Small and Rural Virtual Conference 2020

10:00 am Welcome and Opening Remarks

David P. Stevens, MCOA Executive Director

Rebecca Moriarty, MCOA President and Hampden COA Director

Elizabeth Chen, Secretary Executive Office of Elder Affairs


10:45 am Session #1

Overview of MySeniorCenter

Chris Hamilton, President, MySeniorCenter

For all MySeniorCenter users or anyone who is curious! Web-based training is great and all, but there’s nothing like an in-person training. We’ll cover the full product, show you some tricks and highlight some new things you may not be aware of. Oh, and we’ll have some fun while we’re at it.

Home Modification Loan Program

Shirley Stephens, Senior Housing Coordinator/John O’Leary, Senior Planner, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

The Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) provides low and no-interest loans to make modifications to the homes of elders and others. The modification must be necessary to allow the beneficiary to remain in the home and their ability to function on a daily basis. We’ll discuss the application process as well as the contractor process. We will also explain who qualifies for the program and the process for getting approved. Learn more about this program and how it can benefit older adults in your community.

“Becoming Age Friendly Berkshires” – Challenges & Opportunities for Small & Rural Communities

Margaret McDonough, Planner      Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Age Friendly Berkshires has an ambitious Action Plan that is now being implemented in 32 cities and towns to create the best environment for safe, connected, healthy aging-in-community.  According to them, “Successfully managing the changing needs of residents over a lifetime is always challenging – but more so in a rural area like ours.  The region lacks accessible transportation and housing variety, requires longer travel to access health and community services or attractions, and lags in technological infrastructure that makes communication and information-sharing easy.  Learn more about the challenges and opportunities in the Berkshires that may help your community become Age Friendly.

Building Working Relationships in a Municipal Setting

Michael J. Sullivan, Hadley Town Administrator

In this roundtable discussion, Veteran Town Administrator and former Mayor, Mike Sullivan will explore building working relationships in a municipal setting.  What are the keys to success in working with your Town Administrator, Board of Selectmen or Mayor?  How do these relationships help your work in your Council on Aging and the older adults in your community?  Bring your questions to this interactive workshop.


12:00 pm Keynote

Re-Imagining a More Compassionate Future

Brandon Nappi, Executive Director, Copper Beech

The pandemic has shined a very bright light on the many places in our communities where we need to do a better job of caring for each other. Yet with a growing crisis of this magnitude, it’s possible for all of us who care deeply about others to become overwhelmed, burned out, and paralyzed. This unprecedented global crisis has called us to consider radical self-care not as a luxury, but an absolute necessity if we want to work in prevention sustainably and effectively over time. During this prevention week, join community members and colleagues across professions for the restoring gift of mindfulness practice, self-compassion, and a brave conversation about the new normal we need to create for all people.

1:00 pm Session #2

Mindfulness and Self-Care

Brandon Nappi, Executive Director, Copper Beech

Brandon Nappi will share the cutting-edge neuroscience and guide you in exploring how mindfulness and contemplative practices can transform the stress, chaos and conflicts of work and life into opportunities for connection, creativity and deeper wellbeing. Life and challenges don’t need to be disheartening and burdensome, but can be uplifting and gratifying as we get to know ourselves and join with our community for connection and healing.

This lively session will include teaching, guided exercises, conversation, storytelling and laughter, as well as clear, simple skills and practices that can be applied right away.

The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index)/What it Means to Your Community’s Older Adults

Jan Mutchler, PhD, Director, Center for Social & Demographic Research on Aging, Gerontology Institute, McCormick Graduate School of Policy & Global Studies UMASS/Boston

The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), was developed by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The Elder Index is a measure of the income that older adults need to meet their basic needs and age in place with dignity. The Elder Index is specific to household size, location, housing tenure, and health status. It includes the cost of: Housing, Health Care, Transportation, Food and Miscellaneous Essentials.  Learn more about accessing data and what the impact is to the wellbeing of older adults in your community.

Expanding Mobility in Small and Rural Towns

Rachel Fichtenbaum, EOHHS Mobility Manager, MassMobility

Kate Bavelock, Director of Community Programs, Hilltown Community Development Corporation

LeighAnne Taylor, Program Manager, WalkBoston

Finding or providing transportation for older adults in small towns and rural regions can be challenging. MassMobility will facilitate a panel discussing new and ongoing efforts to increase transportation options in small towns and rural regions of Massachusetts. Hear about a model where drivers use their own cars to supplement van service, as well as efforts to improve rural walkability in town centers. We’ll talk about innovative models as well as tried-and-true approaches. After the presentations, we’ll have a group discussion, so please bring your own ideas and suggestions to share.

2:15 pm Session #3

Councils on Aging and Local Hospitals: Examples of Working Together to Benefit Older Adults

Jeffrey Harness, Director of Community Health    Cooley Dickinson Hospital

Hospitals are becoming more involved with their communities than ever before. As health care delivery models shift towards value based care, collaboration between health care and community based organizations and municipalities is becoming more and more important. Collaboration has the potential to improve outcomes, better support older adults, and keep costs stable. In this workshop, you’ll learn how Cooley Dickinson Health Care is working with COAs and other organizations to address memory concerns, transportation, and food systems.

Reframing Aging

Alrie McNiff Daniels, Senior Communications Officer, Tufts Health Plan Foundation

Kathy Bowler, MCOA Director of Member Services

Words are powerful. How we talk about aging shapes how we think about aging—and that influences how our society addresses issues like ageism and demographic change. Recent research conducted by the FrameWorks Institute in collaboration with the Leaders of Aging Organizations demonstrates how telling a different, more strategic story about aging can lead to more effective conversations about, and greater public support for, policies and programs that can help all of us as we grow older.


Caregiver Resources

I&R Director Anna Randall and Caregiver Specialist Brenda Labbe, Greater Springfield Senior Services

Anna and Brenda will discuss what resources are available to caregivers through the Massachusetts Family Caregiver Program as well as the ASAPS. Topics of discussion will include finding respite opportunities, managing caregiver stress, and how to access in-home services. The emphasis will be on the challenges and struggles that rural caregivers might face.

Massachusetts Councils
on Aging

116 Pleasant Street, Suite 306
Easthampton, MA 01027
Telephone: 413-527-6425
Fax: 413-527-7138