Tennis and Your Later Years

Published in Pawtucket Times, July 25, 2014

Like bacon and eggs, AARP Rhode Island hopes to make tennis synonymous with AARP’s Life Reimagined initiative.  On Friday, July 11, Rhode Island’s largest aging advocacy group firmly tied its national initiative to the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, seeing an immediate opportunity to be associated with one of the world’s most high-profile tennis events, one that matched its age 50 plus membership demographic.  The new relationship provided a unique opportunity for the Providence-based group to get the word out about its legislative advocacy and grassroots community work.

This July, AARP Rhode Island unveiled its sponsorship with the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships which drew 22,500 tennis fans from across the country to the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.  A live telecast of the tennis matches and the tennis organization’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, which honors the best of  the tennis world, was beamed to millions around the tennis world on The Tennis Channel.  AARP’s sponsorship include center-court signage at 30-second spots on this channel.

“When we heard that tennis is promoted as ‘the sport of a lifetime’ we knew we were on the same wavelength,” noted AARP State Director Kathleen Connell, who stressed “AARP is all about providing resources for a lifetime.”

Anne Marie McLaughlin, Director of Marketing at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, agrees with Connell’s keen assessment.  “Tennis is very much in sync with AARP’s Life Reimagined program.   Perhaps people are seeking new ways to connect with friends once they’ve  become empty nesters, or a new hobby to keep them active and healthy.  Tennis can provide so many benefits in these areas, and it’s a great activity for people who are looking to reimagine and explore their life.”

“We’re proud to partner with AARP Rhode Island to showcase the game’s many physical, social, and mental benefits to their members,” says McLaughlin who agrees with Connell’s take that tennis is a sport of a lifetime.  “It can be played and enjoyed by a 5-year-old or a 95-year-old and we are very excited to  partner with AARP Rhode Island to engage, and inspire their members,” she says.

“But, Connell warns that “You cannot generalize about the athletic abilities of people over 50, noting that demanding sports such as marathons, and distance swimming attract athletes in their 60s, 70s. 80s. and even older.  Tennis is a great sport for people over 50 because you can play at your own level with players of similar skill.  To live longer and remain healthy we know that being and staying active is critical.  AARP encourages people to find a sport or activity that can provide life-enhancing benefits, both physical and mental,” added the Middletown resident.

Creating New Opportunities in Your Later Years

As a sport, tennis is a great fit for people looking to reimagine their life after 40.  “Whether it’s a job transition, career change, starting a dream business, adapting to being an empty nester or making the switch to a retirement lifestyle, AARP Life Reimagined provides online assessment tools, guidance and resources to help people explore new opportunities, identify adaptable skills and set new goals,” Connell explained.

Connell says Life is the go-to web address for feeling good about aging. “It’s about you and what you want to accomplish,” she says, noting that it helps put AARP’s “Real Possibilities” into action.

According to Connell, AARP is no longer an organization for older people, but one for all people who want the best out of life, regardless of their age.  Many AARP members are still working and do not plan to retire, others leave their jobs seeking new challenges or even establishing new businesses, she explains.

Over a year ago, AARP launched Life Reimaged, a free program designed to help 76 million Boomers easily navigate into new life experiences or reboot their professional lives into different directions.  For the sixties generation, continuing to work a full-time job, or even coasting into retirement is no longer an acceptable option.  But, AARP stressed that reinventing oneself is the way to go in your later stages of life.

The Life Reimaged website provides tools to help you make key decisions for your next direction and detailed resources to guide you through that journey, says Connell.  “Whether your career has hit an unexpected bump in your 50s, or you are looking to start your own business or head down a new path into retirement, AARP can help,” she said.

At the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships

AARP staff and over 50 volunteers were on hand at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships from Monday, July 7 through the tournament finals on Sunday, July 13.  Being stationed at an AARP Life Reimagined booth, these individuals answered questions and distributed copies of AARP Magazine and other materials.  On Friday, July 11, (at AARP Day) Connell announced a new AARP membership benefit — a year-round discounted AARP member rate of $8 (instead of the standard $13 rate) for admission into the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum.  The organization’s museum is open daily and also offers special events including film and music.  Year-round tennis programming, including lessons and group play on the historic green courts are available, too.

Activities for AARP Day included a free 50+ tennis clinic led by legendary tennis coach and newly inducted Hall of Famer, Nick Bollettieri, followed by a book signing and Q&A session (see Bollettieri in action on AARP Rhode Island’s YouTube Channel,  That day, over 70 people attended an-hour long panel discussion in air-conditioned comfort of the Casino Theatre at the Hall of Fame, about AARP’s Life Reimagined initiative.

