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The holidays are a time for gratitude, reflection, and giving. That's true not just for our immediate families, but also for the wider community around us. This holiday season (or even after the holidays have passed!) consider giving back to your community through charitable giving.

Donating to a cause or organization you believe in is a great way to make a positive change—and, as it turns out, being selfless can actually have some pretty great benefits. For example:

  • Giving Has a Ripple Effect. We tend to underestimate the effect that small good deeds can have. When you make charitable donations to a local nonprofit or charity, you're not just helping that organization—you're also helping all of the people who rely on that organization's services, and all of the people who rely on those people. For example, donations to Spectrum mean meals for seniors in the area. It also means reduced water bills for low-income families, which in turn allow those individuals to set aside money for things like their children's educations.
  • Giving Makes You Feel Better. Some scientific research suggests that charitable giving unlocks neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, all of which are associated with improved mood and feelings of connection. Translation: giving can make you happier, on a biological level.

    On top of that, there's also evidence that giving may have significant benefits for your physical health, including lower blood pressure, lower stress, and even living longer.
  • Giving Creates Positive Change Where You Live. When giving to local nonprofits, you're investing in your community. Whether that's reducing income inequality, improving public health, or creating a greener world, those changes will ultimately benefit you, too.

You don't necessarily need to donate money to reap the benefits of giving back. If funds are tight this year, consider other ways to support your community. Volunteering your time and donating gently used goods or in-kind gifts are great ways to have a positive impact without having to stress about finances.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

Almost everyone can relate to the sickening feeling of opening a bill and seeing a number that is significantly (or even astronomically) higher than you expected.

Sometimes high water bills are simply a consequence of higher-than-average usage. Other times, however, they can be a sign that something is wrong. If you find yourself confronted by an unusually high water bill, it may be a good idea to check to see if any of the following issues are present.

What Causes High Water Bills?

Your water usage can be affected by a number of factors outside of your actual water consumption. These include:

  • Leaks are the first thing you'll want to check for when investigating the reason for a high water bill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), household leaks can account for almost a trillion gallons of water wasted each year. When checking for leaks, be sure to look for all potential sources, including toilets, showerheads, sprinkler systems, water heaters, filters, and pipes. Don't forget to check for dripping faucets and pipes, including the connectors between your building and the water main.
  • A Malfunctioning Toilet. If your toilet's flush mechanism isn't working properly, it can lead to the water in your toilet continually running. This can be caused by a few different problems, the most common being a leaky flapper or a float that is too high.
  • A Broken Water Softener. If you live someplace with hard water (which is the case for many parts of California) be sure to check on your water softener. Water softeners are programmed to periodically regenerate or flush themselves of the minerals they accumulate. Sometimes, however, water softeners get stuck in this regeneration cycle, and if that's the case they can waste a lot of water.

If you've been blindsided by a higher-than-normal water bill, we may be able to help. Call today to see if you're eligible for one-time per program year assistance to pay your overdue water bill, part of the federally-funded Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

Moving is rarely a stress-free process. That's especially true for seniors who are downsizing, and who are faced not only with the prospect of relocating, but also paring down their belongings to fit into their new space. Whatever their reasons for downsizing, many older adults understandably find downsizing to be emotional and overwhelming. For that reason, it's important to be prepared and approach the downsizing process strategically.

How To Downsize Your Home

Here, we've prepared some downsizing tips to make the move less stressful (if not enjoyable!):

  • Start Early. Not giving yourself enough time to downsize and declutter is the surest way to make an already-difficult process even more arduous. Make sure to budget plenty of time for sorting, packing, and moving. If you can, it may be wise to add an extra week or two to account for unexpected hiccups or obstacles.
  • Be Systematic. Treat downsizing like you would any other major project or undertaking, and make a plan before getting started. Break the downsizing process down into smaller, more manageable tasks—for example, working through one room at a time and setting time-bound goals for yourself.
  • Stay Organized. Minimize the mess and chaos by devising a system for sorting your belongings and sticking with it. For instance, you might keep separate piles of items that you intend to keep, sell, donate, or otherwise.
  • Involve Family. Downsizing doesn't have to mean saying goodbye to your possessions forever. Consider inviting family members over to take things you no longer have space for, or pass along heirlooms or sentimental items. In addition to furthering your downsizing efforts, ensuring that special items stay with loved ones may help assuage any sadness you're feeling.
  • Focus on the Positive. It's normal to feel a sense of loss when getting rid of your possessions or leaving your home. While it's important to honor these emotions, it's also important to remember what you're gaining: such as a new, cleaner space or more time to focus on the things that are important.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

