We all know that exercise is good for our health and that it helps us feel younger than we would otherwise. And summer is the perfect time to exercise outdoors.

But still, if you’re like me, it’s hard to make the time to exercise. The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has tips which might help you (and me) find the time for physical activity and stick with it. Remember to check with your physician before beginning a new exercise program.

Making the time:

— Establish a new morning routine by exercising early in the morning before your day gets too busy;

— If you don’t have 30 minutes to be active, look for three 10-minute periods throughout the day instead. You might walk at lunchtime for 10 minutes or more;

— Combine physical activity with a task that is built into your day. This might include walking the dog and doing household chores or yard work.

In addition to setting aside the time, you are more likely to adhere to your fitness plan if you keep exercise interesting and enjoyable;

— Try new activities to keep your interest alive. Consider signing up for an exercise class through a health and fitness club or your school district’s continuing education program;

— Try swimming outside this month at a local pool; and

— If you are an older adult, your local office of senior services sponsors exercise programs at a modest cost.

Experts disagree on how many days or weeks it takes to create a habit, like exercising regularly. Charles Duhigg, who wrote “The Power of Habit,” suggests that the easiest way to implement a new habit is to write a plan. He writes that, to form a habit, a cue needs to trigger a routine that then leads to a reward.

Personally, I believe that the process might work as long as my fitness reward does not include ice cream!

The National Institute on Aging sponsors a Go4Life campaign which has excellent information on exercise and physical activity for older adults. The website can be found at www.nia.nih.gov/health.

Community Caregiver, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers Inc.

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Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy will host a stakeholders’ meeting for over 200 representatives of area agencies on Wednesday, July 12, for the Age Friendly Albany County initiative he announced in October.

A World Health Organization representative from the United Nations is scheduled to attend to make a presentation along with a state representative of AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, which leads the initiative in the United States for the World Health Organization.

State officials will also provide a welcome and speak about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal to make New York State the first age-friendly state in the country. County leaders will discuss plans for the initiative.

The stakeholders’ meeting is the first large public meeting for the Age Friendly Albany County initiative. The meeting is to discuss the initiative’s goals and the process that will be used as the initiative unfolds over a multi-year period.

A Community Council will be formed with representatives of the towns and municipalities in the county. Committees will be formed from those interested persons regarding the eight “domains” of livability that the World Health Organization has identified for an age-friendly community.

The eight domains are:

— 1. Outdoor Spaces and Public Buildings;

— 2. Transportation;

— 3. Housing;

— 4. Social Participation;

— 5. Respect and Social Inclusion;

— 6. Civic Participation and Employment;

— 7. Communication and Information; and

— 8. Community and Health Services.

Community Caregivers will be supporting the county’s initiative by attending the July 12 event, providing our input and expertise through our staff and volunteers, and participating in the committees. We will be reaching out to members of the community where we serve through local events and community meetings to gain as wide a view as possible into what makes a place age friendly.

We hope readers might be interested in joining these discussions; please look for notice of these events beginning in the fall.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is the Health Policy Consultant for Community Caregivers Inc.

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Caregivers’ corner

Summertime in upstate New York is a great time to walk for good health.

We are fortunate in our area to have many options to choose from when we lace up our walking shoes.  One of my favorites is the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail that stretches from the city of Albany to Voorheesville. The wide trail, which is paved from Albany to Slingerlands, makes for excellent walking for all ages and abilities.

Outside our front doors, many of us have sidewalks, which make for pedestrian-friendly places to exercise. The campus of the University at Albany is a great place to walk if you live nearby. If you have a bit more travel time, our region is fortunate to have numerous wooded trails and nature centers, like Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar.

Why walk?

The National Institute on Aging notes that brisk walking is great exercise, and like other endurance exercises, can improve heart and lung functioning. Endurance exercises help keep you healthy, improve your fitness, and make it easier to do everyday life’s routine tasks. And, don’t overlook that good health enables you to enjoy a fun and active lifestyle as well.