At the Friday panel, Connell noted that “It was a real treat for fans to get a chance to hear Hall of Famers Nick Bollettieri, 82, (Class of 2014) and Owen Davidson, 71 (Class of 2010) talk about their careers.  AARP volunteer, Charles Dress, 76, of Warwick, also shared his thoughts about how tennis has played an important role in his later years, after retiring from a full-time career,”
said Connell.  The panelist all agreed that tennis was “a natural outlet for the life-long learners who want to work hard at improving their skills and staying mentally sharp.”

Meanwhile, at Friday’s tennis clinic Bollettieri, stressed to those attending, “age is only a number.”  Connell noted that this is in line with the messaging of AARP.  “His enshrinement into the Hall of Fame is fitting not only because of his place as the coach of some many tennis champions, but also because he is a magnificent ambassador for the game.  He inspires people with his energy and enthusiasm.  We were thrilled that he made his way to our tent to join AARP,” she says.

McLaughlin added that Bollettieri is “an amazing example of what Life Reimagined can represent.  At 82 years of age, Nick is still on court 6 days a wee for 10 hours a day…and likely on the golf course the 7th day.  He’s living proof that it’s possible and very positive, for someone to stay physically active in older years.  With this physical activity come great social and mental benefits as well.”

Before the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, Bollettieri gave this columnist a few pointers on living life in your later years.  “Stay active and never, never, never, use the word retire,” he says, warning that once the word enters your vocabulary, you begin to decline.

Buying into AARP’s Life Reimagined initiative, Bollettieri advices, “Don’t retire, just change professions.”

Check This Out…

On September 4 and 5, AARP Rhode Island will host two free Life Reimagined “Checkups” at its Providence headquarters.  A Life Reimagined leader will facilitate the three-hour workshop that familiarizes people with the available Life Reimagined tools and resources.  These sessions include small-group exercise for people looking to make changes in their career direction or hoping to reinvent themselves in retirement.  The first session will be in the evening, the second session in the morning.  Register online at or call 401-248-2671.

For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum go to http://www.tennisfame. com.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at





Olon Reeder’s Fix for an Ailing State Economy

Published on, July 18, 2014

Olon Reeder, a slight-figured, unassuming, behind-the-scenes kinda guy, has been quietly improving the quality of life in northern Rhode Island for decades as a public affair adviser for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.  With his years of working in the public sector, as legislative assistant with the Rhode Island General Assembly in the mid-to-late 1970s, with the Garrahy administration, state agencies and with small businesses, he’s authored a nontraditional economic development policy paper he hopes will be considered in next year’s Rhode Island General Assembly debate as to how to create a more vibrant business environment in the Ocean State.

Over the years, Reeder, President of Reeder Associates, a Southern New England-based public relations and multi-media communications company, has seen state lawmakers and its economic development agency attempt to compete with surrounding states, just going after “larger, trendy, projects to turn the economy around. “Smaller companies would always get the short end of the stick, because they were not seen as a viable economic generator,” he says, stressing that this perception is inaccurate.

In recent years economic development solutions to fix the state’s ailing economy have been floated for public debate by lawmakers, economic development professionals or by large corporations. Today, Reeder, with almost 40 years of in the public and private sectors, calls on state lawmakers to consider his proposal when they focus on economic reform in next year’s session. More needs to be done, says the small businessperson who is a Native Rhode islander.

It’s almost like Mr. Reeder goes to Smith Hill, to take on the establishment to be heard.

“We are at a critical crossroads where we must overcome our negatives attitudes and start taking actions ourselves if we all want our state and our lives to become successful,” Reeder wrote in a recently released policy statement detailing his suggested economic development action agenda, as how to improve the state’s long term quality of life, through investing in people, communities and small businesses.

He calls for tying lifelong education to grow the economy. “Brain power is a key element driving worldwide demands and economic activity today, through the convergence of non stop knowledge, creative economy, enterprise and innovation, art-design connections, which all start with lifelong learning,” he says.

He says personal empowerment creates the environment for change “Empowerment encourages, and develops the skills for, self-sufficiency, giving people the abilities and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in life or work environment and ultimately, help them develop within themselves or in the society,” he says.

Companies are constantly replacing full-time employees, he said, and now relying upon independent contractors, where people who once counted on a steady pay check are now being left to fend for themselves in a hyper-competitive self-employed market. These individuals are oftentimes forgotten by policy makers.

