Our guest on this episode of The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast is Dyan Walsh. Dyan is the Executive Director of Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Dyan has been with Eastern Area Agency on Aging since 2007 and was promoted to Executive Director of the Agency in May of 2016.
We open the episode by getting to know Dyan and her background. Dyan shares with us some of the key points in her educational and professional experiences that led her to where she is today. Dyan also goes into detail about her passion for working with Aging Individuals and why her role is so important to her.
Dyan also spent some time introducing the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in detail. We discuss the vast array of programs that the Agency offers and the magnitude of ways that their resources can be put to use. We also talked about events that the Agency sponsors, specifically the Senior Expo which is held annually in the Bangor area.
We concluded this episode by having Dyan share what she thinks retirement success will mean for her personally. You might be surprised by her simple, yet thoughtful answer.
What You'll Learn In This Podcast Episode:
- Get to know Dyan and how she found herself in a career around social work. [1:06]
- Learn about the Eastern Area Agency on Aging and what it’s all about. [6:00]
- What types of services does the Agency offer? How can people use them? [10:45]
- The importance of planning ahead for retirement. [20:30]
- What is the best kept secret about the Eastern Area Agency on Aging? [32:00]
- What do retirees do well (and not do well) in navigating retirement? [36:45]
- Dyan’s thoughts on the term “Retirement Success” and what that means for her. [41:00]
Did you enjoy The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast?
Subscribe to our podcast directly via Spotify, iTunes, or Podbean by clicking on the images below!
Ben: Hi, my name is Ben Smith. I'm joined by my co-host, the salt to my pepper, Mr. Curtis Worcester. How are you doing today?
Curtis: I'm well. How are you, Ben?
Ben: Doing great. We're really excited for today's show. We've been talking about this for quite a while. A lot of our clients have a lot of needs, especially around retirement, and we're really happy to have Dyan Walsh here today, from Eastern Area Agency on Aging. So, welcome Dyan.
Dyan: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Ben: So, one of the things we usually do is just kind of get right into our guests, and where things are, and then kind of your background, because I think it's really powerful to hear your story, of why are you in the seat you are, and your role. So, maybe the first thing is just go into your background, just where you're from, but I do want to just mention you are the executive director of the agency as well. Is that correct?
Dyan: I am, yes.
Ben: Okay. Great. So, let's maybe just, first part, could you just, where you're from, and kind of growing up, and then leading into your school experience.
Dyan: Sure. So, I'm from Augusta, Maine, so I was born and raised in Maine, and went to the University of Maine right out of high school. I was one of those people in their 20s who didn't exactly know what they wanted to do in their 20s, so I finished my associate's degree and kind of spent my 20s exploring different jobs. When I turned 30, went back to school, finished my bachelor's degree in social work, and went on for an advanced standing program in social work, and have my master's degree in social work.
Dyan: The University of Maine, where I graduated from, they had a great program called the Geriatric Practicum Partnership Program. It's quite a mouthful. Basically, it means there are people who want to graduate, who want to have a specialized interest in geriatrics. And so, I was with four or five other students who also had an interest in working with older adults, and had kind of a specialized program where not only did I have a regular internship, but I also had an internship where I would rotate through other organizations who had specialized in working with older adults. It was a fantastic experience, and just spending time with people who loved working with older adults.
Dyan: I kind of knew I wanted to do that I would say my junior year. I had a great experience at a nursing facility, spending time with older adults, and I knew instantly. I knew that I didn't want to work with children, but I liked working with adults, but it was through that semester of working at the nursing facility that I just loved being around older people, loved listening to their stories. It kind of made life slow down a little bit, kind of just made you take a step back and just say, "Okay, I'm just going to be in the moment and talk." For me, it was just a calming experience, and I knew, right in that moment, "Yep, this is what I want to do."
Ben: Nice. That's a cool little origin story. That's really neat. So, you found that within your school experience, so you'd gone back in the junior year.
Ben: What was the genesis in terms of social work, though? What had you found in your 20s that kind of pushed you to go, "That's the area for me that I kind of want to get into and learn more about," to get to that point?
Dyan: Yeah. Interestingly, I had a lot of friends who were social workers, and as I started going through social work school, this kind of appeared to me as I was in school and doing all this reflection. You do a lot of reflection in social work school. We do a lot of reflecting. I realized that even though my parents weren't social workers, that they had both done work in the social work field. My mother worked for the Department of Health and Human Services for over 30 years, and my father was a Veterans Benefits Counselor. So, even though they weren't social workers per se, with a degree in social work, they were... So, I kind of grew up in that, too. And then, having a lot of friends who were social workers, when I did go back to school, I just felt... It was within the first class, I was just... You kind of know when you're with your people. You're like, "Oh, these are my people," and I just felt comfortable, yeah, right away.
Ben: So, kind of fast forward, then, a little bit. So, then you got your bachelor's, and you received a master's as well, and a lot of the soul-searching which you do in your 20s, and then you kind of find the academic part in the 30s. What was that next progression for you, once you graduated? How did you kind of get to the next thing?
Dyan: Sure. So, as I mentioned, we had to do different internships, and different rotations. One of the rotations that I did was I did spend... It was either a week or two weeks. I'm sorry, that was 10 years ago.
Dyan: Testing the memory. I did an internship with the Eastern Area Agency on Aging, so I spent some time there. I had always heard great things about the agency, knew they had a good reputation in the community, did a lot of really good service, and so, being that I wanted to work with older adults, it was one of the first places that I applied when I was finishing up my graduate degree. So, finished that, applied for an opening that they had, which was very part-time, but you got to get your foot in the door somehow. Sometimes, you just got to do it.
Ben: That's right. Yeah. Do what you got to do.
Curtis: That's right. That's right.
