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Congratulations! Summer is officially in full swing here in Vermont. Because our summers are short, we tend to want to make the most of them. Since we reached our goal of the 80 percent vaccination rate, we can now enjoy concerts, picnics, hikes, and all kinds of festivals and barbeques. In Woodstock, you can take a folding lawn chair and enjoy music every Wednesday, “Music on the Hill,” hosted by the Artistree Community Arts Center.

Your local senior centers are opening and providing wonderful exercise programs and activities for every level of mobility. Give the Thompson, Bugbee, Black River, Springfield, Brattleboro and Bellows Falls senior centers a call to find out what they have for you to enjoy. Just seeing old friends and new ones at those centers will make you feel great!

How about going to the local farmers’ markets? They are fun and offer very good local products that are delicious and support our local economies. While you are there, see if they offer the Crop Cash program for 3Squares members. With your 3Squares card you can exchange $10 from it for $20 of tokens to spend on the fresh and homemade items. A great deal!

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a range of benefits that can help us Boost our Budgets. We are a Benefits Enrollment Center for southeastern Vermont. From health and nutrition programs to fuel assistance, there are ways to add money to your monthly budget. Call the Senior Solutions HelpLine for information at 802-885-2669 and ask us questions. We can help with Medicare, Medicaid (Choices for Care) and other options, Home Meds evaluations to prevent dangerous interactions, Caregiver support programs, Friendly Visitors, Vet to Vet Visitors, and Senior Companions.

We want to congratulate Mary Hayden from Barre, who has been named executive director of the Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Previously Mary had been using her skills as the development and communications director at the Central Vermont Council on Aging. Mary has been a great advocate for older Vermonters. As an attorney she also managed the Vermont Judiciary’s advocacy programs for families and children in family court.

All of us in the 5 Councils on Aging in Vermont know, like, and respect Mary. We are looking forward to her leadership as we move ahead working to making the lives of older Vermonters safe and comfortable. We are delighted that she will be our leader in our mission of service to all our older relatives, and community members. Mary’s goal of making it possible for every individual to age with equality and dignity in Vermont will guide us into the future.

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The summer is a great time to be a volunteer. Right now, Senior Solutions has identified a need for respite care volunteers. So many of us are aging in place and are being cared for by a loved one. This has resulted in a critical need to provide respite for these caregivers. Why? Because caring for a loved one is a 24 hour a day job being done 7 days a week.

What is respite care? It is providing temporary relief for a primary caregiver, enabling them to take a much-needed break from the demands of caregiving a sick, or disabled family member. What does a respite volunteer do? They provide a block of time and supply companionship, supervision, and safety while the caregiver is able to rest or take care of basic things like grocery shopping and healthcare appointments. Respite Volunteers receive training, mileage reimbursement and appreciation. We encourage anyone 18 and over to apply by calling the Senior Solutions HelpLine at 802-885-2669.

The Vet to Vet Visitor program is expanding. A Veterans Advisory Council is working to help reach out to our veterans in Windsor and Windham counties to let them know how much they are appreciated and valued. Veterans are service oriented and volunteer in many ways to their communities. The Vet to Vet Visitor program started as a joint venture with the American Legion in Brattleboro. The reason it is a joint venture is because Senior Solutions can take care of the paperwork while the veterans direct the goals of the program. We work together to benefit any veteran who has become stuck at home or can no longer drive. Even just needing a friend is a good reason to ask for a visitor. We look at it as an extension of the “Buddy System” from basic training. No veteran affiliation is required. Anyone who has served in the armed forces can participate. You and your Buddy determine what you want to do and where you want to go. So, call 802-885-2669 and either request a Buddy or sign on as a volunteer visitor. It is that simple.

The state of Vermont has done a great job getting our population vaccinated so we can re-open. The group that led the way has been the aging Vermonters. The CDC has given our state funds to spend now to urge older Vermonters to get their second shots and to reach out to other pockets of under-served individuals to get vaccinated. These vaccines are new. We don’t know how effective they will be in the long run. So, we need to complete the process by getting that second shot if required for full efficacy.

Senior Solutions as the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont is participating with the other councils on aging around the state by engaging in a statewide marketing campaign and a parallel campaign regionally. Starting in August there will be programs on many media platforms plus local ads to encourage us to finish off this COVID-19 virus.

The V4A is an association representing Vermont’s five not-for-profit Area Agencies on Aging providing a wide spectrum of services and supports for older Vermonters including those encountering a disability, to live in their homes and communities with dignity and good quality of life. Services include Meals on Wheels and Community Meals, Long-Term Care Coordination, Caregiver Programs, Medicare and Health Insurance Counseling and Education, Wellness Activities and Programs, and Information and Referrals for legal and mental health services and benefits such as housing, fuel, and 3SquaresVT. In partnership with state and federal agencies and the aging advocacy network in Vermont, V4A advocates for legislative policies, programs, and health care service delivery systems, which advance the well-being of older adults and individuals with disabilities.

Joann Erenhouse, Esq., is the community relations director for Senior Solutions.