Falls Prevention 2023

Take steps to prevent falls

For an older adult, falls can be serious and threaten their ability to remain independent. However, falls do not have to be an inevitable part of aging. There are ways for you and your loved ones to prevent falls. In recognition of Falls Prevention Awareness Week (Sept 18-22), here are four things the CDC recommends to help prevent you or your loved ones from experiencing falls:  

1. Talk to your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk of falling.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines for any side effects that may cause dizziness or sleepiness.
  • Tell a provider right away if you fall, worry about falling, or feel unsteady.

2. Do Strength and Balance Exercises

  • Do exercises that make your legs, and core stronger and improve your balance. Ask your doctor about the best exercise program for you.

3. Have Your Eyes and Feet Checked

  • Have your eyes checked by a doctor annually. Get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for activities such as walking.
  • Have your healthcare provider check your feet once a year. Discuss proper footwear and ask whether seeing a foot specialist is advised.

4. Make Your Home Safer

  • Get rid of trip hazards (i.e., throw rugs, electrical cords, pet toys).
  • Add grab bars inside your shower or bath and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of the stairs.
  • Make sure your home is well-lit.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on bathroom floors.
  • Wear well-fitting shoes around the house.

Stay healthy and independent in your community by reducing your risk of falling. One quick and simple way to assess your risk is by using the National Council on Aging’s (NCOA) Falls Free CheckUp tool. On top of their risk assessment tool, the NCOA provides a useful infographic that you can print and share with others.

In addition to these beneficial tactics, Boston Senior Home Care offers a variety of health and wellness programs and healthy aging workshops that empower individuals to take charge of their health by learning self-care techniques and ways to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.

To learn more about the programs we offer, click here.


Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

Hot weather can be dangerous and too much heat is not safe for anyone. However, for older adults, people with disabilities, and those with chronic health conditions, the thermometer doesn’t have to hit 100 degrees to cause heat stress or even heat stroke.

Tips for Staying Cool

Caregivers can help prevent a heat-related emergency by keeping a loved one cool, watching for signs of heat stress, and following these tips for dealing with the summer heat:

  • Wear cool clothing. Make sure to dress in light-weight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, preferably of natural fabrics like cotton.
  • Keep cool. If you don’t have air conditioning, the City of Boston opens public cooling centers during periods of extreme heat.
  • Cover windows. During the day, draw the curtains on all windows that are in direct sunlight. Open windows at night and use fans to circulate cooler air.
  • Avoid direct sun and stay indoors during the hottest hours, 11 AM to 4 PM. When outdoors, make sure it’s during cooler hours and that there is shade or cover available.
  • Eliminate or limit physical activity. If a physician approves light exercise such as walking and movement exercises, limit it to short periods during cooler hours. Eliminate entirely on very hot days.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Give the person in your care plenty of water even if they say they’re not thirsty. Be careful with caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea or energy drinks.
  • Monitor medications. Find out if the person’s medications increase his or her risk for heat stress. Be sure to ask a physician about all the medications being taken, including over-the-counter items.
  • Be alert! Remember that a cognitively-impaired person may not be able to tell you when they’re feeling hot or ill. Also, older adults tend to feel colder than younger people so they may not sense the danger of hotter weather.

If you are caring for an older adult or person with a disability, it’s important to learn the signs of heat-related problems. Seek medical assistance for any of the following signs and, if you suspect heat stroke, call 911.

  • Headache, nausea, and fatigue are common signs of heat stress.
  • Heat syncope can include sudden dizziness, pale, sweaty-looking skin that is moist and cool to the touch, weakened pulse, and rapid heart rate.
  • Heat exhaustion can be a warning that the body is getting too hot. Watch for thirst, giddiness, weakness, lack of coordination, nausea, and profuse sweating. Urination decreases and the person may vomit.
  • Heat stroke can be life-threatening. Body temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the person may become confused, combative, behave bizarrely, feel faint, and stagger. Pulse is rapid. Skin is dry, flushed and may feel hot. Lack of sweating. Breathing may be fast and shallow. Pupils may widen or dilate.

