“Those jobs are never coming back.” – Steve Jobs, referring to the 5,000 people working at FoxConn, Apple’s China-based assembly facility.


If there were an issue at center stage during the recent presidential campaign, it was the plight of the American middle class and the need for decent-paying jobs to sustain it.

Now as president, Donald Trump has proposed legislation to follow through on his promise, a tack generally in line with the perspective of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

The proposal centers on tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. The notion is predicated on the belief that if more revenue is in the hands of those living comfortably on more passive income, they can invest their discretionary income to create good jobs to support the middle class.

“Grandma, did you see the picture of me at the dance recital? Mom posted it on Facebook.” “Grandpa, did you see the video of me hitting that homerun? It’s on YouTube and it has over 100 views”.  More and more conversation between seniors and their grandchildren start like this. It’s a mixture of familiar ideas and what seems like a foreign language. Even conversations with adult children have become more difficult to understand. “Mom, I PDF’d that document to you last week. Have you looked in your Inbox?” “Dad, you know you can download that article directly to the cloud”. 

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
~Mother Theresa

Susan and Nancy grew up a few miles apart but never met until a common need brought them together. The need for purpose, meaning, and a reason to get up in the morning.

Both women worked long careers but found themselves floundering after retirement.

Questions and Answers about Food and Nutrition

Q.  Are there any resources for food that are just for people over 60?

A.  The Commodity Supplement Food Program (CSFP) is a program that provides a box of food every month for income-eligible individuals who are 60+ years of age.  Household income needs to be at or below 130% of federal poverty level and individuals must sign up with an authorized CSFP distribution site.  In Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties, these distribution sites range from area senior centers and churches to township halls and fixed-income apartment complexes.  Additionally, the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) distributes a box of food quarterly to any eligible individual or household, regardless of age.  To find out more about these programs, and locate a site near you, contact Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency at 269-925-9077.

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Winston Churchill

A perk of working in the field of aging is learning from so many great people ahead of me on the journey. Sharing one’s talent has a lot to do with quality of life.

                Not only is volunteering a win-win on a personal level, when you target effort towards real social need, amazing things happen.  Passion and action is stirred toward betterment; life improves. The cost of change? Amazingly low.

The concept of personal freedom has been a mainstay of our nation from its inception. It’s used in political speeches, chants at rallies, songs and sermons, and patriotic pledges.

It can, however, mean different things to different Americans. Most of us see the Bill of Rights as our national testament to freedom. And on the eve of World War II, President Roosevelt gave our beliefs in freedom new dimension by proposing his Four Freedoms to a citizenry crushed by the Great Depression– Freedom of Speech and Worship, Freedom from Want and Fear.

For caregivers whose loved one lives in their home, it can be overwhelming in ways they never imagined. It doesn’t matter how good our intentions or how committed we are to doing the right thing, it is near impossible to be prepared for the caregiving role. ‘Normal’ has taken a turn, and we must adjust quickly.

You and your spouse now take turns going to the grocery store, the post office, the bank, the gas station… You carefully synch your calendars to be sure one of you is always home.

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~Edward Everett Hale

Nate Whitelow, or Grandpa Nate as neighborhood children know him, doesn’t let what he cannot do interfere with what he can do.

Grandpa Nate cannot change the fact that 50% of third graders in his community are not able to read at a third-grade level. But he can volunteer four days a week at the Discovery Center Preschool helping kids develop early learning skills so they’re prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in school.

Nate also cannot alter the fact that 28% of students in Berrien and Cass counties do not graduate on time. But he can spend summers at the Boys and Girls Club building relationships with kids who need a positive role model and mentor.

A life-long Benton Harbor resident and retired Benton Harbor Schools classroom para-professional, 65-year-old Nate has a passion and commitment for the young people he mentors and their families.

Questions and Answers about Taxes

Q.  Where can I get my taxes done free-of-charge?

A.  If you are computer savvy and made less than $64,000 in 2016, you can file your taxes online at www.myfreetaxes.com.  This free and safe service includes live tax support, via email, chat or phone, to answer any questions you have.  If you made less than $54,000 in 2016 and need assistance in preparing your tax return, there are several places where trained volunteers will prepare basic federal and state tax returns, as well as homestead property tax credit and home heating credit, for low-income individuals, seniors, and persons with disabilities.  Complex tax returns and those involving business pursuits need to be completed through a tax preparation service. 