Are you new to walking for fitness? Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

The NIA recommends walking for the 30 minutes a day. If that’s too much, you could try walking for 10 minutes at a time and build up to three times a day. In time, you may advance to a single 30-minute walk. As your walk becomes easier, add new challenges, such as climbing a hill, extending the time you walk, increasing your walking pace, or adding an additional day a week of walking.

Step counters can help you keep track of your walking, set goals, and measure your progress. Once you know how many steps you average, you can set a goal to walk more.

To get a sense, the NIA reports that inactive people generally get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, while those who are very inactive get only 2,000 daily steps. A goal of 8,000 steps daily meets a recommended activity target, while a daily total of 10,000 is even better.

If you hit 15,000 steps a day, you’re in a high activity group! The NIA has more Go4Life fitness tips for older adults at www.nia.nih.cov/Go4Life.

Where are your favorite local places to walk for good health? I would love to know and will share your responses here and on the Community Caregivers’ Facebook page.  

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers Inc.

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The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Ready to ride: When Cindy Wadach, left, pulls to the curb to pick up Colleen Hassett, she puts her flashing lights on so that Colleen knows it’s the right car. Colleen can’t distinguish colors.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Serious walker: While Colleen Hassett teaches Pilates at the Guilderland YMCA, her husband, Steve, goes for a four-mile walk outdoors. He does a 12 minute mile.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Role model: Facing a mirror, Colleen Hassett leads a Pilates class at the Guilderland YMCA.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Colleen Hassett leads a Pilates class at the Guilderland YMCA.

In the course of three days in June 2010, Colleen Hassett lost her eyesight. After two weeks in the hospital trying to figure out what happened — several diseases and conditions were tested for: multiple sclerosis, lupus, scleroderma, vitamin deficiency, etc., etc. — all tests proved negative.

Colleen was a nurse and knew better than most how to navigate the medical field. After she was sent home, she saw a neuro-ophthalmologist. She’s also seeing a retina specialist and a vision therapist.

On a recent visit to her doctor he said, “You are a miracle.”

Optic nerves do not heal. Hers has to a degree.

“Now,” says Colleen, “I have some vision. So the question is: Do you go further trying to figure out what happened?”

What does her life look like? What kind of help does she need?

Colleen can’t drive, hike, or see color; she’s reluctant to go on vacations in strange places. She graduated from a Northeast Association of the Blind program.  “I can cross streets and I can take a bus,” she says.

Colleen teaches yoga and Pilates at the Guilderland YMCA. When she lost her sight and for four months, she took time off. Then the Y urged her to come back. She could ask the class members for help if she needed something, they told her.

Friends; relatives; neighbors; and her husband, Steve, took her places. She contacted Community Caregivers and was approved for service, but she didn’t need us then with all her friends and family helping her. When her family left, Caregivers came back into the picture.

Her husband had a goal for her: Get out of the house every day. So Caregivers and friends and her husband take her to doctors’ appointments, the Guilderland Library where she reads and chooses new books, the YMCA where she teaches and works out, shopping centers, etc. Usually CC provides one-way transportation and her husband or friends do the return to home.

At home, Colleen has a room, a studio really, where she meditates, chants, does yoga, and prays. She cooks. When she reads, which she does a lot, she holds the book very close to her eyes.

With corrective lenses her vision is 20/60 and 20/400. As you can realize, Colleen is dependent on others. She’s used to giving help, not taking it. And she worries how people are responding to her.

“I’m essentially still the same,” she says. “Asking for help is horrible. Not being able to drive is a big deal, and it makes me feel older just because most people who don’t drive are older.” Colleen was 51 when she lost her sight.

Consummate volunteer

This story came about  as a result of a project the Community Caregivers staff took on for the gala fundraiser in November 2016. Certain care receivers and volunteers agreed to complete a questionnaire that would be used to highlight and inform gala attendees of the kind of work CC does. Colleen; her husband; and Cindy Wadach, her Caregivers volunteer, came to the event. Colleen and Cindy stood and read their stories to the audience.