Important Points to Remember

Older people, people with disabilities, and those with chronic health conditions can have a difficult time dealing with heat and humidity. The temperature inside or outside does not have to be high to put them at risk for a heat-related illness.

Headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea could be a sign of a heat-related illness. Go to the doctor or to an emergency room to find out if treatment is needed.

To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming a dangerous heat stroke, remember to:

  • Get out of the sun and into a cool place, ideally air-conditioned.
  • Drink fluids but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Shower, bathe, or dab off with cool water.
  • Lie down in a cool, dark place and rest.

Signing up for Alert Boston is a great way for caregivers and older adults to be notified in the event of an emergency. If the City of Boston declares an extreme heat event, you will receive a direct message via text, call, or email. For more information on resources, call 3-1-1 or visit boston.gov/heat.

For additional information on keeping your loved one safe, please feel free to contact Boston Senior Home Care. Our Caregiver Advisors will connect you with the resources and expertise you need to navigate your caregiving journey.


Planning ahead can help caregivers take a summer vacation

It’s finally summer! The days are getting longer and warmer; for many, thoughts turn to a vacation. Unpaid family caregivers often dream of relaxing and refreshing during the summer months. But a few days away with friends and family to recharge and enjoy summer fun seems impossible when you have so much caregiving responsibility.

Being a caregiver to a friend or family member can be incredibly fulfilling. But it also has challenges. That’s why realizing and accepting the physical and mental health benefits of taking a break is essential – especially during New England’s lovely summer weather. Whether it’s an overnight trip or a few restful days at the beach, don’t discount the power of self-care. Taking a vacation is possible. It just requires more advanced planning.

The first step in planning is determining who will fill in for you. One option is to call upon a sibling, a relative, or a close family friend to help so your loved one can stay in their familiar surroundings while you are away. Ask someone who can handle an emergency and is as vested in your loved one’s care as you are. It’s important to give them a detailed list of medications and their schedules, typical daily routines, diet, care instructions, and the phone numbers of physicians and others to call in case of an emergency. Encourage and request that friends and neighbors drop in for a visit while you are away.

If your loved one does not need 24-hour care or supervision, adult day care programs are an option. They offer social activities, meals and snacks, entertainment, and mental stimulation.  Many are open Monday-Friday, and some offer transportation to and from their locations. 

Another option is respite care. Many assisted living and skilled nursing facilities offer short-term respite stays for older adults so caregivers can take a vacation or deal with a family emergency. During a short-term respite stay, your loved one typically receives personalized care, daily activities, including three meals a day, medication management, and opportunities to socialize with others. Short-term respite stays are typically five or more days.

Not sure which option is best for you?  We can connect you with services and supports based on your specific caregiving needs and preferences, including a respite care stipend, available respite care, or adult day care programs. 

To learn more, please contact us at 617-292-6211 or visit us at bshcinfo.org/caregiver to be connected with one of our caregiver advisors for an assessment of your caregiving needs.


LGBTQIA+ Caregiving

Did you know that many caregivers may not realize they’re caregivers? Generally, caregivers slip into this role without any formalized training or resources. In recognition of Pride Month, we’ve created this LGBTQIA+ caregiving guide as a resource to support caregivers who identify as LGBTQIA+, as well as those who are caring for a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you or your loved one identifies as LGBTQIA+, Boston Senior Home Care is here to support you. We recognize that past or present experiences may lead many LGBTQIA+ older adults to feel distrustful of medical and social service providers. In fact, 78% of LGBTQIA+ older adults entering a long-term care system keep their sexual orientation or gender identity private. Currently, there are states in the U.S. passing laws to limit the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals.  Service providers and caregivers who are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community need to be mindful of the discrimination this community has faced and continues to face.

LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to become caregivers than heterosexual cisgender people. LGBTQIA+ older adults are twice as likely to be single and live alone, and four times less likely to have children. Peer-to-peer caregiving is common within this community.

Whatever your caregiving journey looks like, having a framework to help guide you will make the process more manageable. These five steps will help you navigate your role.