When it comes to senior living arrangements, many people are under the impression that aging in place means staying exactly where you are. In reality, that's not quite the truth. Often, aging independently means making a transition to a more stable living arrangement. Here, we'll explore some of the circumstances and reasons that might prompt seniors to move or downsize to age in place—as well as how to tell when the time is right for you.

Moving and Downsizing

Being able to live comfortably and independently isn't only contingent on individual factors. For older adults, environment and circumstances also play a huge role in their ability to age in place. Below are some of the most common issues that many seniors encounter when weighing their options:

  • Home ownership is expensive, particularly for those who live in larger or older homes, and many seniors tend to see a reduction in income after retiring or transitioning to fixed income. On top of that, health conditions or medical bills can make it more difficult for some older adults to continue making ends meet. Moving and downsizing to a smaller house or apartment can help save a lot of money in upkeep, utilities, and property taxes.
  • Stairs, hard-to-reach storage spaces, and difficult-to-access toilets and showers can all pose potential hazards for seniors who experience mobility issues. While some homes only need minor modifications to make them safe or accessible for seniors, others present more serious obstacles to activities of daily living. In some cases, moving to a ground-floor apartment or an independent living community with built-in accessibility features is the safer (and smarter) option.
  • Availability of Assistance. Many seniors are able to function on a largely independent basis, but require occasional help with more strenuous tasks or chores, or need someone close by in the event of an emergency. For individuals in these situations, it may be necessary to relocate to be nearer to a friend or family member, or to move into a senior living community with on-demand assistance.

When Is the Right Time To Downsize?

Everyone's situation and needs are different, and as such, there's no one-size-fits all rule for when you should consider downsizing or moving. However, the following questions may help give you an idea of whether your current home and/or location are sustainable:

  • Are you able to easily perform activities of daily living?
  • Does your home pose any potential fall hazards?
  • Are you able to access all of the amenities and resources you need (eg, groceries, medical care/prescriptions)?
  • Do you have reliable access to transportation?
  • If you were to require assistance or have an emergency, would help be readily available?
  • Do you feel lonely or socially isolated?
  • Is your current living situation financially sustainable for the foreseeable future?

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!

Giving back to the community is an important way of making a positive change in the world and staying connected to the people around you. Not only does giving back make the community stronger, but studies have indicated that people who feel a sense of security and belonging in their communities tend to be healthier.

Regardless of your abilities or situation, there are always ways you can help make a difference—both in your community and the larger world. Here are a few ways of creating positive change and getting involved in the community to consider:

  • Giving your time and energy to a cause or organization that needs help is an excellent way of making an impact. Look for opportunities to volunteer for nonprofits, or consider joining a local community event. In addition to helping the people around you, odds are you'll benefit too—studies have shown that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates. On top of that volunteering can have benefits for your mental health and can lead to networking opportunities that could even improve your career.

    Looking for a rewarding volunteer opportunity? Spectrum is always looking for new volunteers for our senior meal and fall prevention programs!
  • Often, people assume that making a donation means giving money. While it's true that financial gifts can be incredibly useful for community organizations and nonprofits, they're certainly not the only way you can help. Many nonprofits) also accept in-kind donations of materials, food, clothing, or household goods. Check with nonprofits in your area and see what they need—it might be something you already have lying around.
  • Support Local Organizations.
    Not everyone has the means to donate their time, money, or goods. However, that doesn't mean that you can't still make a difference. For example, many nonprofits struggle with visibility and publicizing their services and events. For organizations in that situation, even sharing their posts on social media or spreading the word elsewhere can be extremely beneficial. Make a call to community service organizations near you and ask what you can do to support them.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!