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Hello Empowered Aging Family,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Here at Empowered Aging, our team has been going through some transitions. Unfortunately, you may have heard that we recently lost our Ombudsman Program Manager in Contra Costa, Debra Hanschar. For over 19 years, Debra was dedicated to our Ombudsman Program, touching the lives of tens of thousands of older adults and their families. Debra’s industry knowledge led to her taking part in training volunteers, interns, and new staff members. She loved working with every long-term care resident she met and saw herself as a protector of those she served, especially those who couldn’t speak for themselves.
Although she is no longer here in person, her presence is very much felt. We’ve had an overwhelming response from community members, organizations, and partners about how committed she was as an advocate. Our team has been sharing stories and talking about the incredible work she did throughout our communities, which got me thinking about what it means to leave a legacy. A lot of times, we get caught up in the material items we have or how much money we’re leaving behind. But in reality, a legacy isn’t just about leaving what you’ve earned and acquired throughout your lifetime. Instead, isn’t it more about what you’ve learned and the lives you’ve touched? Your personal history, your life experiences, and what you’ve taught others? Debra’s contributions have left a significant mark on Empowered Aging, and we will be forever grateful to her for them.

If you received our previous email, you may have read that Empowered Aging will be hosting a celebration of life in Pleasant Hill on October 6th. If you are interested in joining us, please confirm by sending me an email at, and I will get back to you with more specific details, including the time and location. In lieu of flowers, Debra’s family has asked that you consider donating to Empowered Aging on her behalf. When I spoke with Debra’s niece, Katie Brenner, she shared a wonderful message with me, saying, “Aunt Debbie spoke often about the love she had for her job and helping people every day. Her love for life was infectious. She felt everyone had the right to enjoy every moment they had. She enjoyed helping her clients and felt that it was a gift to work for them!”

All designated proceeds will be set aside in an emergency fund and used to improve the quality of life and safety for long-term care residents, whether that be someone who needs pajamas and slippers to bring them comfort, a fan for their room during extreme heat episodes, reading materials to keep them active and engaged, or even a birthday cake to celebrate if they have no loved ones nearby to help with that. We want them to feel the protection and extra love that Debra always delivered.

On behalf of everyone at Empowered Aging, we thank you again for your unwavering support during this challenging time.

Best wishes,


Susannah Meyer
Executive Director

Want to Stay Connected with Our Executive Director and All the Things Happening at Our Organization? Download Susannah’s contact information below right to your phone. If you or someone you know needs help, is looking for the right resources, or has questions, please get in touch.

Training a New Generation of Advocates

Internships are a vital part of higher education that allows an individual the opportunity to put what they learn into practice, gain field exposure, establish critical networking connections, and more. In fact, The National Associate of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that students who graduate with internship experience are more likely to find employment after college and see more success with a full-time job than those without. But, above all, students want their internships to be meaningful experiences where they can develop important skills and positively impact those they serve. And that’s particularly true of those working on their Master of Social Work. “Over the past several years, we’ve seen a shortage across disciplines in gerontological advocacy, and specifically among social workers, which has become increasingly worse since the pandemic,” said Executive Director, Susannah Meyer. “Our MSW Internship program has directly responded to this urgent need in our industry.”

When we started the MSW Internship program in 2016, we were thrilled to work with students exploring their options to help grow and enhance the elder care industry. But since then, this program has become so much more. Unlike other internship programs where a social worker will be assigned a couple of interns to supervise, our MSW Internship program is a department of its own. We have an Internship Coordinator whose sole job is to recruit, interview, recommend, help train and evaluate interns, and who is also the liaison with universities. Our Ombudsman staff members act as task supervisors and advisors for additional one-on-one support.

We are laser-focused on supporting, educating, training, and mentoring every intern that walks through our door. It starts with our university partnerships at schools, including the University of California, Berkeley, Cal State, East Bay, University of the Pacific, Humboldt State University, and the University of Massachusetts Global, connecting us with highly qualified candidates. Our program provides full training coupled with hands-on experience advocating for long-term care residents, allowing students to obtain 10 hours of field shadowing and 36 hours of module training for a resume-worthy certification as a long-term care ombudsman. Their duties include making unannounced facility visits, investigating allegations of elder abuse, educating residents and families about residents’ rights, and advocating for safe discharge plans.

Each intern is placed at one of our three offices and is assigned 20 facilities they visit regularly. In addition to their learning experiences, all students receive a stipend, they are reimbursed for mileage, and we cover their National Association of Social Worker (NASW) dues.

“As more individuals pass through the program, we are helping to ease the shortage of qualified ombudsman, introducing a new generation of highly trained individuals to the elder care field,” Susannah continued. “We’ve had a handful of students continue on in adult and aging services. In fact, one now works with Empowered Aging.”

The MSW Internship Program is now in its sixth year and is back in full swing post-pandemic, hosting five new students for the 2022-2023 academic school year.

MSW Internship Spotlight: A Foot in the Door

We once received a complaint about a resident, let’s call her Jane, who had been secluding herself in her room, not coming down to meals, and when she would open her door, other residents would complain about an unpleasant smell emanating. Facility staff tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t let anyone in, and they suspected Jane had an issue with hoarding. The facility, finally close to evicting Jane, referred this issue to one of our MSW Interns, Ashley.

The first time Ashley tried to talk to Jane, she refused to open the door more than a crack or engage in any conversation. Much to Ashley’s alarm, she noticed bugs crawling in Jane’s hair. Concerned about what she saw, Ashley tried checking in with Jane a week later. This time, Jane opened the door a little further and carried out a short conversation. By the third meeting, Jane let Ashley enter her room, the first person able to step foot in there for a very long time. The hoarding and filth were overwhelming, but luckily, Ashley got Jane to agree to a meeting with the facility so everybody could work on solving this issue. Jane later confided in Ashley that she wouldn’t let anyone in because she felt judged and pressured by other residents and facility staff. But with Ashley, gentle yet regular engagement made Jane feel remembered, cared for, and heard.

Volunteering with Empowered Aging is a life-changing opportunity for volunteers and older adults who rely on regular check-ins and a voice that lifts theirs. We wouldn’t be able to spread the reach of our mission without compassionate dedication that,

• Encourages seniors to speak out and reclaim their rights
• Provides education to increase awareness of challenges facing older adults
• Offers support and engagement in combating isolation and loneliness

And that’s just the start. We have spots open through our Friendly Visiting in Solano County and Field Ombudsman teams in all three counties. In addition, we are working on creating volunteer positions involving administrative and outreach duties. If you or someone you know has a spare 2-3 hours a week, we want to hear from you. Visit for more.

See your contributions in action not just today or tomorrow, but month after month and year after year with a recurring gift. At Empowered Aging, our goal is to drive change and create a more equitable journey in aging for everyone. That’s right, EVERYONE. This includes those of us who haven’t even reached a transition to our later years in life. By becoming a monthly donor, you can create an impact that extends beyond the here, and now and sparks change well into the future. Set up your monthly gift today. >>