Based on 2011 figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Rhode Island, there re over 73 thousand self-employed contributing over $3 billion annually to the state’s economy. Most self-employed are hired out of necessity, are done so locally and through word of mouth. Because freelancers depend so much on self promotion to get their jobs, they must focus on the local markets, along with showcasing their diverse personal talents, marketing their skills to business owners in their community, along trying to compete with others for opportunities.

Reeder recognizes the importance of valuing our places, spaces and communities, to grow business. “More than ever, people must be connected to where we live, work, play, stay and travel. People expect places and spaces they interact with daily to be vibrant, active, socially appealing, culturally stimulating and help them in improving their quality of life, especially with their physical and mental health,” he says.

Reeder notes active living communities provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to engage in routine daily physical activity, he says, like pedestrian and bicycle friendly design, access to intermodal transportation, mixed use development, ample recreation, walkable neighborhoods, access to fresh and healthy foods and commerce centers. This philosophy must be included in any state economic development plan.

“Our economic revitalization is relevant to healthy and sustainable communities because active living communities encourage individuals to be more physically active, improving health by lowering citizens’ risk for health conditions, adds Reeder. “Active living communities create enhance quality of life, attract business and knowledge workers, and contribute to ongoing economic development,” he says.

Reeder stresses that technology is a must, as people are now “required” to have 24/7 365 access to the Internet and must now communicate through social media to live, work, and transact personal activity, he calls for providing everyone with free online access “as a necessity of our 21st century lifestyles.”  Finally, Reeder thinks “Demand Driven Experiences” are necessary for not only reinventing our state’s manufacturing, but in changing our self attitudes about how Rhode Islanders see themselves, ultimately affecting expectations others may have about the perception of Rhode Island as the worst place for business.

“Because people no longer buy things for their personal benefit, they want enhancements to fulfill missing elements of their lives,” adds Reeder, noting that experiences are crucial for businesses and locations as a branding and marketing tool, especially with efforts in Rhode Island attracting people to live and travel here for our entertainment, food and lifestyles.”  “Using our experiences to effectively promote market and give an iconic brand, we must also stay true to the “real Rhode Island,” to our proud independent and working class heritage, the ethnic and cultural diversity in our state, and preserving our unique natural resources,” he says.
State lawmakers are moving in the right direction to make Rhode Island a more business-friendly place to operate. Reeder continues his efforts to get his voice heard by General Assembly leadership, state policy makers, business groups, even gubernatorial candidates. Hopefully, they will choose to closely listen to Reeder’s nontraditional approach to economic development and to small business owners who know their specific needs to operate successfully.

– See more at:

Herb Weiss, “LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-writer covering aging, health care, medical, and business issues.  He can be reached at



Being Vigilant Keeps Phone Scammers Away

Published in Pawtucket Times, July 18, 2014

When 81-year-old Cincinnati resident Roger W. answered a call in December, he thought it was his grandson on the other end of the phone. The young voice said, Grandpa, this you’re your favorite grandson,” he remembered, replying, “I have six grandsons and they are all my favorites.” Claiming to be the oldest, the “grandson” said he had been arrested for speeding and drug possession and urgently needed money for bail. He then turned the call over to a person claiming to be a police officer. Convinced their eldest grandson needed help, Roger W. and his wife headed to a local retail store to purchase a money-order card to cover the cost of bail.

After sending a total of $7,000 to the supposed police officer, the elderly couple soon discovered they had been conned out of their hard-earned money after reaching their real grandson on his cell phone. They are among an untold number of older Americans who have fallen victim to a commonly used scam known as the “grandparent scam” that experts say is again making a comeback across the nation.

Senate Aging Hearing Puts the Spotlight on Phone Scams

Roger W., who has requested anonymity to avoid becoming a target of other con-artists, testified two days ago at a hearing of the U..S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held at the Senate Dirksen building. The hearing examined the recent rise in imposter scams, particularly the grandparent scam.

Along with Roger W., witnesses at the July 16th hearing included officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Telecom Association, who discussed potential solutions to protecting consumers and curbing phone scams.

According to the FTC, Americans lost more than $73 million to impostor scams in 2013. While the federal agency admits the figure is under reported, accounting for only a fraction of the problem because most victims fail to report the crime, instances of imposter scams have doubled between 2009 and 2013. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the committee’s chairman and ranking member, called for this hearing after receiving a large number of complaints from victims through the committee’s fraud hotline. The two lawmakers said they’re hoping the hearing will help identify potential solutions to help law enforcement to better detect and prosecute such crimes, as well as encourage retailers and phone companies to do their part to protect consumers.

