Aging Well in Maine

What Is Shingles and What Causes It?

You can think of shingles as the one-two punch of infections. Anyone who ever gets it had a case of the chickenpox first, often many decades earlier. The reason these two conditions are paired up is they come from the same virus.

Chickenpox causes itchy blisters that might start on your back, chest, and face and spread to the rest of your body. Shingles is a rash with shooting pain. It usually shows up on just one side of your body.

If you start to feel tingly and itchy on one side of your torso and then notice a rash, call your doctor right away so they can examine you and determine if you have shingles. When it gets into your body, the first problem it causes is chickenpox, also called varicella. You may think of it as a childhood disease, but adults can get it, too. After the chickenpox runs its itchy course, the virus retreats to nerve tissues near your spinal cord and brain, where it hides out. Doctors don’t know why, but sometimes the virus “wakes up” and travels along nerve fibers to your skin. That’s when it lands its second punch —shingles, also called herpes zoster.

Who gets it? If you’ve had chickenpox, you’re more likely to get shingles if you are 50 or older, are under a lot of stress, have had a physical trauma, or take long-term steroids or other medicines that can weaken your immune system. A weakened immune system might wake the virus up. Also people who have cancer, HIV, or another disease that lower your body’s defenses are at a higher risk.

What can you do to prevent shingles? Get vaccinated. The FDA has approved two shingles vaccines: Shingrix and Zostavax. Shingrix is newer and is preferred over Zostavax because it is considered 90% effective. The CDC recommends people 50 and older get it, even if you’ve had shingles before. You should also get it even if you have previously had the Zostavax vaccine.

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

June is National Safety Month

Hello from Holly …

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death in our homes and communities. This year’s safety campaign is focused on Hazard Recognition, Slips, Trips and Falls, Fatigue and Impairment; all very important topics. For this month’s column I’d like to focus on slips, trips and falls.

Each year, millions of people 65 and older fall. In fact, more than 1 out of 4 older people falls each year. Falling once doubles your chances that you will fall again.

What Can Happen After a Fall? Many falls do not cause injuries. But 1 out of 5 falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury. These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own. An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.

Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities resulting in isolation. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.

What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall? Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include: lower body weakness, foot pain, vision problems, difficulties with walking or balance, and some medications. There are also environmental hazards to be aware of such as broken or even steps, throw rugs, extension cords across walking areas, and clutter. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

What Can You Do to Prevent Falls? Get a falls risk assessment. SeniorsPlus and other community agencies offer these. Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Sign up for a Tai Chi or Matter of Balance class. Locations can be found at You can also call SeniorsPlus at 1-800-427-1241. You should also have your eyes checked once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed. Get rid of things you could trip over, add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet, put railings on both sides of stairs, and make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

May is Older Americans Month!

Hello from Holly …

“Connect, Create, Contribute.” These three words comprise this year’s theme for Older Americans Month.

These are powerful words that discourage isolation and encourage purpose. Isolation and lack of purpose can fuel depression and loneliness in anyone, but older people are especially vulnerable.

There are five agencies on aging in Maine designed to function as “one-stop-shops” to answer questions from older people, or from any individuals with disabilities, about a wide range of in-home, community-based, and long-term services. These agencies also offer educational and nutrition programs designed to encourage socialization.

SeniorsPlus is the designated Agency on Aging for Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. We are your trusted source for information, options, and services designed to meet your needs. Most of these services are free.

So how can you “Connect, Create, Contribute”?
• Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
• Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
• Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Communities that encourage the contributions of older adults are stronger. By engaging and supporting all community members, we recognize that older people play a key role in the vitality of our neighborhoods, networks, and lives.

Older Americans Month 2019 will include suggestions, resources, and material to celebrate older Americans and the communities of which they are a vital part. Visit in early 2019 for ways to get started, and starting now, promote the observance on social media using #OAM19 and #ConnectCreateContribute.

Everyone benefits when everyone can participate. We encourage you to connect, create, and contribute for stronger and more diverse communities this May, and throughout the year.

SeniorsPlus is here when you need us. Get to know us before you need us! We will listen and support you and your family through the changes that life brings.

