Looking for Organizations and Volunteers!
Are you a good communicator? Do you have a passion for older adults? The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan needs you! Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) is looking for volunteer leaders for two healthy aging programs throughout West Michigan. Each program is designed specifically for older adults and is fun and engaging with proven results. A Matter of Balance focuses on fall prevention while Healthy Eating targets nutrition, physical activity and healthy lifestyle changes.
Trainings are complimentary and will be held in July and August. There are still spaces available, but they are filling up fast. If you have a passion for older adults, read more to find out if this is the right volunteer opportunity for you! If you represent a community-based group that works with older adults, read more to find out how you can offer these classes to the seniors you serve!
A Matter of Balance:
A Matter of Balance is designed to reduce a fear of falling and increase physical activity levels. Often when individuals are afraid that they will fall, they stop being active which actually puts them at a greater risk for falls because their muscles and joints are stiff and have become weak. Each Matter of Balance sessions includes eight classes. The two hour interactive class includes group discussion, problem solving, videos and gentle physical exercise.
Who Would Make a Good A Matter of Balance Coach?
A great A Matter of Balance coach must have good communication and interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, dependability and a willingness to lead a small group of older adults. They also need to be able to lead low to moderate exercise (the exercises used are taught to coaches during training). Volunteers do not need to be healthcare professionals; in fact lay leaders are preferred for this program.
Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults (Healthy Eating) is a program for older adults who want to learn more about how nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle changes can lead to better health. Healthy Eating sessions include six classes. The classes last two and a half hours and are very hands-on. Seniors learn to improve or maintain their wellness, with focus on the USDA MyPlate food guide. Also included is how to read labels, grocery shop and cook together to prepare nutritious meals that focus on heart and bone health.
Who Would Make a Good Healthy Eating Coach?
A great Healthy Eating coach must have good communication and interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, dependability and a willingness to lead a small group of older adults. A Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist is utilized as a resource to answer specific questions (as needed) so volunteers do not need to hold those credentials themselves.
Think this is the right volunteer opportunity for you? All interested individuals (and organizations) must register for participation in the complimentary trainings. The Matter of Balance training will take place July 29-30 and the Healthy Eating training will be August 13-14. Both will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (3215 Eaglecrest Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525)
How to Register:
If you think you, or your organization, would be a good fit for A Matter of Balance or Healthy Eating, contact Barbara Nelson-Jandernoa at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at (616) 222-7011 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Resolve to a Healthy New You!
January is often a time to jumpstart fitness goals or make resolutions for a healthy new you and while nutrition is a key component in building a healthier lifestyle, it’s often neglected or overlooked. Yet, proper nutrition can be critical in preventing the development and progression of life-long diseases such as diabetes. Coupled with exercise, healthy eating habits can also reduce the occurrence of heart disease and osteoporosis.
The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) wants to help older adults reach their healthy lifestyle goals through a new program called Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults (Healthy Eating).
If you want to learn about healthy lifestyle choices using a hands-on approach, then this is the class for you! Sessions include cooking demonstrations, group outings to a grocery store and restaurant, and a group physical activity segment. The group outings help participants learn how to incorporate the healthy choices into everyday life activities. “The class is fun and interactive and not the typical classroom setting. Participants have the support and encouragement of each other,“ said Barbara Nelson-Jandernoa, Contract Coordinator at AAAWM.
Registered Dietitian Staci Shell says older adults may not understand how their nutrition needs change as they have aged or possibly developed chronic conditions. “The goal is to teach people how to fit healthy eating into their lifestyle and how to make those healthy food choices in the grocery store, out to eat or wherever you are. It’s not following the latest diet, but learning how to incorporate smart nutrition choices into everyday life.”
The program, provided in partnership with Spectrum Health Healthier Communities, can accommodate up to twelve adults age 60 and over. The first session will be held Wednesday from March 7 through April 11 from 1:00 until 3:30 at Spectrum Health Healthier Communities (665 Seward, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). Instruction will take place in a classroom, kitchen, grocery store and restaurant.
Healthy Eating sessions are held weekly for six weeks. The March class will be taught by Nelson-Jandernoa and Shell. A session is also planned for Ionia County in the spring and AAAWM hopes to expand the program throughout West Michigan in 2012.
Healthy Eating is a National Council on Aging model program. It was developed in Massachusetts with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation in 2005. Upon completion of the program, 80% of participants changed their diet or behavior to make healthier food choices or include physical activity in their daily routine.
Healthy Eating is one of seven healthy aging programs offered throughout West Michigan by the AAAWM. Other classes address fall prevention, physical activity, chronic conditions and arthritis. For more information on healthy aging programs or other resources for seniors, visit www.aaawm.org/healthy_aging
To sign up for the class, call 616.267.2626 or toll free at 877.495.2626, option 4.
