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May 31, 2011

Elder Care: Breaking the Silence: Voices of Hope


Breaking the Silence: Voices of Hope
A writer at the Swampscott Senior Center is helping to spread the word on elder abuse.

Maria Mello, writer, painter, naturalist and a regular at the Swampscott Senior Center’s Creative Writing Class for over 10 years, recently put her talents to use to assist in the creation and performance of an original play based on true stories of elder abuse and neglect, titled, Breaking the Silence: Voices of Hope.
Mello’s original poem, Afraid, opened the show.
The poem, with its soothing rhythms and rhymes, and Mello’s lilting voice, begins by laying out a simple picture of what most of us want in our later years, and then sneaks in another possible outcome--fear.
As I grow older all I need
Are gentle peace and sunlit days
A simple life I want to lead
Some time to follow my own ways
            And not to be afraid.
The following stanzas examine the ways the peaceful golden years can be anything but peaceful. For example:
Then there’s the friend who takes your check
Pays all your bills and shops for you
She brings you food but holds the change
Who knows what silly things you might do
            You’re lonely and afraid.
In the performance that followed, actors dressed simply in tan pants and black tops voiced different roles in discrete scenes, each of which emphasized different ways seniors are vulnerable. Some of the roles were:
·         the hairdresser whose elderly client’s checks start to bounce after she has taken in a boarder;
·         the widow next door who didn’t want to ask for help because he didn’t want to leave his house and “end up in a home;”
·         the sister who’s worried about her sibling’s sudden new “friends,”  who aren’t friends at all.
All the parts were voiced with feeling. Each scene also told the ways relatives, friends and neighbors can help—step in, rely on the outreach worker at the local senior center, and call elder protective services.
According to Elizabeth Cochran of the Elder Justice Network, which funded the project through a grant from the National Committee to Prevent Elder Abuse, the program is designed so that each time the show is put together at a new location, the participating seniors contribute their own stories, or stories they feel are relevant to the issue of elder abuse and neglect. Thus, every show is different.
Cochran pointed out that as the population of elders increases, so do the occurrences of elder abuse and neglect, including self-neglect.
The play I saw was put together and written by Kelsey McCabe, protective services worker at Greater Lynn Senior Services, along with seniors from Peabody, and performed at the Lynnfield Senior Center.
Elder abuse “can happen in any environment,” says Bill Foley, outreach coordinator at the Swampscott Senior Center. “It can be financial, physical, emotional or sexual.”
Those who suspect abuse in Swampscott, says Foley, should call Greater Lynn Senior Services and say, “I’d like to report elder abuse or contact protective services.”
Although the Center in Lynn is the local point to investigate abuse, Foley said that anyone with questions or concerns about the issue is welcome to call him at the Swampscott Center, at            781 596-8866 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            781 596-8866      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      .
The number at Greater Lynn Senior Services is             781 599-0110 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            781 599-0110      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      .
Swampscott Senior Center Director Marilyn Hurwitz has seen the show and “would love to do it here.”
Which would be just fine with Mello. She smiles. “It was a lot of fun.”

SOURCE:   Swampscott.patch.com
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