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

Fall reminders

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Fall reminders

After the beautiful Maine summer we had it’s tough to think about winter; but with the chill of these fall mornings we know the weather can turn quicker than the color of the leaves! Here are a few reminders for your fall chores list:

Medicare Open Enrollment (age 65 and older) — It’s time for your annual Medicare Part D prescription drug policy check-up. Make a list of your current drugs, compare them to your insurance company’s list of accepted drugs. Do they still cover all your drugs? Perhaps there’s another insurance company that will cover more of them, or at a lower price. October 15–December 7 is the time you can change from one company to another. You can do this yourself at, or you can call SeniorsPlus at 1-800-427-1241; we’ll help you.

Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment, Nov. 1–Dec. 15 (shorter time period this year) — Those who are ages 18-64 can switch their insurance to a marketplace plan if they choose, or sign up for the first time. For assistance, go to or call 1-855-806-7333 for an appointment with an Insurance Navigator.

Dispose of Your Old Medications — As you do your fall cleaning, don’t forget to clean out your old medications. Many towns have a special medication collection day. This is the safest disposal method. Do not flush them down the toilet. If you have to put them in the regular trash, take them out of their bottles and mix them with food waste – coffee grinds or kitty litter – to discourage theft and drug abuse.

Fuel Assistance and Weatherization — For those eligible, now is the time to apply for fuel assistance and weatherization. Call Community Concepts 1-800-866-5588 (Androscoggin and Oxford counties) or Western Maine Community Action 1-800-645-9636 (Franklin County).

I’d also like to tell you about a program we offer at SeniorsPlus called Money Minders. The program’s goal is to support independent living for individuals 60 and over who are at risk of losing their independence due to inability to manage their financial affairs. Through this program, SeniorsPlus will match a Volunteer Bill Payer with an older adult who needs some help keeping things in order. This volunteer will visit the client once or twice a month and will provide checkbook balancing and bill paying services. The client will retain control of her/his finances at all times. If you know someone who could benefit from this service, we currently have volunteers available in Lewiston, Bethel, Kingfield, Rangeley, and South Paris. Please call SeniorsPlus at 1-800-427-1241.

Announcement! — Our new Oxford County office is now open in Norway at 9 Marston Street. We are open limited hours initially, but you can always make an appointment by calling 1-800-427-1241.

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

October 15–December 7 is Medicare Open Enrollment Season

Hello from Holly…

October 15–December 7 is Medicare Open Enrollment Season

October 15 through December 7 is the official Medicare Open Enrollment Season and your chance to make any changes you’d like to your policies. Now is the time to think about your options and make decisions to leave everything the same or make some changes. You can:

• Change from traditional Medicare to one of the Medicare Advantage programs, or vice versa

• Change your prescription drug policy

• Determine if you’re eligible for a Medicare Savings Plan

All of these are important pieces to analyze. Prescription drug plans are particularly important. Each year every insurance company can change the drugs they’ll cover, change the price they charge, and change drugs from one “tier” to another (tiers determine what amount they’ll pay of the total cost). So the policy that worked well for you last year might not work as well this year and could end up costing you more. You may also have added new prescriptions this year, and another plan may cover more of your new drugs or at a lower cost.

You can go to and do this all yourself. This website has lots of useful information. You can also call Medicare and ask a representative to help you through the process. SeniorsPlus can help you in this analysis as well, with our certified Medicare Specialists. This service is free of charge. If you live in a county other than Androscoggin, Franklin, or Oxford, you can call 1-877-353-3771 to find the Area Agency on Aging for your location.

SeniorsPlus will have one-on-one appointments for anyone needing assistance with their policy review in Lewiston, Norway, Farmington, Fryeburg, and Bethel. Please call our main office at 1-800-427-1241 to make your appointment.

When you come to your appointment, you will need to bring the information about your current plan, your Medicare card, and a list of all the prescriptions you take.

Mark your calendars now for this very important review of your health insurance. Let us know if we can be of help to you. Call us at 1-800-427-1241.

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

What are evidence-based programs?

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What are evidence-based programs?

Evidence-based programs are programs that are proven to promote health and prevent disease among adults with chronic health conditions. Examples of these programs are Living Well for Better Health (also known as Chronic Disease Self-Management) and Living Well with Chronic Pain (also known as Chronic Pain Self-Management).

SeniorsPlus has partnered with Spectrum Generations and Aroostook Area Agency on Aging to expand opportunities for Maine’s older people to improve their quality of life through a new initiative called Healthy Living for ME (HL4ME). Healthy Living for ME programs have been developed using rigorous research and demonstrate reliable and consistently positive changes in important health-related outcomes among participants.