Dyan: So, applied, and was offered the position as, came in as what they kind of consider a person who helps with benefits specialist. I helped with volunteers. We have a lot of volunteers, too, so I helped train the volunteers, do that. So, the first thing I learned when I came to the agency was all about Medicare. I became a Medicare expert pretty quickly. Well, I shouldn't say pretty quickly. It actually takes about three years before you start to feel really comfortable with your Medicare expertise, but that was my first job in the agency.
Ben: So, maybe just back out a little bit then, and talk about just the agency in general, but maybe just kind of the background of how those agencies work. How do people interact with them, and is there only just one in the state, how do they work maybe nationally, why were they built, what's the history of them, and kind of what purpose do they serve?
Dyan: Yeah, and Area Agencies on Aging having been around for a really long time. They actually came about back in the 60s. They were funded through what's called Older American's Act funding, so a lot of the funding that we do get is federal, but Area Agencies on Aging, at least all of the ones in Maine, are private social service nonprofit agencies. That's one thing that a lot of people... There's a misconception. A lot of people think that we're federal government or state government. We're not. We do receive some federal and state funding, but all the five Area Agencies on Aging in Maine are private nonprofit agencies.
Dyan: As I said, there are five in Maine, and the way that those were set up, they all came to be back in the 70s, 1973, so we celebrated our 46th year this year, which is wonderful. We are kind of broken up by county. So, the Eastern Area Agency on Aging, we service Penobscot, Piscataquis, Washington, and Hancock Counties. There's an Area Agency on Aging that just covers Aroostook County, there's one called Seniors Plus that kind of covers the western part of the state, there's one in the central Maine area that covers Augusta kind of down into the Damariscotta area called Spectrum Generations, and there's one in the southern part of the state that covers York and Cumberland County called the Southern Maine Agency on Aging. So, we have five in Maine.
Dyan: Across the country there are 622, across the country. So, no matter where someone is, if they live in Maine, or maybe they're part-time somewhere another part of the year, there is an Area Agency on Aging in their state.
Ben: So, question for you, then, around just kind of how those work. My background, I was a board member in Literacy Volunteers for quite a while, and what I found on the Literacy Volunteers side was that a lot of this was all grass roots. So, there would be a need in a pocket of an area, and then they'd just create the organization to fit the need. I guess that's my question on the aging agencies. Is that how they got built as well? How did you guys all kind of divide and kind of think about your territories? How do you then partner and work with each other as people are maybe migrating across county lines?
Dyan: Yep. Back in the 70s, when it was first set up, it was actually set up through the governor's office, and the governor, I think, office worked with whoever was kind of up and running at that time to decide where they would be split up. There is some overlap, I would definitely say, because some people work in another county and then live in another county, and for some people it might be more convenient for them to come to Bangor, even though maybe they live in Winterport, which is a different county. So, we just try to make it as easy as possible for people, about where it is for them to get their resources.
Dyan: I would say, when it started back in the 70s, grass roots, kind of the main programs centered around nutrition. So, the Meals on Wheels program, which most people know, is kind of what most Area Agencies on Aging are most well-known for. It's grown over time, obviously. We do a lot with connecting people to resources. I would say that that is probably... I'm awed by our staff, daily, and what they know for resources that are available in the community. I'll tell people we may not always offer the service that you need, but we're always going to know where to send you for who does offer that service. That's one thing our staff are just fantastic at. So, Meals on Wheels is definitely a basic program that I would say almost every Area Agency on Aging across the country offers, definitely.
Dyan: Resource development is another one. Caregiver support is a huge one. That's one that a lot of the Area Agencies on Aging do. So, if you're caring for a spouse, or a partner, or a parent who maybe has an Alzheimer's or dementia diagnosis, or maybe has been diagnosed with cancer, and you just don't even know where to start, can they stay at home still? Should I be looking for a facility? Should they be moving in with me? Just a million questions that people have as they start to get these diagnoses. We have people that help with that, too.
Dyan: The other biggest thing that we do is around Medicare. We do a lot of Medicare counseling.
Ben: Sure. Well, there's a lot of questions, right? And it's always changing...
Dyan: There are.
Ben: ... right? Especially where, I think there's a lot of people that are retiring at different ages, as they may not also be eligible for Medicare immediately when they're retiring, so they're thinking about that gap, and when I become eligible, and what plans to be buying or selecting, and our clients just have a tremendous amount of questions there.
Dyan: Yeah. Well, I think the thing about Medicare that always struck me right from the beginning was that I always thought it's health insurance. This should be very cut and dry, just should be very easy to understand, and it's so complicated. It really is, because there is a lot of gray area to it. When Medicare first started, you had basic Medicare. You had Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, and then supplemental plans came in, because there's a portion of... If you go into the hospital, Medicare's only going to cover 80% of any covered service. There's always going to be 20% that's not covered. So, supplemental plans came to be in, I would say, the early to mid 90s, and those will cover what Medicare doesn't cover.
Dyan: And then, Medicare Part D started in 2000, 2001, right around that area, and then that's very complicated, Medicare Part D. There's an open enrollment period for Medicare Part D every year, and we help with that. We definitely help with that. We set up individual appointments with people to walk them through that process, and I really encourage people, every year, that they should at least look at their Medicare Part D plan and see if the one that they have is the best fit for them, because if medications have changed at all throughout the year, formularies change on the plans that people are in, and it's always good to take a look. The plan that you're in might be the best one and you can just stay in it, but it's always a good idea to look every single year.
Ben: So, Dyan, just back that out, though, for a second. So, hey, I'm newly eligible for Medicare, I'm thinking about being eligible for Medicare at some point. Who would I go to to start... How does that process start? They contact us and then what happens?