Help for Paying for Heating Bills
Winter is here and along with it high heating bills. If your budget is tight and you’re worried about paying bills on time, call your utility company NOW to ask for assistance. There are programs that can help, especially if you plan ahead.
This article summarizes the programs available throughout Michigan. There might also be programs unique to your area – call your local Area Agency on Aging (www.mi-seniors.net) or Community Action Agency (www.mcaaa.org) for more information.
Budget Billing Plan
Upon request, utilities will bill a customer an equal amount each month, allowing the customer to pay an estimated average. For example, if your heating bills last year were $1200, you can ask to be billed $100 each month, instead of having low bills in the summer and high bills in the winter. Gas and electric companies offer this option to all customers, regardless of income – contact them directly to sign up.
Winter Protection Plan
This plan protects all seniors 65+ and low-income customers from service shutoffs between November 1st and March 31st. (Some utilities offer this protection to those 62+.) Between these dates, seniors are protected from shut-offs even if they make no monthly payments. (They are encouraged to pay something, however, to avoid higher bills when the protection period ends and they are required to pay.) Low-income customers are required to pay at least 7% of their estimated annual bills between November 1st and March 31st, along with a portion of any past-due amount. Low-income customers are defined as either 1) receiving cash assistance from the Department of Human Services; 2) receiving Food Stamps or Medicaid; or 3) having an annual household income at or below 150% of the poverty level (which in 2011 is $10,890 for one person and $14,710 for two – these amounts will go up slightly for 2012). Both seniors and low-income customers must pay back any money owed between April and October, and shut-offs are allowed during this period. All gas and electric companies offer the Winter Protection Plan; be sure to contact your utility company to let them know you qualify.
This program helps low-income customers of all ages reduce their heating costs by making apartments and homes more energy efficient. Households that are weatherized can save as much as 20-30%. The program provides home inspections, and can pay for a wide variety of repairs and services such as installing insulation, and repairing or replacing furnaces, heating ducts, thermostats, and water heaters. Services are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted. To be eligible, you must have a household income at or below 200% of poverty (which in 2011 is $21,780 for one person and $29,420 for two – these amounts will go up slightly for 2012). You are also eligible if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or cash assistance from the Department of Human Services. Most weatherization providers are Community Action Agencies. To find the agency that serves your area, look in the phone book’s business section under Community Action Agency, or on the Internet, go to www.mcaaa.org.
Home Heating Tax Credit
Low-income customers, including seniors, can receive a state income tax credit for last year’s heating expenses. You can apply for a Home Heating Tax Credit even if you don’t pay income tax or file an income tax return; a separate form is used. Eligibility is based on household income, the number of people in the household and actual heating costs. Applications will be available in January from the Michigan Department of Treasury by calling (517) 636-4486. Forms are also available on the Internet at www.michigan.gov/taxes. Applications can be filed between January 1 and September 30.
State Emergency Relief
Run by the Department of Human Services (DHS), this program is available to low-income individuals year-round on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted. It can help with a variety of emergency expenses, including utility bills and energy-related home repairs. Assistance is provided to those with an immediate crisis, for example, receiving a shut-off notice. The monthly income limit for energy assistance is $1,909 for a one-person household and $2,496 for a two-person household. (The limit goes up with each additional person in the household.) There may also be an asset test. Payments are made directly to the utility company or repair contractor. To apply, call the DHS office located in your county for an appointment. Current DHS clients can apply online at www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.
Propane, Heating Oil, Coal or Wood
Low-income customers running out of heating fuels may be able to get help from their local Community Action Agency, if funding is available – www.mcaaa.org.
Some utilities have created their own programs to help with utility bills. For example, Consumers Energy, in partnership with the Salvation Army, operates the “People Care Plus” program for their service areas. Another program, known as THAW (The Heat and Warmth Fund) is available in 53 of Michigan’s 83 counties, including the Upper Peninsula. Help from THAW is provided to households already shut-off or completely out of fuel, as well as some in danger of being shut-off. Customers must have a household income at or below 200% of poverty (which in 2011 is $21,780 for one person and $29,420 for two) and are required to apply for all other assistance first. Payments are made directly to utility companies or vendors. Applications can be submitted at the Salvation Army and some other organizations. For more information, call THAW at (800) 866-8429 or visit their website at www.thawfund.org.
If you have a complaint about your gas or electric company and the company hasn’t resolved it to your satisfaction, call the Michigan Public Service Commission at 1-800-292-9555.
(This article taken from the November, 2011 issue of Aging Alert, a publication of the Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan. Click here for more information on this publication)