer!

Tony Rutkowski, an MPAC volunteer, provides assistance over the phone to a Medicare beneficiary.


he Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernizations Act of 2003 (MMA) established a new “Part D” in Medicare that gives beneficiaries access to a private Medicare

prescription drug plan. On October 15, 2005, information on the new Medicare prescription drug plans will be available to all persons enrolled in Medicare. The majority of beneficiaries will have the ability to join in a prescription drug plan from November 15, 2005, until May 15, 2006. Persons who have dual eligibility — who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid — will be required to choose a plan before December 31, 2005. Within the Area Agency on Aging 1-B’s six-county region, there are approximately 370,000 Medicare beneficiaries, each with their own unique situations and concerns. With the implementation of the MMA, many beneficiaries will be facing complex changes in their prescription coverage options. Crucial decisions will need to be made about their prescription plans to ensure proper coverage. To help assist beneficiaries in selecting a prescription drug plan that best meets their needs, the AAA 1-B is looking for individuals interested in becoming a trained Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program Prescription Assistance Counselor (MPAC).

What is an MPAC? An MPAC is a volunteer who provides prescription drug counseling and referral service to Medicare recipients and their families. MPACs offer counseling by telephone and in person at specified locations, including health fairs, seminars, senior centers and at clients’ homes.

What are responsibilities of an MPAC? As an MPAC, you will not be making prescription plan decisions for your clients.You will empower them with information and knowledge to make their own educated choices. Some of your specific responsibilities will include: • Helping beneficiaries review their current coverage • Helping determine eligibility for subsidized benefits • Helping with enrollment in Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit • Helping to identify the best prescription plans for a beneficiary’s needs

What skills are required to become an MPAC? Anyone can become an MPAC. Your everyday experiences and skills are

Help is a Phone Call Away The Area Agency on Aging 1-B is the first resource for older adults, caregivers and persons with disabilities to call when looking to resolve problems or locate the resources they need to improve the quality of their life. When individuals call the toll-free Information and Assistance (I&A) service at 1-800-852-7795, they speak with a certified Information and Referral Specialist to determine what their needs are and the services and assistance available to address those needs. Once the needs are determined, the specialist accesses the I&A database of over 2,000 community agencies and mails the individual a complete listing of relevant services and providers in their local community. Call us. We can help.



Michigan Generations

your most useful tools: • Effective listening, advocacy and organizational skills • Sensitive and caring attitude • Good oral and written communication skills • Familiarity with computers is extremely helpful, but not required

Are there a certain number of hours that MPACs are required to volunteer each week? No. MPACs can set their own hours.The AAA 1-B asks that after completing the initial one-day training, MPACs accept at least 10 prescription assistance referrals per month, attend periodic update trainings, and complete and submit monthly reports to the AAA 1-B.

How do I become an MPAC? Over the next several months, the AAA 1-B will be hosting at least one MPAC training in each county within our region.This one-day training will provide volunteers with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful. The AAA 1-B encourages you to consider becoming an MPAC volunteer. It is an excellent opportunity to help fellow seniors, learn something new and meet other volunteers and professionals who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for seniors and caregivers. For more information about the program and upcoming trainings, please contact the Area Agency on Aging 1-B’s Information and Assistance Program at 1-800-852-7795.

Free Events Worth Attending


he Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA 1-B) will be hosting two free events this fall for caregivers of older adults and persons with disabilities. THE 7TH ANNUAL SOLUTIONS FOR FAMILY CAREGIVERS will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2005 at the Detroit Marriott Troy just off I-75 at 200 W. Big Beaver Road, in Troy, MI from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. THE FIRST ANNUAL ST. CLAIR COUNTY CAREGIVER FAIR will be held on Saturday, September 24, 2005, at the Thomas Edison Inn in Port Huron, MI from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. These fairs will benefit people who provide care for elderly or disabled family members or friends.The program will include expert presentations on a variety of topics such as home health care options, availability of local services, living wills and trusts and Medicare prescription drug coverage. Exhibitors will also be on-site to provide information, products and services for seniors, caregivers and persons with disabilities. For more information, visit or call us at 1-800-852-7795.