Several friends expressed excitement about approaching retirement dates. It’s exciting to shift from lifestyle fused into a heavy work schedule to one of deserved rest and change. The answer as to what’s planned after retirement was a common one - nothing for awhile. 

The thought of life without pressure is so unique for persons coming out of decades of work, many want simply to let themselves float a bit to see what it feels like. Understandable.

I’m not ignoring you. I just didn’t hear you say hello.

If you catch me looking at your mouth when you speak, I’m not checking for spinach in your teeth. I’m watching your lips to help be sure I hear you correctly, or at least better guess what you’re saying.

Like most adults, it’s been decades since I last had my hearing checked by a health professional.  But I know I’ve been failing important everyday hearing tests for years.

We’ve all read and heard a lot lately about the difficulties and uncertain future of several of our Benton Harbor schools. It’s a complex issue. The fallout of a decision to close any of those schools is unimaginable. I don’t have the answers, but my heart breaks at the thought of the upheaval in the lives of those families and neighborhoods. Students are worried, parents are anxious, and there’s another part of the population that’s deeply invested in the lives of those families – and very concerned for their futures.

It’s hard to work if you struggle to breathe.

It’s hard to buy medicine to help you breathe if you can’t work.

That was Rhonda’s quandary.

Rhonda is 64 years old and was raising two grandchildren while trying to keep her job at a local small business. She has multiple chronic illnesses and she could not afford the medicine that would help her to breathe making it difficult to work.

Rhonda says she finally had to retire early because she “just couldn’t breathe."

Questions and Answers about Medicaid and Long-Term Care

Q:  I always hear that you have to “spend down” all your assets in order to get help paying for a nursing home.  What does that really mean?

A:  For individuals on Medicare, there can be some coverage for days of nursing home care after an approved hospital stay, but for extended or permanent stays in a skilled nursing facility, the cost is the responsibility of the individual.  Some people have long term care insurance that helps pay, and some people have extensive financial resources to help pay, but most people cannot sustain the out-of-pocket cost of nursing home care for very long. 

Glaciers have always fascinated me. The idea of a river of ice that flowed so slow that movement would be measured in inches per year was hard to comprehend as a child. During college years, when I worked by Glacier National Park, the few glaciers still there were mere remnants, difficult at times to distinguish from snow fields.

It wasn’t until visiting Alaska for the first time that the reality of a glacier cleared in my brain. Entire mountain valleys were filled with ice; twisting their way downward towards water. When two valleys of ice came together, rock debris from each edge formed a thick black line down the center of the resulting merged glacier and could be seen clearly from the air. Viewed at water’s edge, the glacier’s mammoth ice face rose hundreds of feet above the water. 

As a young adult, I remember the day I called to let my parents know I’d gotten a job. Did it come with health insurance was my mother’s first question. Yes, was the answer; I could feel the relief over the phone. My parents had impressed on me the importance of insurance but at that age I really didn’t understand exactly how important it was.

Now I do. Over decades at Area Agency on Aging, we’ve heard literally thousands of stories from people of all walks of life trying to access the health care they need. For eleven years I served on a council appointing persons to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors to represent small business and individuals seeking coverage. Through Healthy Berrien Consortium we examined trends in access to care and established the Berrien Health Plan to provide basic health care for some of the uninsured.

By now most of us are back into a regular routine after the holidays. Our trees have been picked up from the curbs, decorations are down and presents put away. The only holiday remnant is when our feet find those pine needle stragglers. Hopefully, we also have some special memories of enjoying time with family and friends.  

Questions and Answers

Q:  We have a neighbor who doesn’t seem to get out much.  His family is not local and we try to help him by shoveling and picking items up at the store now and then.  I don’t think he has any serious health problems, he just doesn’t seem to know what to do, or even care about socializing.  What sort of resources are available that might help him become more active?


If someone were to ask me my most memorable Christmas, I would say … the Christmas that fell on New Year’s Day.

Along with a few thousand other U.S. Army draftees and recruits at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was in the final stages of basic training with the winter holidays coming upon us. It was decided that half of our battalion would go home on leave for Christmas and the other half would go home for New Year’s Day. I would go home with the New Year’s group.

Music & Memory

More than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's, a disease for which there is no cure. One in eight baby boomers will get the disease, according to estimates. About 15 million family members in the U.S. are locked into what can become a heartbreaking nightmare of taking care of a loved one with whom they can't communicate. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may reach a projected 13.8 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.