Dyan: Yeah. So, most people will contact us and they'll say, "I'm going to be turning 65 soon," and it's either, "I'm going to retire," which we say congratulations, or they say, "I'm still going to be working for a little while. I might just be working part-time, or I could be working full-time, and I'm going to keep my employer insurance, too," which that always complicates things a little bit. So, what we've developed, because there are so many people aging into Medicare... Within the state of Maine, there are approximately 800 people a month who are turning 65 years old.
Dyan: Yeah, which is a lot. Yeah.
Ben: For you guys, specifically, in your geographic footprint, how many people are you seeing on a monthly basis that are kind of in that group?
Dyan: We're doing what we call Medicare 101 Clinics, because what we found is that a lot of people were coming in with a lot of the same questions. We do a classroom environment, so we do two classes every month in Bangor. Right now the space that we have is kind of limited, so we have about 25 people who can come in each class, so that's about 50 people that we're seeing a month in Bangor. We also do a clinic in Dover, we do a clinic in Calais, we do one in Ellsworth, one in Bucksport. So, we figure we're seeing 25 to 30 people in each of those classes every month, plus we're doing individual... If for some reason somebody can't make the class we'll do individual appointments with people first.
Dyan: We really like them to do the classes, because I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes when I sit in a class environment somebody will ask a question that maybe I hadn't thought of, and I'm like, "Oh, I'm so glad they asked that because I wouldn't have thought of that." So, the class environment works really well for the 101, for people new to Medicare.
Dyan: We take them kind of just through what we call the ABCs of Medicare. Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, prescription drug coverage with Part D, if they have coverage that they're going to keep through their work, how that works. Maybe they might have VA benefits, how that works with VA benefits, if they have a spouse maybe who's still going to be working and maybe they're going to be covered under their spouse's insurance. So, we have staff and volunteers that go in-depth into this. It's about an hour and a half, two hour class that people sit through, and then if they still have questions after that, we do one-on-one appointments with them to answer even more.
Ben: Those one-on-one appointments, how do those work? So, I still have questions, are they generally like an hour or so? What would somebody have to bring? So, like I have questions, and I want to make sure I'm fully prepared for our time together, and I want to make sure I'm not wasting your time, and also vice versa, as I'm able to get solutions. How would that person come prepared for that meeting?
Dyan: Yep. So, one of the things that we can screen them for is if they are somebody who's lower income, maybe we can help them... There are a few state programs that will help pay for their prescription drug coverage. So, one of the things we usually ask is somebody just to bring annual income, monthly income. We also, if they are ready to sign up for Medicare Part D, we ask them to bring a list of all of their prescriptions with them, too, and of course their Medicare card, because Medicare just changed their cards recently. They used to be your social security number, and now they've changed them all, so everybody... It's wonderful. It's actually much better for a deterrent for fraud, and for people to steal your identity. So, we ask people to bring their Medicare card with them, because on their Medicare card it will have their effective dates, and that's one of the things that you're asked online when you go in, is what the effective dates are, if you want to enroll somebody in a Medicare Part D plan. They have to have those. So, let's say if they bring proof of their income with them, prescription drugs, and their Medicare card, that would be pretty much what we'd need them to bring to a one-on-one appointment. Yep.
Ben: In regards to... People are always skeptical about, well, what I don't know, and that's... So, one of the things that maybe people would be, question is, so, does it cost me anything? So, if I'm going to sit down with you, there is an expert here, and there's a class. I'm using your resources, so am I going to get a charge or a bill for doing that?
Dyan: Nope, no charge for that. We love donations, if you want to give us donations, but no, there's no charge for those services.
Ben: Okay. So, obviously the Medicare counseling is one big area of need that people have, and people use of yours, and you talked about Meals on Wheels. What other services does the agency offer for people that are aging?
Dyan: We offer right now, actually, quite a few wellness classes. One of the things that I worry about a lot, and I know that a lot of our staff worry about, as people get older, is social isolation. We really worry about people isolating themselves. So, we're trying to create wellness classes where people can get out and exercise, do yoga, but we're even offering classes that are more just about enrichment, too. If people want to play card games, or trying to get some movie nights started with people, we have someone who's coming in and helping create paper flower classes, just different things to get people engaged and out of their house, because social isolation is a serious issue, especially in our area, because it's rural.
Dyan: I think there's a misconception, I do see this quite a bit, too, of people who will move here from out of state. They will move here from New York, New Jersey, wherever, and they'll go to Washington County, or Hancock County, in beautiful June, July, August, and September, when things are lovely, and then they move here and they retire here, and don't realize how isolating it can be in certain pockets of our area, especially in the wintertime. So, we are really trying to create programs that get people out of the house and get them connected. We have a book club that we're doing that's grown so much. We're probably going to have to split the group up, because we have so many people in it now.
Dyan: So, one of the things that we want to know is we want to know what people want, too. I mean, these are the things that we think people want, but we are constantly asking people in the community, "What is it that you would like to see? What is it that you would like for us to be doing?"
Ben: With our population, it kind of gets into goal attainment a lot, which is the name of the podcast, is Retirement Success in Maine, and there's a lot of times that just people have the statement or the goal attainment of, "I want to be in my home as long as possible." That goal almost starts in that late 50s, early 60s, you hear them say that, and they start thinking about, well, I have to retrofit my house. I have to make it be that the doorframes are wider, because if I'm in wheelchair or if I need other assistance to move from room to room, or bathrooms need to be accessible, and all of those things are happening.
Ben: So, if you are aging in that home and that's where you want to be, having services available to them of... Because it's not only that, hey, if I'm unable to go get a meal, here's this agency that can provide me these meals. That's a great service, but that you're supporting them and surrounding them with everything, that there's maybe a social need that's happening, and getting them out, and there might be... We haven't covered this yet, but I know there's an academic need at times. So, if people are looking to take... and I think you have an elder college as well?
Dyan: The Penobscot Valley Senior College, yes.
