Senior Centers Enhancing Lives

What do you think of when someone says the words “senior center”? Do you picture older people sitting around playing bingo and shuffleboard?  Eating bland meals while a television is blaring?

It is time to update your vision!  Senior Centers are not what they used to be. Today’s Senior Center is a vibrant, action-packed combination of fitness center, information and resources, volunteering headquarters, a transportation hub and tasty lunch dining.

For older persons at risk of losing their self-sufficiency, Senior Centers are an entry point to an array of services that will assist them as they “age in place.”

Across the country, more and more people are beginning to recognize that their local senior center has changed as a gateway for older adults to connect with others in their communities.  Senior Centers offer older adults vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.

Senior Centers offer a wide range of health, education, recreation, volunteer and other social interaction opportunities for their participants that enhance dignity, support independence, and encourage community involvement. Centers are also a resource for the entire community, providing services and information on aging, and assisting family and friends who care for older persons.

Senior Centers aren’t just for card games!  Sure, cards are available (and fun and challenging), but most Senior Centers offer far more than that!  Everything from trips and special events to fine arts and crafts, music and dance, lifelong learning, and fitness and health programs can be found at the centers.

Angel Dandrea, Volunteer Program Supervisor for Blair Senior Services, Inc., states “Some of our most popular things to do at the Senior Centers are the exercise classes, paint parties and our evening dinner dances.  The men really enjoy playing pool in our pool room at the Central Blair Senior Center.”

Senior Centers are a great place to find volunteering opportunities.  Older adults who are looking for volunteer opportunities or paid volunteer opportunities to supplement their retirement income, should stop by their local senior center to learn about what is available. Blair Senior Services, Inc. offers stipend volunteer positions with plenty of training, such as the Foster Grandparent Program where older adults are making a difference in young lives by volunteering, or the Senior Companion Program where volunteers spend time enriching the lives of another older adult through companionship. The Senior Center staff are always looking for seniors who want to share their talents and knowledge with others in the form of no cost workshops or leading clubs at the Senior Centers. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community.

Senior Centers are also a great place to get healthy. Health and fitness are areas that Blair Senior Services, Inc. has really expanded in recent years. Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers offer programs such as light aerobics, Zumba, Yoga, and Tai Chi.  According to Aubrey Lidwell, Community Services Program Coordinator at Blair Senior Services, Inc., “Our Centers have an overwhelming response to the exercise and Tai Chi classes with our four centers holding approximately 65 classes combined per week. Our instructors do a great job of incorporating all levels of fitness into the programs.  The best part is that it is free to the seniors!”

Angel Dandrea states, “Senior Centers play a very important role in the lives of older adults today by encouraging them to become, and remain, social. Socializing can help older adults improve their physical health, reduce risks of depression, increase their cognitive functioning and create a sense of belonging. We have so many different things to offer and it varies at each center, which really helps the consumers with a variety of things to choose from.  Participants can attend any of the activities at any center, not just the ones they may live closest to.  Our vans are available for transportation by appointment during daytime activities.”

Senior Centers are one of the most accessible, friendly, and inexpensive places that offer programs and services that promote active engagement and enjoyment of life by older adults.

The following list of activities and services are typical of programs offered by the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Senior Centers:


Nutrition Programs

Daily meals served at the Centers; Nutrition Education; Farmers Market Vouchers; Commodity Box Program


Fitness Classes

Light Aerobics; Yoga; Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention; Healthy Steps in Motion; Zumba; Cardio Circuit; Line Dancing


Wellness Services
Blood pressure checks; flu shots; hearing assessments; health presentations; chronic disease and diabetes self-management workshops, etc. 


Information and Assistance

Medicare counseling; referral and connection to appropriate community support services; Protective Services; caregiver information, etc.


Education Classes

Computer, Pinterest, Facebook Classes; Gardening Classes; Cooking Classes; Essential Oils Workshops


Financial

Tax preparation; rent rebate form assistance, etc.


Social Events and Programs

Musical entertainment, evening dinner/dances and paint parties; birthday parties; cards; pool table; paint and craft classes; etc.

These are just a few of the activities and services provided by Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers.  For more information or a complete list, visit their website at www.blairsenior.org.