Region 2 Area Agency on Aging Serving Hillsdale, Jackson and Lenawee counties

Therapy Dogs Receive Training


he Region 2 Area Agency on Aging has established a relationship with the K-9 Behavioral Institute to bring therapy dogs into the lives of older adults and disabled clients in Hillsdale, Jackson and Lenawee counties.

Studies have shown that animal visits provide a welcome distraction from pain and infirmity. People often talk to dogs and share with them their thoughts, feelings and memories. Petting a dog encourages the use of hands and arms, stretching and turning. Many people in hospitals or group homes have had to give up pet ownership and they miss the acceptance a pet gives them. Kate Cook, owner of the K-9 Behavioral Institute in Tecumseh, tested area dogs for their aptitude, gentleness and personality. Dogs that reacted Linda Powelke makes a new friend as dog trainer Kate Cook looks on.

quickly, growled or nipped, were nervous or would not make eye contact were disqualified from the program. After approximately 50 dogs were tested, only 20 of them passed the screening process and advanced to therapy training. Dogs are being trained to interact in various social situations, including an introduction to wheelchairs, walkers, canes, ramps and sidewalks and visiting local businesses for socialization.They are also being trained to heel, sit, stay, approach people for petting, eat treats only on command and socialize with other dogs. When the training is completed, the dogs will advance to visiting nursing homes, schools and homebound seniors. For information, contact Ginny WoodBailey at Region 2 AAA, 1-800-335-7881. 13

Branch–St.Joseph Area Agency on Aging IIIC Serving a two-county area surrounding Sturgis, Three Rivers, Coldwater and Quincy

Mark Your Calendars!


he Branch-St. Joseph Area Agency on Aging is happy to partner with our local Commission on Aging offices and many other local organizations to offer dynamic seminars like this one, coming up in September.

“You Are Not Alone” As a caregiver, you are faced with many challenges every day. You are NOT alone. Help is available! So come to this event to learn how to handle difficult situations and to find out what is available in the community to help you and your family. On-site care for your loved one will be available. You MUST register and RSVP by calling 269-279-8083 by

August 26 if you would like to attend. A range of topics will be presented, including: community resources; wellness and exercise; celebrating life; and holistic health.You don’t want to miss this annual event! If you are not able to attend the event, please visit or call the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging “You Are Not Alone” Thursday, September 8, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. and inquire about St. Joseph County Commission on Aging/ their Caregiver Community Center, 103 South Douglas, Library and loan Three Rivers closet. A wide range Cost: $5.00 (includes lunch) of books, videos and RSVP required: Call 269-279-8083 resources are available at no charge. ext. 137, or toll-free 1-888-615-8009. For more information on this event You may also visit our website: and other services available in your community, please call 517-279-9561,

Region IV Area Agency on Aging Covering Michigan’s Great Southwest including Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties

Resources and Support for the Visually Impaired


any seniors experience vision issues as they age. As many as one in four people over the age of 75 suffer from some type of vision impairment. Macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and normal vision changes due to aging are the main issues that many people face in their later years. Symptoms from these disorders can range anywhere from fuzzy vision to near-total blindness. Treatment can include anything from new eyeglasses to surgery. Sight is something that is usually taken for granted by those who have never had vision issues. But if you are in the population that has had problems, you know that it is a very scary 14

and emotional experience. Tasks that used to be second nature — for example, reading, paying bills, cooking and cleaning — can be monumental

for those with vision impairments. The Region IV Area Agency on Aging is taking steps to empower seniors who have vision ailments. The agency already has resources such as support group lists, adaptive equipment suppliers and educational materials for those who are looking for information. However, the need for support moves beyond this list of resources. The AAA is helping to make new low-vision technologies available to seniors in southwest lower Michigan. The agency is teaming with local libraries and resource centers in the area to make adaptive equipment more accessible to those who have trouble locating or paying for this equipment. Call the Area Agency on Aging’s Senior Info-Line toll-free at 1-800-654-2810 for more information. Michigan Generations

ValleyArea Agency on Aging Serving Genesee, Lapeer and Shiawassee counties

Crisis Intervention Program Meets Short-Term Needs


he Crisis Intervention Program is designed to provide short-term case management and in-home care services for seniors who are faced with a short-term health care crisis. The purpose of the program is to reduce hospital re-admissions and prevent further decline in functioning. The Valley Area Agency on Aging (VAAA) provides this program in Genesee County. To qualify for the program, individuals must be age 60+ and a resident of Genesee County, and must have a short-term health care need of three months or less, as well as a referral from a physician, social worker or nurse.

