Brendan and Kay Walsh
The first in our month-long series celebrating Older American’s Month and Making Their Mark are Brendan and Kay Walsh of Salem, MA. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2018, Kay has been on a mission to talk about hers and Brendan’s experiences and help spread awareness. Together they’ve been “opening the doors,” as Kay likes to refer to the process they are currently undertaking. “You can’t stay in the dark, so we both talk to friends, family, and neighbors about what I am struggling with and what changes we have both had to make.” Kay spent her career as a Nurse Practitioner. She was more than knowledgeable and experienced. “I feel lucky because I know about the disease and I am not afraid of it.” She served as the Chair of the Board of Directors at North Shore Elder Services for many years along with serving on the Board of Directors at the Salem Council on Aging. Kay spent 25 years working on getting a Salem Council on Aging built. In honor of her dedication to that cause, the city of Salem and the Council are in the process of creating The Katherine Walsh Internship for 2020, which will be a paid internship through Salem State University. Brendan and Kay have benefitted our communities by sharing their time and experiences with Alzheimer’s. We thank them for making a difference. #MakeYourMark
“For 20 years I suffered with Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and COPD. On a routine medical visit my physician happened to mention this six-week My Life, My Health Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. I called the Healthy Living Center of Excellence and joined the next workshop. Not only did I regain my quality of life, I lost 70 pounds, improved my blood sugars, and reduced my blood pressure – allowing me to breathe easier and participate in different social activities. I met many others with similar conditions that I am proud to call friends and supporters.” George is a lifelong Merrimack Valley resident who became a Healthy Living Center of Excellence Participant Ambassador following an Evidence-Based program which provided him with the tools he needed to take charge of his health. George has become a trained leader in the program, My Life, My Health, Chronic Disease Self-Management. He, and his wonderful wife Mary, make their mark by advocating for their health care needs and sharing helpful information with others in the community who can benefit from these evidence-based programs!
Nancy Frey and her daughter Katherine Grant
Our agency had the good fortune of meeting Nancy Frey and her daughter Katherine Grant three years ago. It was their joint Christmas project of crocheting afghans to donate to local elders which brought them to Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore. Nancy Frey of Salem, MA is not a woman who is idle and never has been. The eighty-five-year-old has always relished in her many interests and hobbies, which are why when she retired at age 80 there was no looking back. Nancy wanted a project to benefit those elders in her own community on the North Shore, and particularly our Veterans – people who often times are forgotten or alone. Katherine called Elder Services and the project was a perfect fit for all.
Last Christmas Nancy and Katherine donated thirty-three crocheted afghans to the agency. They typically spend eighteen months crocheting afghans of all sizes and colors. The afghans are personally delivered to the Danvers office packaged in handled shopping bags. They are available to our Care Managers and Nurses to bring to any elder they feel will need one and will treasure a little warmth and color. It is a labor of love that they enjoy doing together as mother and daughter. We recognize the gift of comfort Nancy and Katherine are contributing to their community. They continue to make their mark by benefiting others. Our agency and our many consumers thank them for this labor of love.
Pranvera Zeneli or Vera, for short loves to help in any way she possibly can. It gives her great pleasure to make a difference in someone’s life. She often cooks and bakes extra goodies to share with her fellow housing residents in North Andover. Her inspiration comes from the kindness this community has shown her. She says “It’s not easy to immigrate to another country and start a whole new life – especially when you and your husband, now 70 and 80 respectively. So, I try my very best to fit in and lead a good example for my grand-children”. Her positivity and strength have accompanied her throughout this journey. When we asked her daughter, Edi, if her mother would be interested in helping to sew face masks, desperately needed because of the coronavirus, she jumped at the opportunity to help – to do something she was very good at and to help make her mark. She found some left-over children’s fabric from a grandson’s project, dragged out her sewing machine and went straight to work making face masks – some for the staff at Lawrence General Hospital and others for our Meals on Wheels Drivers, who deliver hot meals to elders every day. Vera’s days are filled. She is a full-time caregiver for her husband, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia 10 years ago, and she looks for ways to take what she calls ‘a mental break’ from caregiving. So, finding a purpose, to be useful and having a routine is Vera’s way to stay healthy and to age strong.
Walking across America is no small feat. Walking across America at age 71 is an incredible feat!
