At 4:00 pm on Thursday, September 19, the inaugural Southcoast Seniors showed aired on WPRV-790am in Providence Rhode Island and was heard throughout southern New England. The show, sponsored by Connelly Law Offices. Ltd. has a focus on seniors and senior issues.
“When we put this show together,” stated Attorney RJ Connelly III, “we did not want it to be an hour just about elder law. Now, make no mistake, elder law is the centerpiece of the program and it’s what I do, but that is just a part of the needs families have when it comes to making decisions around an aging parent. Seniors, by far, are one of the most underserved groups and this will continue to be the case as the number of seniors in our society rapidly increases.”
And increase it will – dramatically. Just five short years ago, the US Census recorded nearly 48 million people over the age of 65 in this country. By 2060, estimates see that number rising to 98 million. And with age comes a multitude of issues.
“From an elder law perspective, there are three concerns that we have always looked at – long term care issues and how they will be paid for, how these issues affect the senior's management of their own personal affairs, and estate planning and administration,” said Connelly. "But there are other issues we will look at regarding elder law and how they fit into an aging senior's life."
These issues include:
planning for a minor or adult with special needs;
probate proceedings and decedent estates;
create a durable power of attorney;
providing help with health care and planning, including long term care options, patient rights, Medicare, and health care power of attorney;
financial representation that includes financial planning (including durable financial power of attorney), housing opportunities and planning, income, estate, and gift tax matters;
guardianships and help with the selection and appointment of a legal guardian
help in locating long term care facilities and manage assisted living costs;
explain nursing home resident rights;
drafting a living will or other advance directives.
“But there is a new reality when it comes to elder law -- I don’t do this work in a vacuum. My team and I are in constant contact with nursing homes, home health care providers, assisted living programs, the Veterans Administration, medical providers, family members, and on and on. Aging involves many different facets of life and many of the services we offer need to be supported by others," said Connelly. "However, families facing crisis usually don’t know where to turn in times of crisis or they spend hours searching for help. Southcoast Seniors was born out of that need. We want seniors and their families to know what resources are available there for them.”
Although Connelly may be new at hosting a radio show, his breadth and depth of knowledge and experience in the elder law field are second to none. He received his Juris Doctorate at Quinnipiac Law School after obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree from Providence College. He holds memberships with the Rhode Island Bar Association, the Connecticut Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Association. He also has been admitted to the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, the District of Massachusetts, and the District of Connecticut.
Through the years, he has won numerous awards including the "Estate Planning Lawyer of the Year" from Lawyers of Distinction magazine, "Elder Lawyer of the Year" from Lawyer's Monthly, and inclusion in the "Who's Who Directory of Top Attorney's in North America."
Connelly was also awarded the Alliance for Long Term Care's "Hero Award" for his "unselfish dedication and service to protect elder rights." The Alliance acts as the ombudsmen for long term care and advocates for those who have been victims of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.
Connelly's co-host is Don Drake, the coordinator and developer of Connelly Law's community education programming and also the producer of Southcoast Seniors.
Drake is retired and was a licensed clinician in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with over 40 years of human services and law enforcement experience in a variety of milieus providing direct care, supervisory and administrative services which included correctional, residential, hospital/medical and out-patient settings. He is also a retired professional wrestler who is in the New England Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
He served as Program Administrator and clinical director at facilities in Boston, Hartford, Providence, and Philadelphia where he structured, hired, supervised and trained staff in providing behavioral and addictions treatments to adolescent, adult and senior clients, including those with HIV/AIDS.
Drake also has worked in radio in the Philadelphia and New York markets and has hosted television programs in the greater New York, Philadelphia and Connecticut area for years on combat sports, entertainment and sports talk. He was also the producer of the nationally and internationally syndicated National Wrestling Federation weekly television program.
But what made Connelly turn to radio to not only promote the need for elder law services but to provide an outlet for others in southern New England to discuss the products that are available for seniors.
“I must admit, the thought of being on radio was initially a bit intimidating,” stated Connelly, “but when I think about how effective radio can be in getting out the word on the issues we want to address as a firm and as an advocate for seniors, there is no more effective way to do that than using radio.”
“Just to make my point again, elder law today requires the ability to wrap other services around the plans we make with our clients, including the fact that health issues are a huge part of long term care planning. Most older adults understand that good health ensures independence and security, yet millions of seniors have daily struggles with health and safety challenges such as chronic health concerns which impact the quality of life,” said Connelly.
"These concerns include some of the things we expect to hear in aging such as dementia, heart health, strokes, diabetes, seasonal flu, obesity, substance abuse, and falls. But issues such as poverty and housing also affects the physical and mental health of seniors. Having experts on our show to discuss this will help us all," said Connelly.