The VAAA is able to provide a complete inhome assessment of the client’s health status, social needs, informal support and ability to function at home.The VAAA will then identify areas where help may Crisis Intervention Program benefits local seniors who are facing a be needed and create a health care crisis. plan of care to meet those needs; coordinate For more information on the and arrange for formal and informal Crisis Intervention Program, please contact services; provide in-home services and the Valley Area Agency on Aging, 711 care management services for an N. Saginaw Street, Suite 111, Flint, MI average of three months; and adjust 48503, or call toll-free 1-800-978-6275. services as needed.

Tri-County Office on Aging A consortium of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties and the cities of Lansing and East Lansing

March for Meals


There has been tremendous support for the Walk-A-Thon event, which was held the morning of May 14. Capital Area Transit Authority was a lead sponsor along with a local senior housing complex, Cedar Place.Water from the Board of Water & Lights was donated. Also, vendors provided apples (Steve’s Produce), granola bars

his is the first year of March for Meals, the Tri-County Office on Aging’s (TCOA) Walk-A-Thon to support Meals on Wheels and in-home services for seniors living in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. TCOA took on 80 additional MOW clients when Mobile Meals, a home-delivered meal program in Lansing, stopped serving in October 2004. There is also a year’s waiting list for basic in-home services such as homemaking and personal care in this service area. The funds raised from this event will support these needed servWalk-A-Thon raises over $4,000 for meals. ices in the community. Summer 2005

(Gordon Food Service) and juice (Country Fresh) for walkers to enjoy. Tim Pinckey, a MOW volunteer and member of the March for Meals Committee, arranged for Michigan State University’s New Horizons Band to perform.Tim plays the saxophone in this community band, whose membership is 50 years of age and older. Ingham County waived fees for the use of Hawk Island Park, located in the City of Lansing, for this noncompetitive walk. The facility is handicapaccessible with a 1.5-mile paved path. Many MOW volunteers walked during the Walk-A-Thon event. Over $8,000 was raised in this first-time fundraising event. For further information, contact the TriCounty Office on Aging at 517-887-1440 or 1-800-405-9141. 15

Region VII Area Agency on Aging Serving Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola counties

Seniors Take Charge of Their Own Health


roups of seniors are gathering together to take charge of their own health at a local senior center in Region VII. They have elected to join an exercise class that meets twice a week for six-week time blocks — with

Martha Schleben performs flexibility exercises.

a dozen people per session — at the Riverside Senior Center in Bay City. Bay County offers this class with the funding that it receives for disease prevention and health promotion through the Older Americans Act. The participants in the class are combating osteoporosis by strengthening their bones and muscles. “Physical therapy concentrates on a specific body part, but this class treats the whole you,” says Vickie Sauvie, physical therapy assistant and instructor for the group. The “whole you” concept includes exercising as a group in class; receiving handouts for athome practice; and informal lectures on proper posture, nutrition, lifting, body mechanics and genetic risk

factors. The exercise sets are a combination of balance, flexibility and posture strengthening activities using everyday pieces of equipment such as elastic strips, mats, hand weights and towels. As the participants exercise, they visit, laugh and gently tease each other. The exercise session includes a nutritionally balanced lunch served after each class. One of the women excitedly says that when she recently looked into a store window, she didn’t see the merchandise as much as she noticed the reflection of her improved posture in the glass! For program information, contact the Region VII Area Agency on Aging, 1615 S. Euclid Avenue, Bay City, MI 48706, 1-800-858-1637, or visit our website at

Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan Serving Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola counties

