Archive for September, 2012

How did you spend your Saturday?

September 28th, 2012 No comments

Past GED Connect!

This was supposed to be a picture with everyone facing the camera giving a thumbs-up to all those who are doing GED study with us.  Instead you got a classic “OMG – what did you say!!!” pose that happens right after; but thats okay – it reflects the highly engaged flavor of the day.  This picture was taken after 5 hours of GED Tutor 101, our homegrown course of study that prepares our 30+ tutors to help folks around the country prepare for and pass the GED.

Want to be a tutor; contact me at  Want to pass the test?  Come to any one of our walk-in locations listed here, most at a public library near you!
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The Unexpected Conversation

September 27th, 2012 No comments

I had my morning coffee at an event hosted by WCA over at Tappan Hill.  The main event was Joe Lhota, Chairman/CEO of MTA, who certainly left me with a new appreciation for the complexity of the MTA and the impact of MetroNorth on county business and quality of life.  (Now, if only we could find a way to get from East to West….)     But my personal main event was one of those side-conversations – totally unexpected and absolutely the thing you needed to talk about at that time.  I said hi to a fellow who turned out to be a CEO of a new consulting company in the county.  We spoke about our respective business experiences, then life in the county – he’s been in Peekskill, Ossining, and now Mt Vernon.  Noting my association with libraries, he spoke about how impressive the Mt. Vernon library building was, which gave me an opportunity to describe some of the programs we do there and around the county.  That got us on to the topic of storytelling.

One of the programs we’re trying to pilot in Ossining, is to develop a teen storytelling troupe, positioning it as a different way to engage young people in literature and then have them engage the community by offering their stories to several audiences during Black History Month.  My java buddy told me about the West African tradition of griot, an oral tradition through which the history of a family or community is captured and shared; how in the process of hearing and telling, history is narrated a bit less linearly – you can see in the recounting how events and actions circle back.

Giving and receiving; offering what’s known and then integrating new information to create something new; finding what’s different as well as what endures.  That is a more exciting way of conceptualizing a program for young adults – not tying them into another goal-oriented, linear process in which a story moves from a book to a person to an audience and stops, but a way in which troupe members share, receive, capture, and co-create.  There is an opportunity here to engage people in a bit of introspection and appreciation of where our communities have come from and were they are going.

It was just a cup of coffee, but in making a connection, we told each other some stories, and started something new.  Nice way to end the week!


Mark your calendar for Active Aging Week 9/23-29/12

September 23rd, 2012 No comments

Across the nation, people ages 50 years and older will experience the theme, “Be active your way” during Active Aging Week, the annual health promotion event of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) between September 23-29, 2012.
The Boxwood Alliance will join the national campaign by promoting events hosted by a wide variety of older adult programs and services across upper Westchester and lower Putnam Counties.  With community support, the Boxwood Alliance is a collaborative, free aging in place resource in the region for older adults and their families.

“These events are opportunities for promoting the wealth of programming available for older adults in our community.  Unfortunately, many residents do not know the extent of quality programming available through local town recreation departments, libraries, local businesses, healthcare providers and others,” says Catherine Wynkoop, BoxwoodAlliance Chairman.

According to the World Health Organization, “active aging” means optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people grow older.

“The images of aging are changing,” observes Colin Milner, CEO of ICAA, “and today it is known that staying physically and mentally active leads to better overall health, improves mood and brain health, and encourages older adults to contribute to society, their communities and their families. That’s why the special events of Active Aging Week open the doors to new, fun and educational activities.”

Go to  for a growing list of Active Aging Week activities. Check back over the next several weeks to see the list grow.

Calling all Seniors

September 20th, 2012 No comments

Next week is chock full of opportunities to explore ‘Creative Aging’…

Celebrating Active Aging Week 9/23-29/12

Free events for older adults, their families and friends
We invite you to join us in celebrating the wonderful selection of free lectures, trips and special events (bolded) planned for older adults, their families and friends across upper Westchester and Putnam Counties, particularly during Active Aging Week.

See also, as this list is growing.

Sunday 9/23
2-5 PM, Special Concert at the Mahopac Public Library (668 Route 6): The John Arrucci Sextet performing original compositions tinged with Jazz, Classical and World Music influences. Free admission. For more information, call 845-628-2009 or email

3-4 PM, Garden Lecture at the Ruth Keeler Library: Gardens Filled With Life – Designing with Northeast Flora. The North Salem Open Land Foundation and the Library present this talk by author and landscape architect, Carolyn Summers. She will speak about the ways in which indigenous (native) plants form the basis of the food web that supports a healthy, biodiverse landscape. 276 Titicus Road, North Salem, New York 10560, (914) 669 – 5161.

Monday 9/24
1-2 PM, Wii Bowling exercise demonstration for Active Aging Week at the Fox Center, 198 Carpenter Avenue, Mount Kisco. Call 666-8766 to register.

6-7 PM, Mind-Body Wellness Workshop at the Somers Library, 80 Primrose Street, Somers, NY 10589. Register online at or call 914-232-5717.