Cindy started volunteering with Caregivers in 2006. Prior to that, as the director of Senior Services for the town of Guilderland, she made transportation referrals to CC. She said she was so impressed with the organization she decided to volunteer with us when she retired.

However, that year her brother died unexpectedly. “As a way of channeling my grief…and as a way to honor his memory” she said, she made time to volunteer while still working full-time — about two hours a week.

Then in 2013, Cindy did retire and called Mary Morrison, the Client/Volunteer coordinator at Caregivers, and said, “Give me more clients.” One was Colleen

Cindy has three regular clients, volunteers about 12 hours a month for CC, and averages 200 miles of driving. Cindy actually volunteers for five organizations, including Caregivers: the Guilderland Food Pantry, the Guilderland Public Library, the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, and Home Delivered Meals out of Albany County.

In Colleen’s case “…an unexpected fringe benefit occurred,” said Cindy. They became good friends.

Both have a good sense of humor. Both love seeing live dance performances as well as “Dancing with the Stars.” They’re both vegetarians and have the same favorite pizza restaurant. They also have friends in common.

Cindy says she’s always had the volunteer spirit. “The most important thing in life is helping people,” she says. “I’m fortunate and in good health. I want to share what I have.” There’s a social component, too, she says. “I can’t stress that enough.”

I asked Cindy why she thinks it’s hard for people to ask for help. “In a word – Pride,” she said. “People don’t want to admit they need help. They would say, ‘Others need help more than I do.’” Cindy’s advice is “Reach out. There’s strength in admitting you need help.” She believes, if the situation were reversed, help would be given.

Since Cindy has been transporting Colleen, some role reversals have occurred. They went to see a common friend who was in hospice, she recalled. “That was a time when Colleen helped me. She was emotionally stronger. A few month back,” Cindy added, “I wasn’t feeling well. Colleen and her husband came and took me to Urgent Care.”

As an almost full-time volunteer, Cindy admits it feels good to know you’re needed. “Volunteering makes you feel so good,” she says. “I’m surprised more people don’t do it.”

Colleen’s experience with Caregivers isn’t typical, nor is it unheard of though. Mary Morrison said there are eight to 10 clients who have received services over a period of years. The same volunteer could take you to the Y, for dialysis treatment, or visit with you, for instance.

Marriage bond

The final part of this story is about Colleen’s husband, Steve, who is also a caregiver.

When his wife called him to say her vision just got blurry, Steve told her to call the ophthalmologist. The next time Colleen called him, it was to say her vision was really bad; things were gray but she could still see light. The third time she called, and since the doctor didn’t have room for her, they went to the emergency room.

As Steve reflects on this event, he remembers trying to be calm and trying to imagine what his wife was seeing. He said, “As a caregiver, you can only stand there and watch. You feel helpless.” Steve watched as the hospital staff checked for everything under the sun to figure out what happened to Colleen’s sight.

Once all the tests were over and no critical issues were evident and he knew she wouldn’t die, he started to reorient her. He saw her other senses were noticeably enhanced. When they walked in the hall, for example, she could feel where the doorways were because of the difference in the air temperature.

During this time, Colleen’s father died. Steve didn’t tell her. The hospital was still performing tests to determine what caused her loss of sight.

When Colleen went home, she was shaky. The first day, she passed out; two days later, the same thing happened. Apparently, this was due to the meds and anxiety.

During this time, Steve says, “I was scared.”  Once the meds got adjusted and Colleen was more stable, people started reaching out to her. “You have no idea the number of people who volunteered to help,” he said.

One such person was a neighbor who was connected to the New York State Commission for the Blind. His job, Steve said, was to assist people with impairments. “His observation was that Colleen was already doing 95 percent better than most people he visited.”

Also during this time, Steve said he felt afraid. “You worry about your partner. What happens if she’s gone? You wouldn’t really think this way at our age.” Steve was 52 at the time.