Seniors Advocate for Elder-Friendly Programs


mong the lush green leaves and tropical aura of Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, you will find seniors buzzing about political topics. On the third Friday of the month, more than 300 older adults gather for the Advocates for Senior Issues meeting. Advocates for Senior Issues, formerly known as the Senior Citizen Senate of Kent County, is one of the most respected senior advocacy groups in the state of Michigan. “Members of Advocates for Senior Issues have joined together to create a powerful voice that speaks very clearly to lawmakers in Michigan,” says Tom Czerwinski, director of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. Many older adults have reaped the 16

Advocates for Senior Issues draws 300+ attendees.

benefits of better laws, programs and services because of this group.” The nonpartisan group invites lawmakers to present different viewpoints on current issues. “We let elected officials know what’s important to us,

and they let us know what their priorities are,” says Deborah Snow, president of Advocates for Senior Issues. “They listen to us because they know we are a powerful voting bloc that shows up at the polls,” she adds. Advocacy by this group was instrumental in creating the first prescription assistance program in Michigan, expanding in-home services for older adults and passing the Kent County senior millage, which provides a variety of senior programs. While most members are from Kent County, anyone may attend. The first visit is free. For more information, call the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at 1-888-456-5664. Michigan Generations

NEMCSA Region 9 Area Agency on Aging Covering 12 counties of Northeast Michigan

Support for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren


he Kinship Care program in AAA Region 9 has experienced an impressive increase in qualified applicants since the start of the 2005 fiscal year. With valuable assistance from area school counselors and Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency’s COMPASS and School Success workers, grandparents 60-plus years of age who are raising their grandchildren are receiving the support they rightly deserve. Ogemaw, Presque Isle, Alcona, Oscoda and Alpena counties have helped 25 grandparent households with a total of 34 children in a threemonth period. Assistance was given toward the purchase of clothing, school needs, tutoring and the extra

expenses that are often incurred when raising a child. The grandparents were grateful for the program’s focus on meeting the children’s needs — in

particular, the focus on education and cultivating positive self-esteem. The respite assistance for the grandparents was also appreciated! Grandparents age 60 or older who are caring for their grandchild(ren) age 18 or younger should contact their local County Commission or Council on Aging office to learn more about the Kinship Care program. Plans to expand services available to grandparents, including Second Time Around Parenting education and support group opportunities, are in the near future. For information about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, call the Area Agency on Aging Region 9 office at 989-356-3474 ext. 216.

Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan Offering information and funding senior services in the 10-county area of Northwest Lower Michigan

Did You Know That Exercise Can Be Fun?


es, exercise can be fun! And five groups of seniors in northern Michigan are ready to tell you all about it! Following a successful pilot project last fall, “Steps to Healthy Aging: Eating Better & Moving More” has expanded, thanks to funds received from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. AAANM wrote a grant application to the Blues and received funds to pay for materials, equipment and leadership to introduce this innovative fitness program at additional sites. Activities will extend into the summer, with at least 150 seniors already realizing the benefits of “Eating Better & Moving More.” Just three weeks into the program, Judy Dobbs, 67, a participant at the Manton Senior Center, says

Summer 2005

she’s been walking and exercising daily. “Every Thursday, we walk around the quarter-mile track at the Manton Athletic Field. The first week I walked one time around, second week two, third week three times and trying to increase weekly,” reports Judy. “I have diabetes, bad back, knees and hips; so I walk with a three-wheel walker I call my ‘Harley.’” You’ll find other seniors exercising in innovative ways and learning about eating better to improve their overall health at the Traverse City Senior Center, Arcadia senior nutrition site, The Gathering Place in Honor and the Bellaire Senior Center. Several programs offer nutrition and fitness education provided by guest experts.

Creative incentives are encouraging regular attendance, and the group dynamics are motivating participants to set and attain personal goals. For more information/materials related to the program, go to or call AAANM at 1-800-442-1713.

Judy Dobbs and “Harley” lead the pack in Manton!


