Local Legislators Attentive, but Not Presidential Hopefuls

Published in Woonsocket Call on January 1, 2017

As 2017 approaches, it is a time one naturally reflects on the year that has past, the people we have lost, and look towards what the incoming year will hold. Newspapers also look back of the interesting stories that shaped the news, too. This “aging beat” columnist reflected on his coverage of aging, health care and medical issues. During 2016, 47 weekly commentaries appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call, some even were printed by Golocalprov.com, the Warwick Beacon and Cranston Herald. A myriad of issues were covered in this weekly commentary throughout the year.

During the very heated 2016 presidential I called on both Democratic and GOP candidates in the primary and election to give us the specifics about their policy positions on Social Security and Medicare. But, we saw aging issues mostly ignored in the more than two dozen debates that took place in this election cycle (21 primary debates and four general election debates). With Donald Trump taking the White House from the Democrats and his party controlling both chambers of Congress another commentary sounded the alarm about the GOP’s impending assault next session on Social Security and Medicare, America’s most popular domestic programs. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, other commentaries covered legislative initiatives on Smith Hill. One looked at Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s call for increased wages for the state’s direct care workers. These workers deserve this pay raise. Another covered Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian’s successful efforts to mandate holocaust and genocide studies in educational curriculum for all middle and high school studies. With anti-Semitic incidents increasing throughout the Ocean State we “must never forget.”

Of course, throughout last year my commentaries also addressed caregiving issues, making readers aware of scams and to educate them as to how they could protect themselves. One even shared my personal experience of putting down Abby, my 11-year-old chocolate Labrador, to end her suffering. Pet owners throughout the Ocean State have gone through this universal, painful experience and could identify with my painful decision.

Readers also learned about the very interesting details of a Near Death Experience of Tommy Rosa, a Bronx-born plumber, who came back to life with a spiritual knowledge of health and healing. Rosa’s chance meeting at a conference with Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist and psychotherapist, seen on “Dr. Oz” and “The Doctors,” would lead to the publishing of a 247-page book, “Health Revelations from Heaven and Earth.” This book is a great read for those seeking spiritual insight into maintaining good health.

Finally, in 2016 one item was scratched off my bucket list. Readers learned about my first book, “Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly,” being published in August. The 313-page book is a compilation of 79 of my weekly commentaries and is chocked full of researched stories and insightful stories with experts and everyday people who shared their personal observations about growing older and aging gracefully. Go to http://www.herbweiss.com for more details.

Below is a sampling of articles from 2016 that will allow you to see the breath and depth of my commentaries (over 200 of these previously published commentaries can be found on my blog, herbweiss.wordpress.com.) Enjoy.

“Older Americans Impacting the Economy,” published in the September 25, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the September 26, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

Everyone has heard this comment one time or another during their life — older people are a drain on the economy. But, in 2016 a newly released AARP report shatters this myth once and for all by detailing a rise in spending and workforce contributions of aging baby boomers.

AARP’s 28 page report, The Longevity Economy: How People Over 50 Are Driving Economic and Social Value in the US, takes a hard look at how our nation’s population of 111 million 50-plus consumers impacts the economy.

According to this report, released on September 20, the 50-plus age groups generates a whopping $7.6 trillion in economic activity (a $500 billion increase from 2013), including $5 trillion in consumer spending by people 50-plus. The researchers say the increases reflects the nation’s shifting demographic and spending patterns of this group due to longer life spans and prolonged employment.

“Does Exercised Aid Brain Heath: The Debate’s Yet to be Determined,” published in the August 31, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the September 1, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

According to AARP’s latest health aging survey findings released last year, age 40 and over respondents who regularly exercise rate their brain health significantly higher than non-exercisers. They also cite improvements in their memory, ability to: learn new things, managing stress, and even making decisions. On the other hand, the findings reveal an overwhelming majority of these respondents. see the benefits of exercise, but only 34 percent are meeting the Global Council on Brain Health’s (GCBH) recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.

These findings in the 37-page Survey on Physical Activity report, note that having willpower, enjoying exercise, identification as an “exerciser,” lack of enjoyment and feeling like you have the energy to exercise or lack money to exercise are the key factors that differentiate exercisers from non-exercisers.
Although health care experts applaud the benefits of exercise and its positive impact on organs in your body, but the findings on improving brain heath are self-reported at best, not empirically derived.

“AARP Exec Seeks to Change America’s Perception of Growing Old,” published in the March 7, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the March 8, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

In 2016, AARP/CEO Jo Ann Jenkins released her new 272-page book, “Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age.” AARP’s top official suggested it is time to redefine what it means to grow old in America. Throughout its pages the Northern Virginia resident encourages readers to re-think the negative stories they consistently tell themselves and others, urging them to come together to change both the conversation about aging and its reality. While sharing these ideas with others, and meeting fearless people working to change what it means to age in America, Jo Ann was inspired to write her book.
In Disrupt Aging, Jenkins focuses on three core areas—health, wealth, and self—to show people how to embrace opportunities and change the way society looks at getting older. Here, she chronicles her own journey and that of others who are making their mark as disruptors to show readers how we can be active, healthy, and happy as we get older. Through engaging narrative, she touches on all the important issues facing people over age 50 today, from caregiving and mindful living to building age-friendly communities and making our money last.

“Experienced Workers to Seek Greener Pastures in 2016,” published in the January 25, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the January 26, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

In 2016, an AARP survey found that with an improving economy older experienced workers were seeking new employment, making “more money” was the key motivator.
The “Experience in Work” survey (with its findings detailed in a 47-page report) reported that of the approximately 4 in ten inclined to seek new work this year, 23% are either extremely or very likely to try to find a new job this year, and another 16% say that they are somewhat likely to job-seek during that period.
Researchers say that respondents, ages 35 to 64, cite career growth potential (21%), better work flexibility (25%), more enjoyable work (30%), as well as better health benefits (28%) as reasons they plan to seek new employment this year.