Despite their variations, Senior Centers fill certain common purposes. “Whether it’s as a learning center or a place where people can come to find new ideas, to share their own ideas, be able to be creative, in a paint class or an exercise class, people want a common, safe, fun, helpful place to do that,” says Aubrey Lidwell.

“A personal touch is what sets our Senior Centers apart from other aging-related services,” Dandrea says. “If you talk to the people who come here, they would say it’s a warm and welcoming place. A place where they’re treated as individuals and responded to and respected. Where they’re known and can make it their place to socialize and meet friends.”

“One challenge is the term ‘Senior Center’, which can be off-putting in a culture in which people don’t want to think of themselves as aging or see themselves as older adults,” Lidwell states.  “This is why we try to reinvent or add programs that are changing with the needs and requests of the consumers.”

There are many benefits to older adults who visit the Senior Centers. Some of which include:

Emotional Benefits

Seniors who attend Senior Center activities on a regular basis are shown to have better emotional health. A Senior Center offers an escape from lonely homes, lonely lives and isolation.

Social Benefits

Socialization is extremely important to happy senior living. Seniors who participate in center activities enjoy being around others their age, sharing stories and participating in community activities. Older individuals who would normally be isolated are offered the chance to maintain friendships and create new ones.

Financial Benefits

This is probably the most important of the unspoken Senior Center benefits. Senior Centers generally offer services from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. This means that if a senior wants to spend their day at the center, they could have lunch, beverages, participate in free health evaluations and other benefits that would normally be far outside of their monthly budget. Just one balanced meal per day and the chance to socialize with friends offers many aging adults benefits beyond measure.

Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers are a treasure chest of not only a substantial daily meal, but a safe haven for companionship, health and wellness, plus numerous activities for the body and mind.

September is National Senior Center Month.  Make a plan to visit your local senior center this month and see all the benefits you can discover.

For a list of monthly activities by individual centers, lunch menus and more information on all the services offered by Blair Senior Services, Inc., please visit their website at www.blairsenior.org  or call 814-946-1235.

Did You Get Your New Medicare Card?

Social Security numbers are used for just about everything; including financial records, medical information and legal documents.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and people with disabilities, are removing Social Security numbers (SSN) off the cards it distributes to enrollees. Instead of identifying members by their Social Security number, the new cards will use a computer generated series of 11 letters and numbers. The cards will also no longer include a person’s gender or signature.

Pennsylvania residents were among the first affected by the change and they should have received cards between April 2018 and the end of June 2018.

The reason for this change is meant to help defend you against identity theft, which affects a large and growing number of seniors. By removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards this will help to prevent fraud, fight identity theft, and keep taxpayer dollars safe. 

The use of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards has long been problematic. Whether through theft or fraud, if your number falls in the wrong hands, it can be used to access your bank accounts, steal your Social Security checks, or fraudulently get medical care or prescription drugs in your name.

According to the Social Security Administration, a task force was created in 2006 to investigate identity theft. Because about 42 million Medicare cards display the full Social Security number, authorities feared that beneficiaries would be vulnerable to identity theft. Federal agencies have been recommending removal of the SSN for a number of years, and now the Department of Health and Human Services has until 2019 to issue new modernized Medicare cards to new beneficiaries and give out the new cards to those who already have existing Medicare cards.

“The change is long overdue”, states Melissa Hey, Blair Senior Services, Apprise Coordinator. “You show your health insurance card to a lot of people you wouldn’t share your Social Security number with”, she says. “The updated cards provide more privacy protection and lowers the risk of identity theft.” 

Ironically, the change has sparked a wave of new scams targeting people on Medicare. The new scams started almost as soon as the replacement card program was announced. In one typical scheme, fraudsters call Medicare beneficiaries on the phone and tell them that in order to get the new card they need to provide Social Security and bank account information, threatening to cancel their Medicare benefits if they don’t provide both. None of which are true.

Seniors who account for 50 million people using Medicare, the other million are people with disabilities, are especially vulnerable to scams. Melissa Hey says, “ Older adults are targeted more often because they are perceived to be more trusting. But scams can have a devastating impact on seniors who live on a fixed income and who don’t have time to rebuild savings.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR NEW CARD

You don’t need to do anything to get your card.
Medicare won’t call you to ask for personal or financial information.  Just make sure Medicare has your current mailing address. If it needs to be updated due to moving in the past year or two, contact Social Security, which administers the Medicare program. You can update it online by creating an online account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount, or you can call 1-800-772-1213. You can also go to a Social Security field office.