Ben: Can you talk about that as kind of this other... Hey, I always wanted to learn a skill, or I always wanted to learn something, but I was too afraid to do it, and I think that's a really great benefit that you guys are offering in a partnership there, of kind of doing that. So, I'd love for you to explore that a little bit more.
Dyan: Sure. Yeah, and I'm actually glad that you brought up the planning ahead for people as they're aging, because it is something that we still see, that people aren't doing, and I would even go one step further to say that I really think that people should be thinking about this in their late 40s. We see so many people who are in homes that just are not the right fit for them anymore, and these are people who are in their late 70s and early 80s, who just, now, it's a really hard time to start thinking about exactly what you mentioned, the retrofitting, and oh, I don't have a bathroom on the first floor, and this is going to make things very difficult. We see a lot of people who, their families have moved out of state, so they're having to do a lot of these things on their own when they're in their 70s and 80s, so I'm really glad that you mentioned that, because I do think it's something that people in their 40s and 50s should definitely be planning for. It's a hard thing to do when you're in your 40s and 50s. It's not something you think about.
Ben: Because at that point you're probably thinking about your own family. Well, maybe I got little ones, or maybe I have extended family that I'm close to.
Dyan: Or they're caring for their own parents, yeah, that sandwich generation. Yep.
Ben: Maybe I'm not retrofitting for my own purpose, maybe I'm retrofitting for... This happened to my parents and my aunt and uncle, is they had my grandfather move in with them, and they were sharing them between houses for the last 10 years of his life, and you just go, well, what's feasible and how do you make it work? I do want to ask you more about that, Dyan, by the way, for later, but that's something where there's a lot of needs.
Ben: You hear from the Bangor City Council, as well, hearing about the housing stock, and this isn't just a hey, there's a house, or a house here or there that really isn't meant to age well, but really all of them, is that you either have limited budgets, people are only on social security, and they're saying, "I'm in my house, and it really isn't the right fit for me, but what do I do? I want to be here. I've lived here my whole life. I can't really keep it up on repair, though. I can't do these things myself. I don't have money to do it." So, there's a need, I know, on a very micro basis, in Bangor, but maybe nationally or maybe more in Portland as well.
Dyan: Right. Well, and the city of Bangor, I feel, is being really proactive and really trying to look at the housing stock, and also just come up with some creative ways to do that. So, one of the things I've been hearing a lot of about lately is home-sharing, the concept of home-sharing. I know it's a very popular concept. I've spoken with a couple of other groups in New Hampshire and Vermont who've got a really great program going that they do, but it's this concept of exactly what you said.
Dyan: You have an older adult who's in a home, who doesn't want to leave their home, who loves their community and wants to stay here, because they've grown their life here, but they're having difficulty, maybe, with the lawn mowing, or just the basic upkeep of the house. And so, there are programs nationally where they will match up someone, and it doesn't necessarily have to be an older person, it just could be any two people, but it will match up somebody who's looking for a place to live with somebody who's looking for somebody to move in with them. A lot of the programs are very detailed. Some of them include even mediation services. Sometimes you get into a living environment, it's not perfect. So, some of them have mediation. There's usually a contract that's drawn up between the two people. A lot of them have a trial period. They might do a two-week trial period just to see how it works out.
Dyan: The idea is not that this person would provide activities of daily living or healthcare for this person, but just that they would help out with some of the things around the house, and especially in Bangor, in greater Bangor, where housing is so hard to come by, and we have so many universities and colleges in the area, for students who are always looking for housing, this could be a good option in our area.
Dyan: Yeah, something to keep on the horizon. Yeah.
Ben: So, with that is, because it kind of lends to this point of somebody's living by themselves in a home, and it may be that maybe they did have a partner that has passed away. That's a pretty seminal moment that we just see with... You start in the early retirement stage and then you're getting to retirement, and there's all these hopes and dreams about doing all these things together, but sometimes things happen, whether someone gets incapacitated or then they pass.
Ben: Are there resources that you guys offer in terms of that moment, as kind of around it, the planning of it, or the psychological repair of that, because again, you're offering services for people that maybe can get more attainment, or educational attainment, or maybe just foundational, whether it be food or other services, or medical, but is there something that you guys are offering to that, because I think that's a really hard moment, your life partner no longer there. What's my purpose, because they were my purpose, and how do I proceed, and how do I find who I am and who I should be?
Dyan: You're exactly right, because... It's so funny you bring this up. I just had a call about this, it was within the past two weeks, of someone who had lost their spouse, and they were very concerned because they were obviously getting social security benefits from both spouses, and to now have to work with just one spouse's social security benefits, they were very worried about income. Those moments of losing a spouse, or a divorce, any of those kind of pivotal life moments, seem to be when a lot of people tend to go into bankruptcy or just have some financial issues. So, I would completely agree with you that if that has happened for somebody, one of the things that we can do is we can sit down with them, kind of connect them with social security, because obviously we're not social security but we have a lot of connections with the social security office, so we can help with that, we can help them fill out any needed paperwork. We do a lot of three-way calls, where we'll call the social security office with the person, and kind of try to walk through the call with them, and kind of help them, because sometimes it's just language. There's a lot of terminology and acronyms that are thrown around in our business, and so we just try to help with that.
Dyan: The other thing you said is trying to keep somebody from, at that point, kind of going inward, do you know what I mean? and isolating themselves, is a real problem. So, getting them out into the community. One thing I would kick myself later if I didn't say is volunteering. I mean, volunteering is huge. We do also offer support groups. So, if someone is a caregiver and has been a caregiver for a while, even if their caregiver passes away, we have a lot of people who still continue to come to the support groups. Just because someone passes away doesn't mean that they're not still processing the things that are going on in their life, so having a support group available is really important, too.