1. Have a Conversation

Before entering into a caregiving role, it’s a good idea to ask about being a part of your loved one’s caregiving team. Waiting to find out about your loved one’s preferences, wishes, or finances until a crisis occurs can lead to hastily-made decisions. But, talking about it ahead of time will make navigating your caregiving journey easier. Even if you’re already in the middle of caregiving, it’s not too late to start a conversation with your loved one about their wishes.

When you do have that conversation, it’s important to also discuss finances. LGBTQIA+ adults face disparities in economic wellbeing when compared with their heterosexual cisgender peers. While money can be a sensitive subject, it’s often at the center of many decisions you’ll make with your loved one about housing, healthcare, and other expenses.

2. Make a Plan

No matter where you are in your caregiving journey, it’s important to have a plan to stay focused on what’s best for your loved one and for you. If you are not your loved one’s legal spouse or next of kin, you will likely need to put legal documents in place to carry out parts of that plan.

When caring for an LGBTQIA+ loved one, it is important to realize that anti-LGBTQIA+ attitudes may exist within a family. A carefully drafted set of legal documents can be essential and an LGBTQIA+ affirming lawyer can be an invaluable resource. It is important to hash out these details before an emergency arises so that your loved one can voice and verify their wishes.

The most effective caregiving plans are made with the care recipient at the center of the discussion. The plan doesn’t have to be extensive or elaborate. Nobody can foresee every detail or scenario. However, the plan should include immediate needs as well as broader plans for the future.

3. Form a Team

Don’t try to do it alone. You will be more effective if you can find others who are willing to help you – whether they’re friends, neighbors, or professional service providers. While other family members are possible sources of support, think about colleagues, clubs, or others as possible resources too.

4. Care for Yourself

As a caregiver, it’s easy to ignore your own needs. Maintaining your health and wellbeing is essential when it comes to caring for others. It’s just as important to plan for self-care as it is to create a plan of care for others. Try to be honest with yourself, and understand your capacity for helping others in a caregiving role.

If you’re already in the middle of your caregiving journey, you may find comfort in knowing that other caregivers are experiencing the same ups and downs as you. Talking to them may give you ideas about strategies and resources available to ease your stress. Consider finding a local support group, like Boston Senior Home Care’s Caregiver Support Group. Online support groups can be a good way to find a community of caregivers who may be having similar experiences.

5. Find Formal Supports

More likely than not, challenges may arise during your caregiving experience that require additional support. We welcome you to reach out to us. Our caregiver advisors are skilled professionals who can connect you with the services and supports you need to care for your loved one. Ready to get in touch with a Boston Senior Home Care caregiver advisor?

If you are a caregiver in need of guidance or services, Boston Senior Home Care’s Caregiver Solution program is here to help. Contact us today at 617-292-6211.


ARCHANGELS and Boston Senior Home Care awarded a grant to expand caregiver access and inclusivity of respite care.

The grant supports Any Care Counts, a novel approach to caregiver engagement and service delivery.

BOSTON, MA – June 1, 2023 – ARCHANGELS, a women-owned Massachusetts company, and Boston Senior Home Care, a nonprofit human services organization, received a $649,075 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). Funds will be used to implement Any Care Counts – Massachusetts, an innovative initiative designed to increase recognition and support of unpaid caregivers in the Commonwealth. The ARCHANGELS platform provides the 43 percent of adults who are unpaid caregivers with access to the Caregiver Intensity Index™, an online tool that evaluates the drivers of intensity that many caregivers experience daily, which can affect their mental health and wellbeing. The resulting Caregiver Intensity Score acknowledges the challenges faced by unpaid caregivers and helps them navigate the many resources available that can have a positive impact on their caregiving journey, such as respite services offered through Boston Senior Home Care’s Caregiver Solutions program. 

“Learning we were awarded this visionary grant — alongside the extraordinary team of rock stars at Boston Senior Home Care — was one of those moments that made us want to jump around in glee. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been leading the way in supporting the often-invisible population of unpaid caregivers serving as the backbone of our communities. Thanks to the EOHHS, we can strengthen awareness, validation, and access to these extraordinary caregivers in data-driven ways that inform state-wide efforts and ongoing support,” said Alexandra Drane, co-founder of ARCHANGELS.