Tuesday 9/25
10-11:30 AM, A Refreshing Walk Around Armstrong Preserve in recognition of Active Aging Week. The Pound Ridge Land Conservancy’s Land Steward will take guests safely through a forested nature preserve. Distance is approximately 1 mile. This walk is not strenuous. Address of Armstrong Preserve: 1361 Old Post Road, Pound Ridge, NY10576. Participants should meet at the top of the driveway.  More information is available here


Volunteers in our Westchester Public Libraries

September 13th, 2012 No comments

Volunteers make good things happen.  This is especially true in the Westchester’s public libraries.  Here’s one example: the GED Connect! program.  I spent last Saturday listening to a dozen volunteer GED Tutors brainstorm about how to do their work even better.   GED tutors make an amazing impact in the lives of county residents by providing free one-to-one assistance in preparing for GED exams.  What stopped me in my tracks was being reminded that, oddly enough, the exam isn’t the point.   As about 20% of Americans know, stuff happens that can derail getting a high school diploma.  So what really matters is that adults who circle back to get that diploma are supported and positively engaged in what the GED represents – a commitment to learning at any stage of life.  As one volunteer said:  “Whether they ultimately take the test or not, I know at the end of a session I’ve done something good because the student is excited about having learned something new.”

Public libraries and life-long learning – yup, we make it happen.

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Our Veterans: Pathways Home

September 13th, 2012 No comments

Pathways HomeVeterans are among the unique populations that public libraries serve.  When it comes to benefits, our key act may be to refer people to the services available through the county and the federal government, and specific branches of service.  Beyond that, library programs and resources are certainly a source for education, entertainment, and engagement.

Today I attended a program a Saint Johns Riverside Hospital called Pathways Home targeted toward clergy and other helping professionals (which I read as librarians!) designed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by veterans and their families, both upon re-entry and over time as the experiences of military life are fully integrated.

What stood out was a message about the isolation experience by veterans, which results in destruction of families, relationships, and – tragically – a growing rate of suicide among active-duty as well as returning troops.  Some numbers give a sense of how the isolation happens – less than 1% of the population have ever served; while close to 2 million have been deployed in the last decade, when they return it is back to communities where few can relate credibly to the experience of service.  Consider that in Westchester County, with a population of close to a million, there are an estimated 80,000 veterans.

So its possible to get lost in the crowd, which may be what an individual wants for a time.  But when they want to reconnect and grow – which for us humans tends to happen in community – services that demonstrate awareness and that support privacy may be those that are turned to, which is what you’ll find in many churches and libraries.

Lots of good current research and public resources were shared at this meeting.  Let me know if you’d like to find out about any of those.

Elena Falcone
Director, Office of Community Connections

Westchester Library System

Send Elena and email

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WLS Opens Senior Benefits Information Centers

September 12th, 2012 No comments

 Westchester Library System’s Senior Benefits Information Centers

Two Additional Locations Now Available Just In Time for Medicare Open Enrollment

Tarrytown, NY September 12, 2012–  A recent survey of older Americans conducted by the National Council on Aging discovered that seniors need answers: one in four were not confident they would be able to afford the costs associated with Medicare in future years, such as deductibles, premiums and co-pays. One third of the seniors surveyed said they were not confident they know all about the government benefits for which they are eligible.  Additional concerns were expressed about the availability of resources to support aging in place, and the challenges of giving and receiving care in later years.  For all of these concerns, Westchester County residents can get answers at Senior Benefit Information Centers located in public libraries around the county.

Eight public libraries in Westchester County offer free, one-to-one counseling to help seniors understand and apply for needed benefits and assistance.  Senior Benefits Information Centers are staffed by trained volunteers who bring personal experience and compassion to every encounter.  Available throughout the year, residents can gain assistance in understanding and applying for Medicare, food stamps, tax relief, and much more. Senior Benefits Information Centers save residents time and money, allowing them to stay healthy, protected, and connected.

Senior Benefit Information Centers help to address questions like these:

  • When and how can you enroll in Medicare?
  • What are the differences among Medicare plan options for medical and drug coverage?
  • If you’re already enrolled in Medicare and have experienced a change in health or financial status, are there plan changes you should make during the annual fall open enrollment period?
  • If you are having difficulty paying for healthcare needs, even with Medicare, what other benefits might be available to you?
  • Are you concerned that an older family member is not receiving needed services?  Have they asked you for help and you are wondering where to start?

As of last year, Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period starts a month earlier, running from October 15 through December 7.  This is a time for new enrollment, plan evaluation and changes, and a lot of marketing by health insurance firms. Make it your time to visit a local public library to confirm your benefit options and become acquainted with the fall programs available in libraries around the county.

Senior Benefit Information Centers are open weekdays; hours and times vary by location.  Sites include: John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak (Tuesdays 10am-1pm), Mount Kisco Public Library (Wednesdays, 11am-2pm), Grinton I. Will Library in Yonkers (Tuesdays 10am-1pm, Thursdays, 11am-3pm), The Warner Library in Tarrytown (Wednesdays 10am-1pm), the New Rochelle Public Library (Fridays 10am-1pm), The Field Library in Peekskill (Thursdays 10am-1pm), and two additional locations now at the Greenburgh Public Library (Mondays 10am-1pm) and Port Chester-Rye Brook Public Library (Thursdays 11am-2pm).

Senior Benefit Information Centers are made possible through a partnership with the Westchester Library System, the Medicare Rights Center and Westchester County’s Department of Senior Programs and Services. For more information call Elena Falcone, Director of WLS’ Office of Community Connections at 914 231 3240, or visit the Westchester Library System’s web site at

About the Westchester Library System

The Westchester Library System (WLS) includes 38 member public libraries located throughout the County and is one of New York State’s 23 public library systems. WLS and its member libraries have a total collection of 5.1 million items, including 3.8 million books, as well as audio recordings, videocassettes, DVDs, print serials, and other materials. The mission of the Westchester Library System is to ensure that all residents have seamless access to excellent library service throughout Westchester County. The Westchester Library System serves as a center of innovation for the Westchester County library community. WLS provides model programs, affordable and easy-to-use information technology, and support services that enable libraries to continuously improve service to their communities. For more information, please visit