And that is exactly what Newburyport native, William Shuttleworth did. At 71, he walked across the country – 3,000 miles in 3 months – to raise money and awareness about veteran’s issues and concerns, especially their access to health care. His cause ‘Vets Don’t Forget Vets’ is the reason William left his hometown in Northeast Massachusetts and began his trek across America that landed him in San Diego, California. Pictured here in Pennsylvania, each day he clocked close to 30 miles and, by trips end, had worn out five pairs of shoes He blogged daily, emailed family and fans and kept his website up to date with photos and stories of what he describes as the heart of America. William says ‘These hard-working Americans touched my soul and it was a privilege to meet and talk with some of the most wonderful and caring people in the world.’ Along the way other vets, who had heard about his adventure on their behalf, would open their doors for sleep, treat him to eats and walk with him for a spell, even in the rain. Shuttleworth raised $70,000 and donated it to the DAV Charitable Service Trust. His feet took him to where his heart wanted to go – fighting for all veterans, across America. Mr. Shuttleworth loves to speak about his adventure on behalf of veterans and is available for community presentations. And, you can still help him help vets at by making a donation at https://vetsdontforgetvets.com/. Thank you for YOUR service and for the work you are doing on behalf of other veterans across the US.
“It’s funny, thinking about me, an older American – but now, so true”.
It seems like just yesterday I arrived from Cuba, only 14 at the time and speaking no English. My first English lessons began in first grade where it was felt I could learn quicker. It was humiliating. In 1957, there was no bilingual education. However, quick to learn, I moved through the grades with help from a tutor – a great lady who taught me the language, and the “American” way. I’ve always enjoyed reading, never letting go of my first language and still am an avid reader in both languages. My career spanned a lifetime working in customer administration operations as a bi-lingual customer service representative with international experience. I worked for several giants like Digital, Sun Microsystems, and Smith and Nephew focusing on the company’s ability to provide culturally sensitive responses across an international customer base. When I retired, I wanted to volunteer. I received my Tutor Certification and started tutoring classes for students of English Speaker of Other Languages Program (ESOL) at Pollard Public Library in Lowell and then for the Lowell Association for the Blind, reading to Spanish-speaking audiences. As I began to age, I found working with older adults very satisfying, so I began giving tax assistance at a local senior center. Then, about five years ago, I became involved with Elder Services. The agency was looking for volunteers to be part of the Senior Medicare Patrol Program that helps reduce Medicare waste, fraud and abuse. Using my customer service skills and being bi-lingual, I became a trained SMP member – staffing event tables, making presentations, and translating our materials into Spanish. I am often called upon to help decipher some of the confusing language, unravel complicated consumer issues related to billing, and the Medicare Summary Notices mailed out to consumers. Once a month, I help at the Elder Brown Bag Food Program at the Tewksbury site where 550 bags of food are readied for delivery to elders that helps them stretch their Social Security dollars. I feel good about aging strong and making my mark in my community by helping to make it a safe place to grow older in.
The Elder Brown Bag Program is an emergency food assistance program for older adults or persons with disabilities who may run low on food or grocery money after their monthly income sources run out. This year the program will celebrate 15 years of helping elders stretch those Social Security Dollars.
And, that is when Luis Melo stepped up to volunteer. Born and raised in Lowell, Luis has a true sense of pride for his community and has been a member of the Center Portuguese Club for 42 years. He loves helping this community and didn’t flinch when one of his fellow members asked him to fill in temporarily at the Brown Bag Program for someone who was ill because what is truly unique about this program is that it is volunteer-driven. Well, that was five years ago and each month since, Luis has showed up to help coordinate the efforts to get 550 bags of extra food out to elders in the Greater Lowell area. When one of ‘his’ elders cannot make it to the center, he doesn’t hesitate to make sure that elder does not go without – sometimes loading 10-15 the bags in his car for home delivery – even when the weather is bad. When asked why he does this month after month, Luis, in a very soft-spoken manner says, “if I don’t, who will? It’s only once a month for a few hours and most of all I love helping. I can get to the grocery store, and some of these people just can’t.” Justin Jordan, program manager says, ‘without Luis, some elders would go without and Luis helps us make sure that doesn’t happen.
Four times a month staff and volunteers pack just about 3,000 ‘brown bags’ with both perishable and non-perishable foods at three sites across the Merrimack Valley, at no cost. This program is a collaborative effort between Elder Services and the Boston Food Bank. If you or someone you know might benefit from this program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane started volunteering for Elder Services over 10 years ago. Now, at 87 – she is still going strong. At first, she volunteered in the office doing a little filing, copying and other administrative work. On other days, Jane was a volunteer driver, making sure elders got to their doctor and other medical appointments. She happened to be in the office one day, listening to the Volunteer Coordinator talk about a new program being created called Medical Advocate. This peaked Jane’s interest and she jumped at the opportunity to not just drive elders, but to become a second set of eyes and ears during a medical visit to help the elder understand what was being said, explain a change in medication and to be a support for any kind of medical news – good or bad. Jane is a Friend-in-Deed and is our ‘go to’ for administrative help – like assembling SHINE packets, or SMP folders. She also knits mittens every winter for the Methuen Senior Center’s gift shop and for children who need them in Lawrence and Methuen – setting a personal record last year at 35 pairs! Jane says, for me ‘aging strong and making my mark is about getting up, getting out and doing something I enjoy and that is helping wherever and wherever I can’.