Medicare coverage and benefits will NOT change.
Getting a new Medicare card and number will not change the coverage or benefits that people with Medicare are currently receiving. The new Medicare Beneficiary Identification number (MBI) will be used for billing and for checking eligibility and claim status.

There is no charge for the new Medicare Card.
There is absolutely no fee to get the new card.  If anyone says otherwise, that should be a red flag that it’s a scam.

You may not get your card right away.
The process of mailing cards will take time, and you may not get your new card at the same time as your friends and neighbors. All people with Medicare will be mailed new cards by April 2019. You can make sure your mailing address is up to date by contacting Social Security at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213. TTY (Teleprinter/Teletypewriter) users can call 1-800-325-0778.

You can use your current card until January 1, 2020.
There is a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2019. After that, shred your old card—don’t just put it in the trash. The new card is smaller, the size of a credit card, so it fits in your wallet more easily. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, only the new card will be usable. 

You should keep your OTHER Medicare cards.
About one-third of people get their Medicare benefits through private insurance plans known as Medicare Advantage. Your Medicare Advantage card, which like the new Medicare cards, uses a unique identifier, not your Social Security number. This will not change and will still be your main card for Medicare. But you may be asked to show your new Medicare card, too, so take that with you for your initial appointments. Same goes if you have a separate plan for prescription drug coverage, Medicare Part D.

You can get help if you are scammed.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft or Medicare fraud, contact your state’s Senior Medicare Patrol, a federally funded program to help Medicare beneficiaries, their family, and caregivers. You can also call the Medicare fraud tip line at 1-800-447-8477; the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 800-633-4227; or Blair Senior Services, Inc. Apprise office at 814-946-1235. Unlike a Social Security number, which is difficult to change, you can get a different Medicare number if needed.

Melissa Hey said, “Ways to cut down on fraud with the new cards is first and foremost, keep the card in a safe place. Do not carry the new card in your wallet.  After your initial visits with your doctors, pharmacy or if you have an appointment here with us, always return your new card to a safe, secure location in your home. Be sure to check and read all the statements you receive in the mail regarding your benefits. Check for costs not associated with any visits, prescriptions or ‘fake’ services you may be charged.”

“Overall the new Medicare cards will make identity theft and theft of services for Medicare recipients less common. But be aware, scammers always find new ways. Please feel free to call our Apprise office at 814-946-1235 if there are any questions we can help answer for you.”

For more information on the new Medicare cards you can go to www.Medicare.gov.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Adds Two New Vans to Their Fleet

Blair Senior Services, Inc. has added two new vans to their transportation services. Both consumers and drivers are giving a thumbs up to the new Ford Transit vans that have several unique features.

Craig Russell of the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department agrees sharing, “We’ve received good comments from our consumers about the new vans. The seating is comfortable and easy to access. The new vans are narrower than our other vans which makes it easier to navigate while driving especially through the smaller city streets. And due to their more efficient engines, we are getting twice the miles to a gallon of gas.”

The new vans also have a unique floor system that allows for reconfiguration of the seating. This will enable the vans to be used in several ways by adding to the number of seats or changing the layout of the seating. Typically, the van will be set up for six seats and one wheelchair. One of the vans is being used for the rural routes and the other is being used in Altoona.
Currently, there are 36 vans in the fleet which are all handicap accessible that offer door-to-door transportation to Blair County residents. Anyone of any age can ride the van. Having reliable transportation during the week can help to change consumers’ lives. It offers freedom and independence.

Some programs exist to help pay for transportation services for those under age 60. Funded trips for residents between the ages of 60-64 are limited to medical appointments and federal buildings, such as the Social Security office. Consumers age 65 or older may use the van for multiple purposes, such as transportation to medical appointments, stores or hairdressers. Every trip is based on mileage and is a very inexpensive way to get where you need to go. Trips must be scheduled 24 hours in advance. Contact Blair Senior Services’ Transportation Office at (814) 695-3500 to schedule a trip or to get rate information.