“We are extremely grateful to the EOHHS for their generosity in providing this grant opportunity. And we look forward to working in partnership with ARCHANGELS to expand access and enhance the resources currently offered through our existing caregiver program,” said Meg Hogan, Chief Executive Officer of Boston Senior Home Care. “Our goal is to identify more caregivers in need of respite services and ensure they have access to the resources and supports they need in a culturally inclusive manner.”

In a recent report to Congress, the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council identified the need for an information campaign designed to “bring family caregiving out of the shadows and make it a dinner table conversation in every home”. Any Care Counts will address this need through an extensive social media campaign to increase awareness of the program among caregivers throughout Greater Boston. “Often, caregivers don’t recognize themselves as being caregivers nor do they know how to reach out for support,” said Alicia Gomez, Chief Operations Officer of Boston Senior Home Care.

“We know that 79 percent of caregivers change their answer from ‘I’m not a caregiver’ to ‘I am a caregiver’ after getting their Caregiver Intensity Score,” said Drane. “Seeing ourselves in this role is an ‘aha’ moment that explains why we feel the intensity we do as we care for others, gives us the language to explain that feeling to others, and connects us to things that can help. The result of this partnership will also provide a data-driven roadmap that can extend the impact of these learnings across the state.”

“This project will help raise awareness of the many services available free of charge to caregivers,” said Gomez. “Boston Senior Home Care will also use the Caregiver Intensity Score data to tailor counseling, support, and resources to individual caregivers’ evolving needs.”


ARCHANGELS is a women-owned, Massachusetts-based company shamelessly hustling to make change happen for unpaid caregivers across the nation. Their omnichannel data-driven platform engages caregivers wherever they are — even those who do not see themselves in the role. It not only validates their experience but navigates them to existing resources — yet often underutilized due to lack of awareness — including respite services of all types. ARCHANGELS works with states, employers, healthcare providers, and payers to create an impact for caregivers in their communities. For more information, visit www.archangels.me.

About Boston Senior Home Care

Boston Senior Home Care is a private, nonprofit human services agency dedicated to ensuring that

older adults, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers have equitable access to social services and supports, and independent living resources. Since 1974, we have provided in-home care and community-based services that enable low-income older adults and people with disabilities to live in their place of choice for as long as possible. Boston Senior Home Care is one of Boston’s Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs), serving the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Charlestown, Chinatown, Dorchester, Downtown Boston, East Boston, Mattapan, North End, South Boston, and West End. For more information, visit www.bshcinfo.org.


Older Americans Month

Each May, Older Americans Month (OAM) recognizes the immeasurable contributions that older adults make to their communities. Their time, experience, and talents enrich the lives of those around them.

This year’s theme for OAM focuses on combating stereotypes of aging and how older adults can age in their communities, living independently for as long as possible and participating in ways they choose.

As we age, we experience several significant life changes. How we adapt to and grow from these changes is often the key to healthy aging. Moreover, healthy aging also means finding new things you enjoy, staying physically and socially active, and feeling connected to your community and loved ones. This is certainly true for Elnora Jackson.

Meet Elnora Jackson

At 87, Elnora Jackson teaches Sunday School at her church and regularly partakes in community events. “I try to participate in everything,” said Elnora. “ What I truly enjoy is being with others. I am a people person. I love the people I live with here and the people from my church.”

Elnora lives in Codman Apartments in Dorchester, where Boston Senior Home Care’s Supportive Housing team collaborates with the Boston Housing Authority to offer social programming for the building’s residents. Programming includes art classes, computer classes, bingo, exercise classes, and more.

Outside of connecting with her neighbors and friends, she also holds a special place in her heart for her family. One of her nine children or 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren often visits her. “I love my kids,” said Elnora. “I love my grandkids. So, when they all come around, it’s joyful.”

Elnora says taking care of others and raising a family kept her busy for most of her life. Now, she spends her days staying active and connecting with the people around her. She can often be found spending time with friends in the community room or visiting with neighbors in the building with the assistance of her walker.