Ben: Or also, is, again, kind of the idea of purpose, is here is somebody that maybe they cared for their parent, or a loved one, and they really learned a lot. They had to go through a lot to figure out how to care for somebody, as they're aging and until they pass away, and they go, you know, if I'm a part of a group and there's somebody else that's going through this, and there's a lot of emotional baggage with it, and there's a lot of learned system level lessons here, that maybe they're sharing that with other people as part of that support group, too.
Ben: I'm just a big proponent of, well, what is my purpose, and if I feel like I'm producing something, I'm being valuable to somebody else, that's got to lend to that feeling of attainment and that whole idea of success, because it's this whole, I've lost that. My father went through that as well with his father, is this well, I'm no longer caring for him. Who am I? What am I supposed to be doing? That was all-encompassing in my life, and what do I do next? That's a good soul-searching moment, there, and to plug in to something where other people are seeing that or experiencing that, or hey, I went through what you're going through two years ago, and be able to lend those lessons back and forth, which is kind of what I love about Maine, is those communal lessons, is that we're very neighborly, and we're all very genuine and authentic. We want to help each other. It's not from a misplaced idea. It's very true and genuine.
Dyan: Yeah. So, support groups are good for that, volunteering is good for that, you had mentioned senior college before, Penobscot Valley Senior College, and there are senior colleges across the state. The senior college, we support the senior college here in Maine, in our area, and it's a very active group. They offer... Some of the classes are just, they're really interesting. I mean, they have a array of everything from historical, to religion, to... They have one-day speakers who come in and will talk about the Supreme Court, and they pack rooms. I mean, these classes are everywhere. They offer classes in the spring and the fall, and they're great. People just... Lifelong learning is a fantastic thing. Just because you've graduated college and have moved on doesn't mean that you still can't be learning new and different things, so-
Ben: Dyan, I think where we see a lot, when we have these conversations with people, is that they've had a binge in their career, is that, I'm going to be the expert in my career field, and I got a lot of passion about it, and then they go, I'm burnt out, I'm tired, I'm just done, and I got to do something else.
Ben: This whole idea of, I always wanted to know about the Civil War a little bit more. I always wanted to learn about how the political system work. Those are reinvigorating ideas, and kind of this idea of going back to school, and it doesn't have to mean well, I have to go get another degree, but if I take a class that's six or eight weeks, or if I do this here or there, or if, hey, I always wanted to work with my hands and I never got to know woodworking or welding. That's stuff that just lends back to, I'm a more enriched and happier person, I feel alive and engaged, and those are just, again, kind of the things that there's a very necessary need for those sorts of institutions to be around.
Dyan: Yeah, I agree, and I think there's so much to do in our area. I always find it funny when people will say, "Oh, there's not anything to do," and I'm like, "You're not looking that hard," because there's lots to do in our area.
Ben: Don't you feel like it's, and maybe this is just as things are changing over time, that now, because of Google, there's so many things that people know, and they get overwhelmed, and they go, well, where...
Dyan: Where do you start?
Ben: Yeah, where do I start? What should I be doing with myself? They are almost turning that off of... They're information overloaded, and they just analysis paralysis, and just shut off completely.
Dyan: Yeah, I think that is happening. I think that's when it's important, too, to kind of go back to whatever it is that kind of you're passionate about. If you're passionate about gardening, there's lots of gardening groups you could be into, or books, or exercise, being outside in nature, whatever it is. There's definitely always something to do in this area.
Ben: So, I'll switch streams for you a little bit here for a second. What would you say would be like the best kept secret about your nonprofit? You wish that people knew, they just don't know. They have just no idea about. I'm putting you on the spot.
Dyan: No, that's all right. It still shocks me, because we are on TV quite a bit, we go on the radio, we have a newsletter that we send out, we have flyers, we obviously do presentations in the community, we try to be out as much as possible, and I think it's not that there's any one well-known secret. It's just that the agency is a well-known secret, sometimes, I feel like.
Curtis: Right. Honestly, yeah.
Dyan: I'll have people that will call and they'll say, "I just found out about you." It used to bother me when people would say that, and now I think to myself, "You know what? You didn't need us at that point. As long as you found out about what the agency can offer at the point when you need our services, that's really all that matters."
Ben: Then you did your job, especially on the marketing end, yeah.
Dyan: Exactly, exactly, because a lot of it is word of mouth. That's what most people will say. They'll say, "Oh, I talked to my neighbor and they said that you were able to help their kids or their parents with this, and this is exactly what I need help with," so a lot of it is word of mouth.
Ben: I'll kind of add to it, too, is this idea of people that, they think that aging is somebody that is older than them. It's like, "Well, I'm not there. That's not me. I'm not old enough to be kind of..." Which I like what we've already gone through in part of the conversation is, well, maybe you aren't old enough. It could be, hey, you're 25 years old and you're working with somebody that you're caregiving for. It's everything around the population. It's not necessarily that I'm in the population or I have to identify myself there, or have a need, it's kind of the whole spectrum of those generations that could be using those services you're offering.
Dyan: Absolutely. Well, and for me it's a lot about terminology, and I try to be so sensitive to this, because I've been educated recently that I should stop using the word senior, and this is not a good word to use, which is really difficult when you think about it, because if you go into a store who offers a discount, they call them senior discounts. So, I'm trying to figure out other words that... I was told that it should be older adults, not seniors. So, now I'm trying to look at all terminology that we use across everything in our organization and say, "Okay, should we be taking senior out of everything we use?" And then you'll meet some people who will say, "I don't care that I'm called a senior. It doesn't bother me." They see it as a rite of passage in life, so it doesn't really bother them.
Ben: Well, and I add to it is that we have people that they have a successful career, and for whatever reason it ends, but that's how they identify themselves, and you go, "Well, so what are you up to?" And they go, "Oh, I'm still looking for a job." "Well, aren't you retired?" And they go, "No. So, I've never retired." So, it's like, they're not retired, they don't view themselves as older. They could be 93 years old and go, "Well, you know, I still think a part-time job might be a really good thing for me to keep me going," and they go-
Dyan: I see that all the time, yes.
