WCAI Series Reporting

WCAI brings you original in-depth reporting on issues facing the Cape, Islands, and South Coast: Wind Turbines, Education, Water Quality, Alzheimer's, and more.

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More than 2,300 grandparents are raising their grandchildren in Barnstable County, according to a state report from 2016. Advocates for grandparents on Cape Cod point to the opioid crisis to explain why so many are skipping retirement and stepping up as parents once again.

In many ways there’s never been a better time in human history to be aging. As knee joints and shoulders give way, or with the first onset of disease, advances in surgery and preventive medicine have meant people can continue being active longer, and with more enjoyment. And the population on the Cape and Islands is well positioned to benefit from these advances. 

Kathryn Eident / WCAI-FM

Three-quarters of Americans over age 45 live in single-family homes, according to AARP. As homeowners age though, it can become increasingly difficult for them to remain in their homes safely. In recent years, a growing number of people have begun retrofitting their homes with new safety features and technology to help them live in their homes longer.

Brian Morris/WCAI

As people age into their 60s, 70s and 80s, senior centers can offer a way to stay active and engaged. But many senior centers also suffer from an identity crisis. One Cape Cod senior center has been broadening its programs and activities to attract people who otherwise might never set foot inside.

Kathryn Eident

Age 65 used to be the golden age to retire. But as guaranteed pensions dwindle and life expectancy grows, more people are working well beyond their 60s. The result is changing what it means to retire.

The first installment of our series, “The Changing Face of Aging: Challenges and Opportunities,” introduces us to two mature workers who hope to bring home a paycheck for years to come.

We’re not just living longer than previous generations; how and where we’re living in our later years is changing as well. What are some of the reasons the life of seniors today is different from previous generations, and how are we and our communities adapting to those changes?

Elsa Partan

The Lewis family ran Nantucket’s only funeral home for 135 years. They closed it nearly 3 years ago and sold the land when nobody wanted to take over the business. Now, a small group of people is trying to open a new one as a non-profit. For some, Nantucket’s identity as a real community is at stake.

Timothy K Hamilton bit.ly/2f1cB1k / bit.ly/OJZNiI

When she first heard about hospice care, Yarmouth resident Christine Greeley was dubious.

“I mean the term ‘hospice’ was kind of scary,” she said. “It really was like, ‘That’s for people who are dying next week, tomorrow, or something. This is the end of it, it’s going to be terrible.’”

When Rachel Tinney realized her brother Josiah had moved beyond prescription pain pills to heroin, she tried begging him, using her other brother's death to reach him.

"I actually said to him, 'Josiah, people are getting bad stuff and not realizing it and they are dying, and I am so afraid that I am going to bury another brother, and I just can't do that.' And I cried," Tinney said. "And he said, 'Ray, no, you won't. I promise that won't happen.' And within days he was dead."

Photo by Alecia Orsini

About a dozen people are gathered at the Barnstable Senior Center, sipping coffee and eating pie. They’re not here to socialize or play games—they’re here to talk about something many consider a taboo subject.

This is a Death Café, a free-form conversation about death guided by bereavement coordinator Brooks Reinhold. If the idea of a Death Café sounds strange, Reinhold hopes people aren’t put off by the name.

Alecia Orsini

Roger Kligler loves to walk. 

Every day, he takes his five-year-old golden retriever, Bodie, out along the paths near his Falmouth home. It’s one of Kligler’s favorite activities since retiring as a physician. He covers five miles or more a day, and logged about 3,000 miles last year.

Phillip Tracey holds up food waste waiting to be mashed and fed into the anaerobic digester at Stop and Shop's Green Energy Faciity in Freetown, MA.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Massachusetts officials say we’re on a path to zero waste, and it starts with what’s on your plate. Food waste is the single largest component of our trash and a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. A recently enacted food waste ban is forcing large institutions to find alternatives to throwing away food.

Sean Corcoran

Mashpee Town Manager Rodney Collins stopped his car and looked out the window at a sectional couch.

"A couple weeks ago, this was not here," he said.

Kathryn Eident

Cape Codders have been recycling more paper, metal and plastic than ever before, thanks to programs that make it easier to choose the blue bin over the trash can. But, with higher recycling rates come hidden costs that can flow back to residents in the form of increased fees or taxes.

Elsa Partan

For people in three towns on Cape Cod, taking out the trash means bringing it to the curb. For the rest, it means bringing it a transfer station. 

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