February Senior Scene

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It seems like the Office for Aging is undergoing a lot of change lately. We are dealing with the changing needs of an older population who are turning 65 in impressive numbers and we are also caught between two generations of older adults, the “Baby Boomers” (born after 1945) and the Silent Generation (born before 1945) who sometimes want very different things from our office. In addition, we are seeing an unprecedented investment in aging services by NY State. As you may recall last year, the Governor and State legislature approved an additional 15 million dollars to the Office for Aging budget to help people who were stuck on waiting lists across the state. While this is a great thing for older adults in our community it means a large expansion of our services in a very short period of time. OFA and our contractors have been hiring new staff, re-evaluating office space, and looking at our process to figure out how to deal with a sudden increase in volume. Major life changes like large scale organizational change can trigger anxiety, depression, and anger in people even when the change will result in a positive outcome.

So how do we help people who are feeling overwhelmed by change? The first thing we need to do is acknowledge that different people will react in different ways to change. Some will try to avoid change telling themselves, “It’s not happening and if I ignore it, it will go away.” Some will be reactive, giving a knee jerk response without really understanding all the reasons for the change or how it might benefit them in the future. The third way people react to change is to be proactive. They research the change, figure out how they can take part, and help figure out the best path to result in the best possible outcome. “Obviously, the ideal way to deal with change is to be is proactive because you feel more in control. And the more we feel we have control over the situation, the less stress and frustration we feel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a roof, a divorce, a career restructuring or a diet—when we take charge of change, the journey feels more comfortable and ends up more rewarding,” says Collette Carlson author in Success magazine.

Of course this is easy to say but how can you choose to be proactive instead of hiding or melting down when confronted with change? Many experts suggest the following tips:

1) Acknowledge that change is part of life and nothing stays the same forever.

2) Accept your emotions and try to get them out. Vent to friends, cry if you feel the need but realize you need to work through your emotions before you can adjust to change. Often people skip this critical step.

3) Reframe the situation to see the positive. After you work through any negative emotions start to dream about the possibilities ahead.

4) Take action because decisions, not conditions, will determine your path. As people take positive actions to move forward, they are usually able to let go of fears and come to realization that things will work.

On Saturday February 29 (time and location in Dunkirk TBA), The Office of the Aging, with the assistance of a grant from the Health Foundation of Western and Central NY is hosting a motivational speaker, Jim Snack, to present a program open to the public entitled “The Magic of Change: Moving from Fear to Wonder.” In an upbeat motivational program that combines magic, humor and message, participants will learn strategies for staying positive through change. Mr. Snack is a speaker and consultant who work with people who want to change with confidence and organizations that want to communicate change effectively. When not speaking and consulting, Mr. Snack teaches in the Department of Communication at the University at Albany. Mr. Snack will be in Dunkirk, NY for two days, Feb 28 & 29. In addition to the public program he will be conducting interviews and facilitating focus group sessions. This will assist the Office for the Aging to assess the needs and concerns of Dunkirk community members for the grant to renovate the Dunkirk Senior Center. For more information on Mr. Snack or his visit, contact Kate Finch in the Dunkirk OFA office at (716)363-3865.