Ben: It's their introspective look at themselves and who they are. They think they're 16 years old, or they have this, hey, I'm vibrant, I'm young, I still have it, I'm still with it, I still want to do things with my life. It doesn't matter if I'm 98, 24, 106, it doesn't matter. I'm capable and I want to do things.
Dyan: Absolutely. I think volunteering is a big part of that, because for some people their next phase or their encore career might be volunteering. We find a lot of people, in the 12 years that I've been at the agency, we've had quite a few people who have come in as volunteers into the agency, and then have moved into being employees after they have retired, just because they love what they're doing so much and they're so good at it, that when positions become available at our agency, they apply.
Dyan: So, anything is possible, and I just wanted to loop back to something that you said about getting help at any age. That is one misconception I would say about our agency, is that a lot of people think, oh, I have to be 50, or 60, or whatever it is, to call the agency to get help, and we have people, as you said, who are in their 20s or 30s, who call us and say, "I'm caring for my neighbor who needs help," or "caring for my parents," or just that they have general questions about anything, about how a service works. So, that is one thing. You don't have to be 50 or 60 years old to call our agency.
Ben: Maybe that's a good segue, is kind of going into retirement success. So, if you're looking at people that are... either they'll be aging, or in retirement, or however we want to categorize it, what would you say that, in terms of navigating retirement and aging, what are they doing well, and what are they not doing well? I'll preface that, but it sounds like that maybe there's a pride thing, and that maybe that's the thing that they're not doing well, but I'm really interested in that, as like from your perspective. What do you see people that are actually doing better than we thought and then areas that maybe they could be improving?
Dyan: I feel like it's people who plan ahead for it, and I'm not just saying in the financial sense, but mentally plan ahead for it. Not that it kind of just shows up on your doorstep one day, and oh, here it is, retirement, because exactly the word you used earlier, identity. There is a lot of your identity wrapped up in what you do, and if so much of your life has been wrapped up in that, and you haven't had things outside of that, when that day comes, and you're not getting up at 6 AM to be at work by 8, there's this what do I do? So, I think for people who plan ahead financially, but also emotionally and mentally prepare for what's next, I run into a lot of people, and a lot of people say, "Oh, women prepare much better for it than men do." I actually find it's both. I find there are a lot of men who are also very prepared for the next stage, too. It's about even.
Dyan: But people who come to me and say things like, "I can't wait to retire so I can do X," whatever that is, those are people that are ready. Those are people that are ready for the next stage. The people that come kicking, and screaming, and dragging their feet, and just are not looking forward to that day, and you can tell instantly when you ask them the question, "Oh, you're going to be retiring. That's great." You kind of this "Yeah..."
Ben: The voice either goes down or it goes up.
Dyan: Right, right.
Ben: We use this statement a lot, is people that are successful in retirement really are good at retiring to something and not from something. So, when your identity is I'm a this and it's your career, essentially, and if you strip that away then what am I? That's the scary moment. You're taking away the core thing of who I am, and you want me to be happy about that? Those are the people that are... You just...
Dyan: I worry. I worry about them.
Ben: Yeah, that's very hard.
Dyan: Yeah, those are the people that I worry about, that will isolate themselves, because it's easy to do if you haven't kind of built that network while you've been going through your working life, and your work people are your network. It can be very hard when you jump into that next phase.
Ben: There's also a piece of that with, sometimes when people are more career focused, or that's how they identify themselves, is with that career, is that this whole idea of, well, I'm successful because of what people think I'm supposed to be, and not who I really am. So, this whole, well, if I'm retiring into who I really am as well, and I have other pieces of my life, whether it be, hey, I got family...
Ben: On a previous episode of the podcast we talked to our partner, Wes, and he was talking about he had a couple that they had family in California. They were successful, and they were career-oriented, but they just didn't know about taking that leap and putting all this... So, they had to plan. Once they had a plan, then they were all excited about it, then they went to California. They didn't have any friends, but they planned that whole moment, so when they landed there, they knew the resources, they knew the structure, they knew how they were going to spend their time. It wasn't that, hey, I got done, I just landed and I didn't have any concept of what I was...
Ben: So, this whole thinking process of what makes me happy, and we kind of have this whole... A lot of people have hobbies, and they go, "I'm just going to get a hobby." Well, you can't hobby. Golf, or knitting, or...
Dyan: Oh, I don't know. I plan to take a lot of yoga classes, so...
Ben: It's true. You could do that for 40 hours, right? You'd burn a lot of calories.
Dyan: Yeah, but no, I can't wait to volunteer. I mean, I try to volunteer as much as I can in my community, but I'd love to be able to do it more. Yeah.
Ben: So, we're not there yet, but I wanted to get to that, then. So, what's your idea then of retirement success? What would you say would make you successful in retirement, and being more of who you are? This is a dream thing, too, right? Yeah.
Dyan: It is, yeah. For me it is always about the balance. So, I try to stay as balanced as I can right now, between work and trying to have life outside of work. Sometimes I do better at that than others. I'm in a phase right now of not doing so great with it, spending a lot more time in the work environment. But I feel like for me in retirement, that balance would still have to be there. So, this might sound weird, but I feel like retirement can't all be about fun. I mean, I know it's supposed to be, but I feel like there are other things to do in retirement, too, that are still going to be kind of in the not fun category. So, I want to keep that balance as I get into retirement.
Dyan: Obviously, financially... I mean, I plan right now, financially, for retirement, with my husband. We keep a very close eye on that, but I'm also one of those people that I don't have any plans to retire early. I want to work as late as I can. I know there are some people that are just counting the day until they can retire, and I don't have that number in my head.