Upper Peninsula Area Agency on Aging Serving all 15 counties of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula’s MMAP Program


he Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) is a free healthbenefits counseling service for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and their families or caregivers. The primary purpose of MMAP is to educate, advocate for, counsel and empower people to make informed benefit decisions. MMAP volunteers help beneficiaries find answers to important questions they have about Medicare, Medicare Supplemental Insurances, long-term care insurance, Medicaid, other health insurance issues and prescription assistance programs. MMAP volunteer counselors are trained in Medicare and Medicaid law and regulations, health

insurance counseling and relevant insurance products, and are neither connected with any insurance company nor licensed to sell insurance. MMAP currently has 34 trained volunteers across the Upper Peninsula. Volunteers meet quarterly for refresher trainings and training on new rules or issues that may impact benefits, such as the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Congress passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 in response to the high cost of prescription drugs, adding a new prescription drug benefit beginning in January 2006. For many individuals the new drug benefit will be a great help, while for others the benefits they currently receive from

their private plans may provide better coverage. All Medicare recipients will need to make a knowledgeable decision about their prescription drug coverage before January 1, 2006. The new drug benefit is one of the areas where MMAP will play a very important role for beneficiaries. MMAP volunteers can help work through the new changes in Medicare and navigate the prescription drug benefit enrollment process. Because of the potentially large number of individuals who will be seeking assistance, the Area Agency on Aging is looking for additional individuals who would like to be trained as MMAP volunteers. To become a volunteer, or for information or assistance, call 1-800-803-7174 or the U.P. Senior Help Line at 1-800-338-7227.

y y Connection o g l o n c h Te


enjoy a movie or TV show by boosting the sounds they want to hear and screening out background noise. A variety of telephones have amplification options built in, and for those with severe to profound hearing loss, there are text (TTY) and voice carry over (VCO) telephones. To use them, you dial 711 for the Michigan Relay operator, then type in your message. The operator reads the message to the hearing person and then types his response back to you. The newest technology is the VRS video relay service. “It’s like video conferencing,” says Chris Hunter, director of the Division of Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns in Lansing. “Each home has a video phone on top of the TV set. The deaf person dials the VRS with videophone and sees an interpreter on the TV screen. The interpreter makes the call and uses sign language and voice to translate 18

messages between the deaf and hearing person. With an interpreter, the conversation goes very smoothly.”

MEMORY “Smart” appliances, such as stove tops, ovens and irons that turn themselves off after a period of time, make good sense for anyone, but they are particularly useful for seniors with memory problems. Talking or vibrating watches and clocks can be programmed to provide reminders about taking medication, as well as a host of other activities. Programmable telephones with pictures of the call recipients on the memory buttons allow a senior to place a call just by touching the picture of the person he wants to call. A senior can jog his own memory by speaking into a pocket-sized memo recorder to note his car’s location in a parking lot, directions to where he is going or a shopping list. He can play back the message if he gets confused.

Continued from page 7

Locator devices help seniors find misplaced items, such as keys, remote controls and eyeglasses, by attaching to a small device. Then when the senior presses a button on the base unit, an alarm will sound on the missing items, allowing the senior to track them down. Many products are available to help caregivers of seniors with more advanced dementia. For example, Guardian Medical Monitoring offers pressure-sensitive floor mats that are placed next to a bed. So if the senior gets out of bed in the middle of the night, the mat will alert the caregiver. Motion sensors can be used in the same way. The caregiver can also attach a device to the senior that will sound an alarm if he or she wanders farther than a specified distance. And more is on the horizon. “We are very near to having a personal GPS (Global Positioning System) that would allow a person who has wandered off to be tracked to their exact location,” says Tom Michigan Generations

Hartwig, CEO of Gerontology Network, a statewide private-public sector network of services and products for seniors, families and professionals. “These products will be available in the next year or two.”