So what is Healthy Living for ME? It is the Maine core of evidence-based health management programs. We are a network of local providers and partnerships committed to the health and quality of life of all Mainers.

An ever-increasing number of people are living longer with chronic pain and/or multiple chronic conditions. Research has proven that people with chronic conditions can learn skills to effectively manage their illness and improve health outcomes. Healthy Living for ME offers several evidence-based classes to improve functional abilities and deal more effectively with symptoms.

Living Well for Better Health (Chronic Disease Self-Management Program)
This program is designed to help participants deal with chronic conditions. Topics include: techniques to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain, and isolation; appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance; appropriate use of medications; communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals; nutrition; and how to evaluate new treatments.

Living Well with Chronic Pain (Chronic Pain Self-Management Program)
This class is designed for people who have a diagnosis of chronic pain, offering strategies for dealing with their symptoms. Topics include: techniques to deal with frustration, fatigue, isolation, and poor sleep; appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength; appropriate use of medications; communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals; nutrition; pacing activity and rest; and how to evaluate new treatments.

Please talk with your health care provider about these programs. Use the Healthy Living for ME website to register for classes and to learn more about the benefits of evidence-based programs, or call 1-800-620-6036 or email

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

Do you need Meals on Wheels, or know someone who does?

Hello from Holly…

Do you need Meals on Wheels, or know someone who does?

One of the biggest risks older adults face is loneliness. Oftentimes people who live alone don’t feel like making a meal for just themselves. Perhaps poor health makes it too difficult or they are just not up to it. Memories of days around the table with family filled with conversation, laughter, and love can be a source of sadness. Mealtime becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. Enter Meals on Wheels. SeniorsPlus, western Maine’s agency on aging, provides home-delivered meals to nearly 100,000 older adults and adults with disabilities throughout Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. Each meal provides one-third of the daily nutritional requirement for adults. But, Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal. In addition to the nutritious meal is the companionship and a watchful eye on the health and safety of our seniors. For those who have trouble getting around, we bring the meal to them. For those who can still venture out into their communities, we offer meals in social gathering places, such as senior and community centers. SeniorsPlus also offers an “Around Town” voucher program that can be used at any of our participating restaurants for a suggested donation of $6.

We are currently accepting applications for our Meals on Wheels program. This is not an income-based program. For more information, go to, or call us at 1-800-427-1241.

The proportion of Maine’s population that is 60 and older is growing more rapidly than other age groups. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 31 percent of Maine’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030, an increase of 41 percent from 2012. Many of these Mainers live in rural areas, adding to the risk of isolation and loneliness. A Meals on Wheels consumer living in Strong recently told us, “I look forward to my Meals on Wheels driver’s visit because he’s usually the only person I see all week. Oh sure, the food is delicious but I most enjoy the visit. We joke with each other and he tells me about his family. I feel like I know his children! And best of all, I know he’s going to come and check on me. Being all alone, that gives me peace of mind.”

Getting to the remote rural locations of our catchment area, especially during Maine’s severe winter weather, can be a challenge. On average each month, SeniorsPlus drives 3,250 miles to deliver meals. Last fall, Subaru of America, Inc. and Meals on Wheels of America donated 50 all-wheel drive 2018 Subaru Outback vehicles to select Meals on Wheels programs throughout the country. We are so grateful to have been chosen to receive one of the two vehicles awarded to Maine. This generous donation will enable staff and volunteers of SeniorsPlus to reach 75 more seniors and serve 1,500 more meals each month. Every one of those deliveries combats loneliness and increases the opportunity for our seniors to stay in their homes, where they want to be. Thank you Subaru of America and Meals on Wheels America!

Holly Zielinski is the Chief Operating Officer for SeniorsPlus.

10th Anniversary – Aging Well Living Well Expo!

Hello from Holly…

10th Anniversary of the Aging Well Living Well Expo!

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner anywhere” – Chinese Proverb

Join us Friday, October 6th at Sunday River in Newry for our 10th annual Aging Well Living Well Expo. This year promises to be bigger and better than ever! You will have the opportunity to explore and try new things, all day, at the beautiful Sunday River Resort amidst the gorgeous fall foliage. Last year over 300 people attended and we expect even more this year.

What can you explore? There will be serious workshops such as Preparing for the Future, Staying Sharp as You Age, Medicare 101, The Opiate Addiction Crisis in Maine, Managing Diabetes, and Self-Defense for Seniors. Or maybe you’ll decide to attend a workshop on Downsizing or Antique Appraising. Have you always wanted to understand how to navigate the long-term care system? We have a workshop dedicated to just that topic.