Although Elnora is now facing some of the challenges of aging, she’s happier than ever before. “I enjoy life even with my aches and pains,” said Elnora. “I’m just enjoying my life. I never think about dying. I think about living.”

When asked for her advice on aging, Elnora said, “Take care of yourself. Take care of your body, and don’t smoke.”

Of course, good health is not automatic, and Elnora understands the importance of caring for your mind and body as you age. But she also believes participation in community activities, connections to others, and a positive attitude all play a role in her ability to stay happy and healthy.

Her sense of purpose and ability to find meaning and joy in her life inspires us all.

Boston Senior Home Care is excited to celebrate OAM with our partners in the aging community. We ensure that older adults remain involved and included in our communities for as long as possible.

Ready to Learn More?

Beth Dimitruk and her mother, Elizabeth Mary. Beth is a consultant with Boston Senior Home Care.

Becoming my mother’s caregiver didn’t happen overnight. I was slowly initiated into the role as her health and care needs gradually changed. That didn’t make it any easier. But one of the best lessons I learned was that caregiving can bring joy and challenges.

My mother was the oldest daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who, like many, came to this country for a better life. Mom was raised to be independent and resourceful. She was also smart. If mom had been born into a later generation, she would have been a writer or a lawyer. Instead, she was a homemaker raising seven children, and her kitchen was the center of our universe. Around her kitchen table is where we all ate, studied, prayed, resolved conflicts, and learned life-long lessons. When my dad died, mom went to work to support her three children still at home – the youngest was just 12 years old. 

In her later years, mom spent time visiting her children and grandchildren scattered around the country. In her early 80s, she could no longer drive due to failing eyesight, and taking care of her home was becoming a challenge. For a few years, I would visit, take her shopping, help clean the house, and provide some companionship. Then everything changed. After several minor falls, she was no longer safe at home and it was time for her to make a transition. So, once again, we gathered around the kitchen table to discuss her moving in with me.

Making the transition from living independently to living with me and my family was not easy for any of us. Caring for my mom, and my family and working full-time became very stressful. And mom had difficulty adjusting to the loss of her independence, unfamiliar surroundings, and a new routine. She became angry and depressed, which increased the stress level of everyone. Thankfully, a friend told me about Boston Senior Home Care’s Caregiver Solutions program and put me in touch with a Caregiver Advisor who explained that while caregiving can be overwhelming at times, there were services and supports available to make it more manageable. And there was no charge to participate.

After enrolling in Caregiver Solutions, they assessed our caregiving situation and provided information and guidance on reducing stress. They arranged for a fall prevention home assessment and coordinated the installation of grab bars in mom’s bathroom. And they referred us to an Adult Day Health program in our area so that mom could get much-needed companionship and I would have time to myself. I also began attending Boston Senior Home Care’s online support group, which provided guidance and caregiving tips from other caregivers. Today, mom is safe and more content, and with ongoing support, I’ll be able to care for her at home for as long as possible.  


Social Workers – A Caring Profession

March is National Social Work Month when we recognize the importance of social workers and the critical role they play in helping improve the lives of others. This year’s theme from the National Association of Social Workers is “Social Work Breaks Barriers,” which focuses on how social workers help individuals, families, and communities overcome personal, economic, and social challenges. Social work is considered a caring profession. Helping others and making the community a better place is a driving force in social work. 

Social Workers Break Down Barriers

Social workers are highly skilled professionals trained to examine and holistically address life’s problems. They elevate and empower people, giving them the ability to cope with personal roadblocks and help them navigate the health and social services network so they can get the resources they need. Social workers can be found in organizations throughout the community including schools, hospitals, clinics, senior centers, child welfare organizations, addiction treatment centers, and community-based organizations like Boston Senior Home Care. 

“A social worker’s role is to help individuals and families achieve their fullest potential, which often requires breaking down economic, social or political barriers to getting them the services they need,” said Susan Tena, MSW, LICSW, Senior Director of Program Development. “They help people overcome challenges by developing interventions or care plans to help them get the services and supports they need. For example, if a family is struggling to afford healthy food, a social worker can help them apply for nutritional assistance, such as SNAP.”