He took two-and-a-half months off from work. When he did go back, it was to a different job and then only half time. He kept that arrangement for a minimum of 10 months.

On the home front, Steve’s goal was to get Colleen out of the house every day. When he went back to work full-time, he knew enough to not overextend himself. But travel was tough. Fortunately, his new job with Union College allowed him to shift fields so he didn’t have to be away.

From Steve’s perspective being a caregiver takes patience. His mother had Progressive Supernuclear Palsy, known as PSP, so he had experience helping her.

Steve, who is a member of the New York National Guard, said, “In sports and at work and in the military, I am proactive,” he said. “I am not a patient guy. I don’t wait for the ball to come to me.” He confessed,  “The hard part is not doing something because of her.”

As Steve considers this journey, he shared his philosophy: “Compromise — it’s not just about me, it’s about us.”

They talk over decisions, although he said they always did that before.  And he tries to anticipate issues. He tries to protect Colleen physically and psychologically.  In the back of his mind, though, his fear is, “What would happen if something happens to me?”

Throughout all of this, people are in the wings. “People step up,” he said. “My faith in humanity hasn’t always been there.”

Postscript

Since the initial interview with Colleen and Steve, I’ve learned more. Colleen’s sight has improved from the original event, but she still can’t see expressions on faces or the colors red, orange, and pink. She has to be close up to see.

At one pizza place she frequents, they have ingredients you can choose listed in the front of the window case. She can actually see her choice. She rejoices at this thoughtfulness.

Colleen volunteers at the Food Co-op every Friday for about four hours. “They’re wonderful,” she says. “They’re kind. They provide a challenge.” She meets customers and helps them. A neighbor  volunteers at the co-op at the same time and takes Colleen with her.

Colleen emphasizes she really doesn’t want to rely solely on her husband. “That’s why Community Caregivers and my friends are so important.”

Steve and Colleen are frequently at Starbucks. Steve says it’s a relaxing space for him and a place where they can socialize. “It’s like the show, ‘Cheers’.”

Community Caregivers may be able to help you if you need assurance visits, transportation, respite, shopping, assurance calls, paperwork, chores, meals, light housekeeping. Services are provided by volunteers, there is no fee for services, and we help all ages. Volunteers decide what services they will provide and when they’re available to help. The office team connects the clients and volunteers. To learn more go to the website: www.communitycaregivers.org or call (518) 456-2898 to find out more about our services and to volunteer.

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Each April, our organization, Community Caregivers, celebrates National Volunteer Month with a luncheon and program with a guest speaker. We like to think (although you would need to a confirm this with one of our volunteers) that we appreciate Community Caregivers’ volunteers year-round. About 50 volunteers usually attend this fun event, which this year is on Wednesday, April 26, at the Hampton Inn in Albany.

Treating each volunteer like a treasure is also in our best interest; our service model of “neighbor helping neighbor” is totally volunteer-driven. While our professional staff offers program guidance, day-to-day help is generously provided by volunteers. We encourage Community Caregivers volunteers to serve on schedules that fit into their busy lives.

Nationally, we know that 62 million Americans — about one-quarter of the adult population — volunteers during a given year. We also know that that percentage has fallen off a bit in recent years: volunteerism reached its peak in the years following the 9/11 attacks.

Locally, we still find the desire to serve community and fellow citizens in need to be strong. We offer volunteer orientations twice a month in our office and other sessions upon request.

Individuals may find us through word of mouth, or often, through The Altamont Enterprise. We also have a partnership with the Service Learning program at Albany Medical College where future physicians volunteer with us.

We seek to work with area employers, like the State Employees Federal Credit Union that offer release time for their employees to volunteer during the work day. In addition, Community Caregivers participates with our local RSVP program, which places volunteers age 55 and older in interesting and varied volunteer roles at agencies throughout the Capital District.  

If you or someone you know wants to know more about volunteering with Community Caregivers or wants tips to get started volunteering, please feel free to contact me at .

We really hope that you can find the way that is right for you to give back to your community.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical  services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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