Ben: Which, going back to your bio, though, is kind of you talking about... You found a purpose, so when you find a purpose and you get energy from that purpose, and at five o'clock you're not drained, you're energized because I did it today, it's different.
Dyan: It is.
Ben: You go, I actually love what I'm doing, and maybe I don't have to be in a certain role, but being part of that and having that be part of my life...
Dyan: Right. Well, and to work with other people... I mean, you don't work in this field, in social services, unless you really kind of have a passion for what this work is. So, I obviously work with other people who, they want to be there. They want to be there every day, and so they are fantastic to work with. So, it's a great place to go to work every day.
Curtis: That's great.
Ben: But when those have jobs, it's like, it's a job. It's an exchange of my human time and capital for money. So, it's really easy to understand how someone would want to get done there, and be done, which is essentially the idea of retirement anyway. It was more of a blue-collar type thing, and I was physically unable to do this job anymore, and so I had to get done, and how do I support these people that are no longer able to work? Historically, how you look at it and how it's changed, but...
Ben: So, I think, kind of continuing on that line, what challenges would you then see in someone that's newly retired today? What do you think... So, obviously they're going to have challenges right now, in terms of figuring out retirement. What do you think... The last 30 years has been different for someone that maybe is closer towards the end of life than someone that's retiring now and progressing for the next 30 years. How do you think that's going to change for this person that's retiring right now?
Dyan: I think it's going to change a lot, and I think it's going to change a lot for our agency, too. I'll give you one example. We have had, for years, something called community cafes in our area. They're basically sites that we have throughout our four-county area where someone can go, if they're not home-bound, because that's essentially what the Meals on Wheels program is for, is for somebody who is home-bound, but the cafes are out in the community, for somebody who can still drive, still is able to drive, who wants to go have lunch. I think we have 25 of them kind of scattered across the four counties.
Dyan: We are seeing a decline in the people that are coming to those cafes, and so, one of the things that we're starting to think about in kind of the plans over the next five to 10 years, is why is it that people don't want to come to those cafes anymore? Now, they're located in town halls, in grange halls, in churches, and kind of wherever we can get space, but I don't know about you, but what I'm seeing lately is that older adults want to go to coffee bars, and they want to go to smoothie bars, and yogurt, and all of these things, and I think we have to start looking at these things differently. The things that used to appeal to the generation who were born in the 20s and the 30s is very different from what today's baby boomers want. They want to have Wi-Fi access when they go somewhere, and they want to be engaged. They don't want to be talked to.
Dyan: For years, we've gone in and done presentations, and just educated people about something, and then they've eaten lunch, and what I think we're starting to see more is that people kind of want to be engaged talking to each other, not having somebody talk to them. So, we have to really start to think completely differently about how we think about our programming, which is why I'm constantly asking people, "Okay, if this doesn't interest you that we offer this particular program, what does interest you? What would you like to see happen? What's going to get you engaged, and to come in and sit down with a group of people, and be involved in an activity? What activity would it be?" We have to start thinking about things very differently.
Ben: You're seeing that going down the road, is maybe that the retirees today, the retirees in 15 or 20 years... This is something where even on this podcast, what we're looking at is getting people's stories. We're talking about resources today, and a lot of the ones we were doing is resources, but even people telling their story, is to say, hey, could you come on, and you got a really great story, that you learn something in this moment about finding this and finding that. There's a, "Ooh, I don't want to put myself out there. That's not me," and a lot of Mainers anyway, is we just don't like attention, and we're humble, and we don't-
Dyan: I thought it was just me.
Ben: Yeah, so it's like, that's just Maine, right? But this next generation? They're like, "Oh, yeah. Definitely. I'd love to have that conversation, love to have it recorded. It's fine. I'm okay putting myself out there, being vulnerable." This whole, I don't want to show vulnerability, and I don't want to show, hey, I went through something, because from our perspective, we're looking at shared lessons, is you went through this. Maybe somebody else is going through that too and could learn a lot from that experience. So, there's all of those threads, there, of, well, how are people changing and thinking about things, and how are they going to interact, and what's going to unlock them to want to go do that? So, it's really fascinating that you can kind of hear on your end how that's playing out.
Dyan: Well, and the baby boomer generation in and of itself is an enigma to me, anyway, because they're just so unique. I mean, the traditionalist generation of the 20s and 30s, they aren't big on questioning things. They just kind of took the information, and I'm generalizing greatly, but they just kind of get the information taken in and then, especially if you're in the medical profession, or they just take it in and accept it, but baby boomers, they like to question things, which is good. It's not a bad thing, but it's just kind of this whole new way that we kind of have to think about things.
Ben: It's that start of the Google generation. I think about it as like, now, today's generation, I think the number three asked question in Google today is, "Should I text him?" So, we're really to the point that machines are kind of answering everything in our life, including should I text somebody that I'm dating, but you kind of have this like WebMDs, and Wikipedias are very popular because of the influence into our entirety of our generations this way. So, thinking about that and kind of your resources in putting that together, which is why, I think, that we're thinking about it too, is this podcast of in Maine. What is success in Maine, and what resources are available to you? So, it's very localized. It's very, if I want to go talk to Dyan, or one of her staff members, she's here. She's available. I can put a face to that name. So, it's really cool.
Ben: I want to just kind of go to the next part, here. I wanted to ask about events. So, obviously you do ongoing programs, but in terms of events, where maybe a blitzkrieg into a certain topic, or how you're thinking about things, can you talk about the events that you sponsor throughout the year, generally?
Dyan: Sure. So, the biggest event that we do every year, and I'm going to use the word, we do a Senior Expo, which I don't know, I might have to change the name now. We do a Senior Expo, and we just, we did our 13th Senior Expo. So, we always do it in May, because May is Older Americans Month, and for the past two or three years we've held it at Husson University. It's a fantastic day. Usually it runs from about 9 or 9:30 till 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon. We've been averaging about a thousand people coming through in a five-hour time period.