The primary mission of the social work profession is to help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. “At Boston Senior Home Care, our social workers are experts at understanding the needs of the culturally diverse and often underserved people we care for,” said Abigail Swanson, LICSW, Caregiver Advisor in the Caregiver Solutions program. “Many of our consumers live in difficult circumstances where emotional suffering and stress are commonplace including our caregiver and home care programs.  Social workers work collaboratively and individually and play a key role in connecting consumers with support services while acting as an advocate and advisor.”  

Connecting caregivers with in-home services and supports to help them care for an aging loved one or family member is a powerful example of how social workers make a difference in people’s lives. For example, they can help arrange for in-home safety modifications such as grab bars to be installed in the home, and arrange for respite care or an adult day health program.

Community-based organizations, such as Boston Senior Home Care, rely on the commitment, expertise, and compassion of social workers who work tirelessly to address the needs of those we serve. During Social Work Month, let’s take time to thank social workers for dedicating their lives to helping people live healthy and fulfilling lives.

If you need services and supports but don’t know where to turn, contact us. We are here to help you!


New Program Will Leverage WHO Model to Improve Access for People Experiencing Emotional Distress in Daily Living and Develop Skills of Non-Clinical Workforce to Support Them

BOSTON (Feb. 16, 2023) – The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation today announced it has awarded more than $850,000 in grants through a new program, Advancing Community-Driven Mental Health, to improve access to mental health services for adults experiencing mild to moderate distress and practical problems of daily living.

With its new, three-year grant program, the Foundation is taking an innovative approach to challenges in mental health care by leveraging an intervention developed by the World Health Organization. The WHO model, called Problem Management Plus (PM+), helps adults learn how to manage adversity and mental health stressors in their day-to-day lives and provides community-based referrals to those at risk of developing severe mental health challenges. The low-intensity psychological intervention also trains the non-clinical workforce to support people in mild to moderate mental health distress.

“Given the current state of the behavioral health crisis in Massachusetts, we believe it is critical to expand our knowledge of the role that non-clinical individuals can play in meeting the basic mental health needs of communities in a more socially and culturally relevant way,” said Audrey Shelto, President and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “The WHO model is an evidence-based intervention with demonstrated success that we are eager to evaluate further through our new grant program and determine how it may be adopted more widely across the Commonwealth.”

The Advancing Community-Driven Mental Health grant program supports five nonprofit organizations that are focused on housing, senior services, support for people with disabilities, and other non-clinical initiatives that provide direct social or community services to individuals and families. The following organizations have received $100,000 each through the first year of funding:

Boston Senior Home Care, which will work to improve access to community-based mental health services through its supportive housing program in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, including training tenant service coordinators.
Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, which will focus on underserved individuals including low-wage earners, those with limited English language proficiency, people with disabilities, seniors and residents of subsidized housing.
Quincy Asian Resources Inc., which will train its family and community services coordinators to support the mental health challenges of clients who have an immigrant background, typically speak Chinese or Vietnamese and have experienced acculturation stress.
Stavros Center for Independent Living, which will implement the PM+ model to support people living with disabilities in western Massachusetts who have difficulty getting mental health services due to limited access to the internet and transportation.
The Community Builders Inc., which will focus on individuals with low incomes and often in need of mental health care who live in family-designated affordable housing in Boston, Mashpee and Worcester.

In addition, the Foundation is providing a total of $355,779 in grant funding to its two technical assistance partners, The Family Van and Partners In Health, which are supporting the development and implementation of the grant program. They are community-centered organizations with knowledge and experience with the PM+ model both locally and internationally.

“There is a need to increase the linguistic, racial and cultural diversity of the behavioral health workforce and to deliver mental health interventions in settings where people are already receiving services and support,” said Jacquie Anderson, the Foundation’s Senior Director of Grantmaking. “With specialized training, non-clinical staff members at the community-based organizations supported by our grant program can play an important role in meeting the basic mental health needs of individuals.”