Housing concerns are also of paramount importance for seniors if they are to feel safe and thrive as they age. This is another pet peeve of Connelly's.
“Over the past 40 years, the market for senior housing has expanded to accommodate seniors with more complex needs,” said Connelly. “But here’s the dirty secret, those with the upper end of income can afford them and those on the lower scale qualify for government programs. For the middle class, they are struggling financially to fit in. These discrepancies must be discussed and solutions need to be found.”
Mental health is another problem that looms large in our rapidly aging society. Drake, who has worked for decades with seniors who have mental health and addiction issues, has concerns for seniors in this area.
“Many seniors come into the doctor’s office with multiple needs, but with more and more patients and less and less time, they tend to talk only about those things that affect them physically,” said Drake. “Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are not priorities on their list for the short time they have with their provider.”
Mental health concerns of seniors must be viewed as being just as important as cardiac issues. According to the American Psychological Association, one in four adults 65 and older experience depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or dementia. But there is also another issue that rarely merits discussion -- the high rates of suicide among seniors.
“Suicide in seniors is a growing problem for a multitude of reasons," said Drake. “And even more alarming, those 85 and older have the highest suicide rates of any group, especially among white males, who kill themselves at a rate six times that of the general population. Having the radio show will allow us to reach a more expansive audience when discussing problems such as this."
Connelly feels that having a radio show about seniors and senior concerns will at least make our society aware of the issues facing our aging baby boomers, who present with problems that may not have been present for previous generations.
“Our society today values speed, technology and above all, youth. When we have values like this, the elderly feel like a piece of the puzzle that just doesn't fit,” stated Connelly. ‘When our seniors begin to internalize these views and believe that they are nothing more than burdens on their families or on their communities, then we have a very dangerous situation on our hands.”
As we reach an end of 2019, the idea of "political correctness" has permeated everything from our schools to our comedians, but seniors still seem to fall outside of that PC bubble. There is still a stigma attached to aging and with that comes negative attitudes, stereotypes, jokes and behaviors that are discriminatory based solely on age.
“It's amazing that in 2019, even making a joke about a pet is forbidden or subjects the joke-teller to criticism from various groups of people, but seniors can continue to be the butt of jokes about everything from the way they look to their societal functioning. The perception that age equals an inability to actively contribute to our daily lives decreases their value to society is something we want to change through the show,” said Drake.
Music will also be featured on Southcoast Seniors.
"We will have a musical portion of our show with the music provided to us by Scott Erickson, our music director," said Drake.
Erickson, a musician based out of the Northeastern United States has been performing professionally since the age of 21. Scott has built a reputation as one of the Northeast's premier performers. As a solo artist, he has opened for The Bacon Brothers (actor Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael), classic rock icons, Blue Oyster Cult, and comedians "Big" Jay Oakerson, Tom Rhodes, and the legendary Gilbert Gottfried. He has also performed with former Paul McCartney sideman Robbie McIntosh, and Hamish Stuart (who has also worked Ringo Starr), Country Music superstar Keith Urban, and most recently jammed with legendary rock & roll band, The Smithereens.
"I have known Scott since he was a teenager," said Drake. "I had hired his father to do play by play on our weekly professional wrestling television show. But even before that, his father, known professionally as Ron Barry, was a legendary radio personality in the Philadelphia market who I would listen to religiously as a teenager myself. I would have my transistor radio under my pillow and listen to Ron play doo-wop music and conduct interviews with many elite Hollywood actors and actresses. He even wrote a discography on Elvis Presley called "The Ultimate Elvis" that is still available on the internet today."
"Scott's father is no longer with us, losing his life to Parkinson's disease," stated Drake. "Scott himself has a story to tell about his father and in the near future, we will have him on our show to discuss how Parkinson's affected his life."
Drake was adamant about having a musical portion of the show because of music's importance in Alzheimer treatment. The various elements of music are processed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and emotional memories, such as love and affection, are very often well preserved there for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
It appears songs that carry strong emotional memories for the person with Alzheimer’s are the best retained. This results in an individual who can sing along with song lyrics but can’t recognize a formerly familiar face. Southcoast Seniors will provide that opportunity.
"Radio brings with it something that television does not -- the ability to form your own picture of what is being presented," said Drake. "Radio has been called the theater of the mind for a very good reason, it helps the listener better relate to subjects by using their own unique experiences stored in their memories to form the images that they see - and because they are their own director, producer and writer of the story, the images remain forever."
"We hope that through our knowledge, the guests we have on and our advocacy for seniors, the program becomes a go-to product for seniors and their families," said Connelly.
"We also hope to gain the support of our community partners in this project and maybe even expand our offerings in the future," said Drake.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said Connelly. “We are all in this together - clients, families and providers. We all age and the choices we make today will either help us or haunt us."
To see the lineup of the radio show, click on the image below.