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'Elder Whisperer' Urges Seniors to Take Care of Themselves

Livingston Daily

The "elder whisperer" — as Sarah Hogan calls Dr. Marion Somers — was in for a nostalgic morning Friday when the long-term-care advocate rode along with Meals on Wheels employee Lois Davenport delivering meals to needy elderly residents.

"It brought back nothing but good memories," said Somers, a 72-year-old New York City native.

Somers' experience with the elderly spans back to when she was a 9-year-old living in a five-story walk-up apartment in New York City. In addition to caring for her three younger sisters, she would shop for groceries for many seniors in the complex, receiving a wealth of knowledge in return.

"I saw so many people who had infirmities of a wide variety," she said. "Society didn't really know how to deal with them, and they weren't taken care of."

The 3in4 Campaign spokeswoman stopped Friday at the Hartland Senior Center in Hartland Township to "wake people up that they need to start taking care of themselves," Somers said.

"The time to start taking care of themselves is now," she said.

Somers said she's questioned many political candidates in the past — both Republicans and Democrats — about what they would do for seniors if elected.

"None of them could give me an answer," she told the crowd of about 100 seniors and Meals on Wheels volunteers.

Somers also emphasized that Medicare isn't long-term care.

"It's made for short-term needs, and people don't understand the costs involved," she said.

For the Detroit area, the average cost of a private room in a nursing home each year is about $75,600, according to LifePlan's John Hancock Cost of Care Study. Average home health costs per year for six-hour days, five days per week are about $31,200.

A long-term care calculator is available for more cost statistics for the Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Midland areas at www.3in4needmore.com.

Hogan, director of corporate administration for Brighton-based LifeSecure Insurance, said those in the long-term insurance industry refer to Somers as the "elder whisperer." The company was one of several event sponsors.

"She's just so gentle and kind to the seniors," she said.

Shelly Petoskey, administrator of MediLodge of Howell, said she came to the event because she wanted to know what Somers is sharing with the community.

"It's the same message we try to share," she said.

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