MOBILITY For seniors with mobility problems, wheelchairs are getting more compact and easier to maneuver. An increasing number include a joystick control and a seat that can raise the user to near-standing position as standard features. And scooters are becoming an increasingly popular choice among seniors. “It used to be wheelchairs were chrome with black vinyl seats,” says John Burt, assistive technology projects manager with The Disability Network in Flint. “Now you can get them in just about every color of the rainbow, and the same with scooters.” Burt cautions seniors to try the equipment out in the places they are actually going to use it before making a purchase. “You need to try using the product in your house, your yard and your community,” says Burt. “You need to see how it fits in your car or van. Do you need to install a lift to get it in and out? Does it fit your needs?” Car makers, who traditionally court younger drivers, are also turning their attention to the senior market. Designers at Ford Motor Company have gone so far as to don a “Third Age Suit,” which simulates the effects of old age and stiffening joints, adding bulk around the middle and even impairing vision. Designers of the Ford Focus were encouraged to wear the suit so they could better design a car to meet the needs of older drivers. The result is a model with wider door openings, an elevated driver’s seat, more headroom and strap handles on the inside door frame. Several car makers have begun to incorporate a seat-lift technology in some of their models, which allows the passenger to enter and exit a vehicle at the touch of a button. At GM, for example, the “Sit-N-Lift” power seat is available in select 2005 sport vans and minivans. It can also be purchased from a GM parts department and installed in select 2001–2005 new or used GM minivans. Summer 2005

With the Sit-N-Lift, the second-row right-side passenger seat can swivel, extend outside the vehicle and lower to within 20 inches of the ground, allowing easy transfer from a wheelchair. The seat is controlled by a handheld remote control.

OXYGEN Seniors who require oxygen can now enjoy more freedom than ever before, thanks to a new portable, lightweight oxygen system called Helios. The system, which uses liquid oxygen, weighs only 31⁄2 pounds, lasts up to eight hours and fits in a fanny pack. By comparison, the traditional oxygen canisters weigh 15 pounds and last only four hours.

Portable oxygen system (above), GM Sit-N-Lift (left) and push-button movable sink (below) promote quality of life and independence.

Another product, called HomeFill, attaches to an oxygen concentrator in the senior’s home and allows him to refill his own tanks. These tanks weigh about 6 1⁄2 pounds and last up to eight hours. “Both products allow seniors to get out of their houses and do more things,” says Airway Oxygen’s Durr. “They give them back their freedom.”

A Promising Future Assistive technology promises more ways to keep seniors connected to the world, to their families and to their lives.

Whether the need is vision, hearing, mobility or memory, chances are there are products out there that can improve quality of life and maintain independence. “Assistive technology can only grow in importance as our population ages,” says Hartwig. “Someday it will no longer be considered optional or hard to access. It will simply be a part of everyday life.” MI 19

Where to Find

More Information Your local Area Agency on Aging can give you a list of the companies and services in your region that offer specialized products for seniors. (Phone numbers for each AAA can be found on pages 10-18.)

To find the Center for Independent Living closest to you, contact the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council at 1-800-808-7452 or

Technologyy The

Learn about The Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) at 202-508-9463 or go to

For information on the 211 CALL program, you can dial 211 or visit their website at


Details on the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund are available at 1-800-828-2714.

SPONSORS Gentiva Health Services Serving clients in Lansing, Jackson, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Southfield. Call today to set up your personalized homecare services. 1-800-322-7111.

Presbyterian Villages of Michigan Senior Living Communities Celebrating 60 years of serving seniors of all faiths throughout Michigan. To find out more, visit our website,, or call 1-313-537-0000 for a brochure describing the variety of housing and services Presbyterian Villages of Michigan offers.

Health & Home Services Unlimited, Inc. Care, companionship and peace of mind. In-home or wherever your residence may be! We specialize in meeting your needs — from personal care to home maintenance. Insured and bonded. 1-800-314-8718.

Visiting Physicians Providing compassionate, high-quality medical care in the home. We serve communities across Michigan, Ohio, Chicago, Atlanta and Milwaukee. Services are covered by Medicare and most other insurances. Call 1-877-HOUSE-CALL or visit

Thanks to these companies and organizations for their generous support. For more information on becoming a sponsor of Michigan Generations, please call Jenny Jarvis at 248-262-9202 .


Also in This Issue: s A Look at Area Agencies Around Our State Michigan NEW PRODUCTS,NEW GADGETS AND MORE! Remote-controlled cabinets glide...


Also in This Issue: s A Look at Area Agencies Around Our State Michigan NEW PRODUCTS,NEW GADGETS AND MORE! Remote-controlled cabinets glide...