Ben: Wow, that's fantastic.
Dyan: Yeah. Usually about 90 vendors or so, and it's just this great opportunity for people to come through and get tons of information about assisted living, or how to get home modifications, or information about insurance. I mean, it's all right there in this one room. I love it because people will come in and they'll turn around and they'll run into somebody that they haven't seen in a few years, then they'll start talking, and so I always say it's like all old home week, and everybody kind of just gets to catch up with each other. We try to do some events, too, like some fitness events, so we try to do some line dancing going on, just keep people active while they're there. It's a fantastic day. Yeah, we plan for it. It takes months of planning to get it pulled together, but it's really a great event, and we do it every May.
Ben: Nice. The other part is, we've covered a lot about just how important of a resource this is in the area, and you have a wide geographic footprint to cover. So, in terms of funding, so, you talked about, look, you are a nonprofit, and you need help. If someone wants to support, either because you've helped maybe a loved on of theirs or a neighbor or something, or they're thinking about themselves and they want that resource available for the long term, how do they kind of get involved on the funding part?
Dyan: Yep, sure. So, as I mentioned, we do get some federal and state funding. I spend a lot of time grant-writing, so I write to a lot of foundations. It's a big part of my job. We do Senior Expo every year, so that's also another fundraiser that we do. And then, we do have individual donors. So, if somebody does want to give a donation to the agency, they can do that. We have a website, and we just updated our website about three or four months ago, so it's quite good. Right on the front page, there's a place that you can donate, so they can do it that way. They can do an ongoing donation if they want to, or just do a one time donation. A lot of the donations do go to exactly what you're talking about, just to feed people. I mean, the funding that we get from the federal funding in no way covers all of the costs that are associated with the Meals on Wheels program. So, we have to write grant applications and rely on other donations to try to keep that program going.
Ben: What percentage of your overall income budget is supported by the federal and state government?
Dyan: Federal and state government combined last year was about 56%. So, the other percentage is mixed up between sponsorships, donations, foundations. So, a little more than half.
Ben: Yeah. Great. Okay. So, I guess for maybe just kind of a wrap-up, here, we went into a little bit of the personal idea of success, but what would you say... We kind of have used this idea of Mount Rushmore, the thing that you could do or the four things you could do if you wanted to, but what would be the thing that you would say, in retirement, I never got a chance to do this, and I always wanted to do it? What would that be for you personally? I know you talked about balance, so I want to stretch you a little bit there over the... Wow, that would just be life-changing to do something.
Dyan: My husband will hate that I'm going to say this, but I tend-
Ben: We won't tell him. He'll never hear this.
Dyan: I tend to think very minimalist. So, one of the things I would love to do is even live more of a minimal lifestyle, which I don't feel like I live a minimal lifestyle, but that's mostly his fault. We can put that on him. I would love to live a more minimal lifestyle. So, for me, I don't know if I could make it into a tiny house, but I would really love to live in something small, so that I just had freedom to do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. To me, that's what a successful retirement would look like.
Ben: Very nice. Yeah. That's an awesome answer. Well, Dyan, I wanted to thank you for your time today. This was really fun for both Curtis and I, I think, to hear and... Look, these are questions that we get from our relationships on the business side, too. So, our clients are having this, so this just allows and extends us to offer resources this way, and just get to know you a little bit, so that's really awesome. So, thanks for being on the podcast today.
Dyan: Thank you. I've had a great time.
Ben: All right.
Ben: Take care.
Dyan: Thank you.
Ben: So, Curtis, I was really excited to have Dyan on the podcast today. I thought she did a really great job going through Eastern Area Agency on Aging, kind of hearing a little bit about the history, but what I was really impressed about with Dyan today, you could just really get her passion not only just for the job but for the mission of the agency. It was just pretty impressive to kind of hear about her background, the finding herself and kind of her career path, going to school for what she really wanted to be, the social work, and then finding, through the internship program, that match for her. So, that was pretty impressive.
Curtis: Yeah. It was very clear, very early in the episode, how much she cares about what she does, and that was really cool to see. Yeah, and for me, a takeaway, I've always known about the agency, but for me to learn so much about what they do, and really how much they help people. That was a very, very good podcast, I think, for us.
Ben: Yeah, and of course, Dyan herself, you can just see why she's the executive director. She gets it. She's just a great public face for the agency, talking about all the need, very strategic in how she's thinking about the future for, in her words, maybe seniors, or people that are advancing, but again, I just never really thought about, well, hey, if I'm a caregiver for a parent or a loved one or a neighbor, or whatever, and I'm 30 years old, then I would be going to them for help. That was a really cool point.
Curtis: Yeah, I know going into it, for me, I was excited to learn about the agency, but to that point of potentially being a caregiver for someone, in the back of my mind, I don't know how much this'll pertain to me directly, right now, but it clearly does or it has the potential to.
Ben: Or your connections. You're at work, and all of a sudden someone that you know is going through something, like versus I don't really have anything to offer you, going and listening to this podcast was a pretty cool education moment for me.
Curtis: For sure.
Ben: So, for those listening, really appreciate you tuning in today. I think this will be a really great library one to catalog and listen to again. I think there's enough resources and programs that Eastern Area Agency on Aging is going through, so understanding a little bit more about them, how they make an impact, how you can interact with them. So, if you want to go to the website, as well, blog.guidancepoint.llc.com, you're going to see a page for this blog. So, what we're going to do is just have a little bit of a chapters of it, but some of the resources. So, obviously we talked about several resources that you can access, so we'll have that there for you and you can get a little bit more information on them as well, and get some links to their page. So, look for that as a resource. Appreciate you tuning in today, and we're looking forward to catching you next time.