Meanwhile, experienced workers are willing to take the leap outside of their job sector. A quarter (24%) of those likely to switch companies say that they do not expect to remain in the same industry. An even larger percentage (42%) do not even know what type of business they will end up in.
Responding to AARP’s survey findings Ed Mazze, a widely acclaimed Rhode Island economist says that retaining employees is quite simple. “To build a good workforce, the company must make work interesting, recognize the accomplishments of its employees, provide good working conditions, have a competitive compensation system and an opportunity for the employee to be promoted and continue to learn,” he says.
Throughout 2017 I look forward to penning weekly commentaries that will shed light on aging issues, most importantly providing you tips on how to age gracefully.

Real Role Models Fly Under the Radar Screen

Published Augusts 24, 2012, Pawtucket Times

            As we go through our life stages, we are attracted to ‘role models’ or people we look up to – “mentors” as they are commonly referred to.    Those individuals who possess the right attributes and specific traits we hope to emulate – a persona we admire and respect. 

             For children growing up or those having reached their middle years, they may look up to and view their parents as that “perfect” role model.  Others may see redeeming qualities they try to imitate turning to entertainment celebrities, pro-athletes, successful business entrepreneurs, or religious and ethical figures. I found myself stumped when I was recently asked who my role model was as I responded to a “PowerPlayer” questi+onnaire by Golocalprov.com.  I never looked up to any one individual in the celebrity culture, sports personality, or even a politician.  

 Influential People in My Life

           As I pondered this question, there were a few people that came to mind.

          Of course I thought of my father, Frank Weiss, who had a great impact on my life.  He taught me the importance of using a business network in my profession.  While the Dallas businessman raised money to fund cancer research projects and other worthy causes, as Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer, I try to do the same, such as working to support the City’s Annual Pawtucket Arts Festival. 

          Then there was Fred Levy, a former Army intelligence officer during World War II, who was also a fabric salesman and writer.  When I was a young man, Mr. Levy was my neighbor and a man for whom I had great respect.  He might be a likely candidate for being my role model.  Mr. Levy gave me advice on how to become a better writer during my early professional years.  He juggled his job, writing, and also being a full-time caregiver to his adult daughter, Faye, who was bedridden with multiple sclerosis.  He was an inspiration to me, who read my published articles and encouraged me to continue to writing.  

         More recently in my present work, I thought of my former boss, Planning Director Michael Cassidy.  He was a role model to me – teaching me the value of tenaciousness. He looked at all bureaucratic and political angles to accomplish his planning goals. While it took him 10 years to get the City’s skate board park up and running, it took me seven years to see my project, the SlaterParkDogPark come to fruition.  But it happened. 

            While my father, my neighbor and former boss taught me valuable lessons in life, I realized that the most influential person in my life, was an 82 year old, semi-retired man right here in my Pawtucket community.                

Being an Advocate for the Voiceless

          Like the “energizer bunny” sporting gray whiskers and a plump belly, Pawtucket businessman, Paul Audette has always been an advocate for the “voiceless” in the City of Pawtucket and the surrounding communities. 

         Watching out for the elderly, he became a volunteer ‘ombudsman’ for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.  Paul even served as Chairman of the Pawtucket’s  Affirmative Action Committee to ensure that everyone had equal opportunities in municipal government.   He has worked for decades assisting those down-and-out, even providing them financial assistance out of his pocket, to help them navigate the State’s regulatory process.

         Paul has long-ties to many of the City’s nonprofit groups, from the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, the Pawtucket Armory Association, the Foundry Artists, the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, Pawtucket Preservation Society, and the Pawtucket Arts Festival, just to name a few groups.  He even has been active bringing his expertise as a property manager and developer to assist the Pawtucket Planning Department streamline the City’s Building permit process.

        Paul co-founded a non-profit group called Helping Hands, and has provided financial assistance to local organizations that help youths at risk, the helpless and homeless.  Since 2006, Helping Hands has given donations to 37 organizations, including, Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army, American Cancer Society.

        Paul did not learn the ropes about business by attending any of the ivy-league schools, but instead learned the tricks of the trade by working.  For over 50 years, his hard work landed him senior-level positions for major corporations including Dunkin Donuts, in addition to serving as ‘Special Assistant’ to the Presidents of Providence Metalizing, working in the Personnel Department, and by managing its properties and taking on special projects as assigned. 

        This local businessman even ran one of the largest catering companies in Rhode Island, catering over 300 weddings and 10,000 functions over the years.  His corporate and nonprofit clients include widely recognized organizations in the OceanState, including Hasbro, Hospital Trust, La SalleAcademy, BayViewAcademy, and Swank. 

           Exemplifying the Rotary International’s motto “Service Above Self,” Paul has been a member of the Pawtucket Rotary Club since 1999, and was recognized and awarded the prestigious Paul Harris Award, the highest civic recognition that the national civic group bestows upon an individual.

           Throughout one’s lifetime you might have many role models who inspire, teach and give you a road map to overcoming obstacles in your personal and professional career.  But sometimes the most important ones are those individuals who are not so visible or obvious, like those reported in surveys reported by the nation’s medai – the celebrities, professional athletes, or beloved religious figures, but rather that person in your community, whose mere existence quietly impacts you – as well as a community.

          The most important role model in your life may well be that person flying under the radar screen, seeking to help others – one person at a time – giving of themselves without seeking public notice.   For me, that person, my mentor is  Paul Audette.

           Herb Weiss is a freelance Pawtucket-based writer who covers, aging, health care and medical issues.