About the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation

The mission of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is to ensure equitable access to health care for all those in the Commonwealth who are economically, racially, culturally or socially marginalized. The Foundation was founded in 2001 with an initial endowment from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. It operates separately from the company and is governed by its own Board of Directors.

For more information, visit www.bluecrossmafoundation.org


Keeping Older Adults Active During Winter

Staying active can be a struggle for many of us. And, in the winter, it can be even more of a challenge. Yet, we know that physical activities and exercise can improve sleep, balance, circulation, and mood. All these benefits work to reduce blood pressure, complications from diabetes, and the risk of falling. The important thing is to find activities that are safe and fun. Below are some simple exercise ideas to stay active this winter in ways that are right for you.

Older adults taking part of a chair yoga class.
Older adults taking part of a strengthening exercise class.

Gentle exercises

  1. Stretchingone of the best ways to improve flexibility and prevent injury. Not only is it free, but you can do it just about anywhere. Stretch while lying in bed – move various body parts slowly and stretch stiff muscles. Stretching can be done with assistance or independently.
  2. Walking is another great low-impact activity. Walking around the house, yard, or outside for any amount of time is beneficial to the body and mind. This exercise can be done by yourself but it can be more enjoyable with another person.
  3. The sit-to-stand exercise is great for mobility and independence. The ability to stand up from a chair makes a huge difference in everyday life, especially for older adults. It helps with essential activities like getting up from the toilet, out of bed, or out of a chair. No equipment is needed and it can be done just about anywhere you put a chair.

Moderate exercises

  1. Tai Chi is a great moderate and low-impact exercise routine. Check out these easy and gentle Tai Chi routines.
  2. Household chores – believe it or not, cleaning up around the house can be great exercise. Activities like folding laundry, dusting, or light vacuuming can promote mobility and cardiovascular health.
  3. Chair yoga has many benefits including loosening and stretching painful muscles, reducing chronic pain, decreasing stress, and improving circulation. It also reduces anxiety, helps lower blood pressure, protects joints, and builds strength and balance.

    Throughout the year, the City of Boston’s Age Strong Commission hosts free virtual yoga and chair yoga classes. For more details and to register for activities and events, click here.

Advanced exercises

  1. Water exercise and swimming are low-impact activities that can help you stay in shape. It’s also an excellent alternative if you cannot go outside for long periods due to weather conditions or limited mobility. Swimming has many health benefits, including cardiovascular conditioning, improved strength, increased flexibility and balance, and weight control. Consider going with a friend to a local class at the YMCA or senior center.
  2. Dancing is a fun and engaging activity that doesn’t feel like exercise and can be done at your own pace. Play you and your loved one’s favorite music at home and have a dance party in the living room. Or, look for local social events.
  3. Strength training is a great way for older adults to maintain muscle mass and balance. It can also help maintain flexibility, bone density, and independence. Follow along with these strength training workouts from the National Institute on Aging. Remember to start slow and build up slowly. Pushing too hard doesn’t help and could cause injuries. Most important, consult your physician before starting any exercise routine.

    For strength and balance workshops in the city of Boston, check out the great health and wellness workshops offered by the Age Strong Commission, here.

Staying safe is the top priority

Exercise is beneficial in many ways, but the priority is to make sure you stay safe before, during, and after physical activities. Each person’s health and abilities are different, so it will take time to find the amount and type of physical activity that works well for you.

Safety tips:

  • Before starting, check with your physician to make sure that exercise is safe for you.
  • Check in with brief conversations during activities. If you can speak without being short of breath, the pace and exercise are comfortable. If you can’t hold a conversation because you’re breathing heavily, stop or slow the pace.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water before, during, and after exercising.
  • Use the buddy system and partner with a friend or neighbor when exercising.
  • Some other ways to keep safe outdoors include wearing a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS), or GPS tracker. These devices are particularly useful to help locate you in the event of an emergency.
  • If you or your exercise partner feel dizzy, weak, or are experiencing pain, stop immediately and rest. And, talk to your doctor about any future exercise.