Phone Scams Commonly Reported in Rhode Island

According to the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, the Ocean State is not immune to the financial scam, described at the recent Senate Aging hearing by Roger W. There are slight variations of the “grandparent scam” story where con artists pretend to be a family member and claim they need money to fix a car, get out of jail or leave a foreign country. They will beg you to wire money right away and keep the information confidential. In some cases, the scammers even know the names of family members. In other instances, the person on the other end of the line may pretend to be a police officer or friend calling on behalf of the grandchild.

In 2013, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit responded to 6,229 telephone calls, 1,144 written complaints, 1,534 email inquiries and 74 walk-ins. While the Consumer Protection Unit does not keep statistics on each scam that is reported, the grandparent scam is no stranger to the employees

“We see a spike in these types of scams during times when a grandchild might be on vacation, like school break or summers, making the story more believable to the person on the other end of the phone,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The Attorney General’s Office includes a Consumer Protection Unit, which, among other responsibilities, warns the public about such scams and educates consumers on how to protect themselves from being a victim of a scam, he says.

Kilmartin observes that “Con artists have turned fraud into a multi-billion dollar business. Each year, thousands of consumers lose anywhere from a few dollars to their life savings to scams. Once the money is gone, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recover your funds,” he notes.

There are big hurdles law enforcement must overcome to catch the scammer who is behind these cons. If a scam originated out of the state, or even out of the country, it is often beyond the reach of local or state law enforcement officials, adds Kilmartin. . Complicating matters is technology, he says, noting that long gone are the days when people’s locations could be easily identified and tracked by their phone number. With cellular technology, pre-paid cell phones and “spoofing” apps, a person may be running their con from a foreign country while your caller ID shows an in-state phone number, he says.

AG’s Top Priority to Protect Consumers Against Fraud and Scams

“As Attorney General, it is one of my top priorities to protect all consumers from fraud and scams. Consumer protection is largely self protection. Becoming a smart and savvy consumer does not mean changing your daily routine — it means becoming more aware of how to avoid becoming a victim. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. It is  my belief that consumers and businesses can better protect themselves and their assets if they are aware of their rights and are aware of the fraudulent or deceptive practices scammers use,” said Kilmartin.

Tammy Miller, Director of the Consumer Protection Unit, said the reason that scamming older persons is so prevalent is because it works. “Sadly, con artists prey on older people because they tend to be more trusting. Once the money is wired, it’s gone forever, and it’s only then people realize they have been a victim of the scam. Because these outfits operate outside the state, and often outside the country, there is little law enforcement can do to track them down,” she says.

According to Miller, Attorney General Kilmartin has made educating consumers a priority. As such, members of the Consumer Protection Unit provide approximately 150 outreach presentations each year to senior centers, community groups and organizations throughout the state in an effort to educate and protect Rhode Islanders from scam artists.

In addition, several consumer alerts/advisories are issued annually. The advisories cover a wide range of topics such as fake invoices, phishing scams, a fake jury duty and arrest scam, a “car wrap” scam, possible scams related to sporting events, consumer settlements and holiday shopping tips.

“Although it is very difficult to measure, I believe our consumer outreach program has made a difference in lowering the number of victims of scams in Rhode Island. A good indicator is the increase in phone calls we receive from consumers alerting us whenever a scam pops up, which gives us a chance to get ahead of it, issue an alert and warn other consumers. I think that’s a positive sign that we are making headway and creating confident and well informed consumers,” said Miller.

Miller says that Kilmartin has done a terrific job as Attorney General in making the public aware of scams that are going around the state, which reduces the chances of someone else becoming a victim.”

Quick Actions to Protect Yourself Against Phone Scams

So, what do you do if you receive a phone call from someone pretending to be a family member in need? Miller recommends that you first verify that it is your grandchild. Always ask for a phone number of the person on the other line. Before calling them back or wiring them money, contact the family member directly. If you cannot get a hold of them, contact their parents or another family member to confirm their location.

Miller warns older persons to resist the intense pressure to send money quickly and secretly. Refuse to send money through wire transfer or overnight delivery. After you’ve thwarted the scam, Tammy Miller suggests you let your local police and the Consumer Protection Unit know about the call. Alerting the Attorney General’s Office will allow them to alert the public that the scam is making the rounds and what to be on the lookout for.

To report a consumer-related issue, to speak with a consumer protection specialist at the Attorney General’s Office, or to schedule a consumer protection specialist to speak before your community group or organization, call 401-274-4400, send an email at, or visit

To watch the Senate U.S. Special Committee on Aging hearing and to access witness testimony, go to

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at