There will also be fun workshops: try jewelry making or a craft class, learn about essential oils or model railroading. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to know about hypnosis; we’ll have that too!

We have a few surprises for the afternoon you won’t want to miss! Remember, it’s our 10th anniversary of this very popular event, so that calls for fun! We’ll have line-dancing, live musical entertainment, Reiki, aqua fitness classes, and you won’t want to miss the display of special treats provided by the SeniorsPlus Nutrition Team!

All this, and a dynamic Keynote Speaker who will walk us through creating a time capsule. That promises to be interesting and inspiring! Mark your calendars now. Just $25 for the day-long event includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The full brochure is available online or by calling SeniorsPlus at 1-800-427-1241. Some workshops have limited space. Registration is required, so call today and reserve a spot!

Holly Zielinski is the Director of Community Services for SeniorsPlus.

Spotlight: Franklin County

Hello from Holly…

Spotlight: Franklin County

Aging is thriving in all three of the counties we serve. This month, I’d like to highlight some exciting new things happening in Franklin County.

New social dining site for 60+ and adults with disabilities: We are pleased to announce the opening of the newest SeniorsPlus Lunch Plus Café at the Farmington Community Center, 127 Middle Street in Farmington. A hot meal will be available on Mondays (except holidays) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A suggested donation of $3 is appreciated. Please join us and bring a friend! For more information, contact SeniorsPlus at 795-4010 or toll-free 1-800-427-1241.

New senior center opening in Farmington: Local community partners have joined efforts to open a new senior center on May 1 at the Farmington Community Center, 127 Middle Street. The center will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Mondays (except holidays). Socializing, games, puzzles, and programs will be on the agenda. SeniorsPlus will offer various programs on the first and third Mondays of each month from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Other organizations and residents are encouraged to provide classes and programs on alternate Mondays. On May 15 “My Money Personality” will be presented by Janet Smith of New Ventures Maine. This fun and unique class will identify money management styles and how to become more comfortable managing your money. There is no charge for this class. To register call SeniorsPlus.

Living Well for Better Health workshops offered: A free workshop series for adults with any kind of ongoing health condition will be offered Thursdays through June 1 at Rangeley Family Medicine, 42 Dallas Hill Road, Rangeley. Receive a $10 Hannaford gift card at the end of each completed session. Contact SeniorsPlus to register or for more information.

Save the date: Aging Well Living Well Expo: SeniorsPlus will hold its 10th Aging Well Living Well Expo at Sunday River on Friday, October 6. Mark your calendars now and watch for more information in July.

Holly Zielinski is the Director of Community Services for SeniorsPlus

TURNING 65? It’s time for Medicare!


Hello from Holly…

TURNING 65? It’s time for Medicare! If you are turning 65 and have a Marketplace plan, you need to ACT NOW!

Here are the facts:
• Since you are eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you will lose any Marketplace subsidies or tax credits you receive.
• It’s your responsibility to make the switch from your Marketplace plan to Medicare – this does not happen automatically.
• Although Medicare may cost more than your Marketplace plan, Medicare gives you better coverage at a time you’ll need it most.
• If you wait to enroll in Medicare, you will pay a 10% penalty for life on your Part B Medicare premium for every year you delay enrollment.
• On average, people who wait to enroll in Medicare are paying 30% more in premiums than those who enrolled at age 65.

To protect your health and finances – When you Turn 65, Do the Two-Step!
Step One: Enroll in Medicare – You can sign up online at or 1-800-772-1213. If you need more information about the Medicare choices that work best for you, call us at SeniorsPlus to schedule a personal one-on-one appointment, toll free 1-800-427-1241. We offer free, unbiased assistance.
Step Two: Dis-enroll from the Marketplace – You can dis-enroll online at or call Consumers for Affordable Healthcare at 1-800-965-7476 for assistance in dis-enrolling from your Marketplace plan.

You don’t have to navigate this alone!
• This process can be complicated
• Every person’s situation is different
• You could lose coverage or face penalties if you do nothing

Contact your local area agency on aging to get free, unbiased advice you can trust! The area agency on aging for western Maine is SeniorsPlus, 1-800-427-1241. To reach area agencies on aging outside of western Maine, call 1-877-353-3771.

Holly Zielinski is the Director of Community Services for SeniorsPlus