Hello Empowered Aging Family,
I hope this email finds you well, and I appreciate you taking the time to read about what we’ve been up to here at Empowered Aging. I can’t believe it’s March already – it feels like we just figured out our New Year’s resolutions! It’s definitely been busy, but I’m always surprised by how caught up in the hustle and bustle we get.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reminding myself to take any chance to slow down and soak up the little moments. And, in those moments, I’ve been thinking about the dynamic, loving community of older adults we serve and their resiliency. They have lived through love, loss, times of war, times of peace, and of course, most recently, a catastrophic pandemic and even inflation, all impacting how they live, engage, connect, and thrive in our communities. But let’s go back to that first one, love. Love sees us through thick and thin. The good times and the bad.
On March 4th, I had the opportunity to join the celebration of life for Julie Thomas. Julie was an ombudsman volunteer who served with Empowered Aging for forty years, starting in 1978. Julie passed away in early January at the age of 101. We will be sharing more of Julie’s story in this issue, but the celebration of her life was so moving, and it was an honor to be able to give thanks on behalf of the organization and also thank her family and friends for sharing such a remarkable woman with us for all those years. She truly did live an incredible life. It’s the stories and experiences like Julie’s that inspire us to work a little harder, to stand a little straighter, and hold on a little tighter to those who are most important.
I hope you all remember to love yourself and others because that is what gives us the strength to make it through anything life throws our way.
In addition to sharing more about Julie, this month we are highlighting some field insights from our team in our Empowered Aging Live video, we’ll introduce you to a new board member and our new ombudsman support specialist, announce an exciting new team member promotion, and more. Thank you again for all that you do for the older adults and adults with disabilities in our community. If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out or have them contact our team by calling 925.658.2070.
For Julie Thomas, the mission to serve others started early in life. After completing her nursing degree at the University of Michigan, Julie enlisted as an Army nurse during World War II. She began her voyage across the Atlantic with her unit and other infantry divisions to shake German U-boats. When they reached Europe, Julie served in Southern England at a US tent and “hut” hospital known as the 112th General Hospital as a second lieutenant managing a ward of 30. As wounded arrived by air, directly from the front lines, Julie volunteered to work directly with soldiers with war-induced mental issues and those with significant physical wounds.
After the war, Julie was placed in the inactive Army nurses’ reserves and went back to college at UC Berkeley. She then moved with her husband George, whom she had met when he was a young medical officer prior to her time in Europe, and now a dentist, to a small ranch in the hills of Contra Costa County to raise a family that included four rambunctious boys, Randall, Brian, Scott, and Stanton. Julie began her 40-year role as a volunteer ombudsman with Empowered Aging during this time. She also took up additional community activities for other organizations, including the Benicia Yacht Club, the Episcopal Church in Benicia, and her own residential community. She also volunteered with Benicia’s Welcome Wagon, the Benicia Museum, and helped run the Benicia Yacht Club races for many years.
Julie later moved to Fairfield’s military retirement community at Paradise Valley Estates, where she continued expanding her volunteer role in their Health Care Center as part of the residents’ Health Committee. She was also active in the community’s Sunday Service organization, choir, show-tune extravaganzas, and sports activities.
Before her husband’s death, Julie and George were in one of the first medical group exchanges with China following the end of the Cultural Revolution. After his passing, Julie continued her explorations abroad to Europe and Asia. In addition, she took a great interest in exploring Buddhist philosophy and faith.
Julie is survived by her brother, three sons, daughter-in-law Susan, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, and relatives abroad.
From all of us at Empowered Aging, we would like to thank Julie for dedicating a part of her life to serving the older adults and adults with disabilities in our community. Julie’s contributions have left a significant mark not just locally but across the world, and her legacy will live on through her commitment to services and sharing the joy in life.
Empowered Aging is thrilled to announce that Alameda County Ombudsman Program Manager Charmaine Brent, has been promoted to Director of Programs and Services. Charmaine joined Empowered Aging in 2019 as Lead Regional Supervisor in Alameda for our Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. In her role, she quickly demonstrated her operational strengths in managing day-to-day activities while taking the lead in executing stronger oversight and investigational skills to combat abuse and neglect within the county’s long-term care facilities.
In 2021, just shy of two years with Empowered Aging, Charmaine was promoted to Ombudsman Program Coordinator, charged with overall program development and management and the supervision of program staff and volunteers. As Director of Programs and Services, Charmaine will oversee the coordination and administration of all aspects of the Empowered Aging programs, including planning, organizing, staffing, leading program activities, tracking data, and managing program evaluation efforts, among other leadership and team management responsibilities.
“This position holds a lot of responsibility at the agency and requires strong leadership and organizational skills along with an advanced understanding of Empowered Aging’s programs and communities served,” said Executive Director Susannah Meyer. “Charmaine is a highly respected leader in our organization as well as the communities we serve. In my experience working with Charmaine, I know her to be extremely talented, dedicated, and knowledgeable. I’m thrilled that she has accepted the opportunity to fill this role and look forward to supporting her work as she oversees all programs and services in all three counties.”
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), one in four older adults experiences a mental health disorder such as anxiety, dementia, or depression during their lifetime. Unfortunately, our society at large forgets that mental health is a real issue for older adults. It doesn’t go away as we age. There seem to be numerous resources and services for young adults and middle-aged individuals, but where are the resources and services for those who are 60, 70, or 80 and beyond?
As elder care professionals, we see a significant gap in this part of the aging continuum, a gap that our teams work to address when they are out in the field connecting with seniors, investigating complaints, advocating, and helping seniors speak up and speak out. And while we realize the central role we all play in promoting mental health, we must also protect our own mental health so we can continue to enhance our skills, transfer those skills, and give back in a way that drives a long-term culture shift. We hope you will join us for a meaningful discussion on mental health in the elder care community as Empowered Aging staff shares their insights personally and from the field.
Save the Date: WEAAD Statewide Event!
Every year, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is celebrated in June, an annual recognition established to bring attention to the problem of elder abuse and neglect, which affects millions of aging Americans. For a second year in a row Empowered Aging is proud to be a planning partner in the statewide event. This year’s event will focus on the response to homelessness among older adults and adults with disabilities. The in-person gathering will be held on Thursday June 1st from 2:00 – 5:00 PM at the California Department of Social Services headquarters in Sacramento. There will also be the option to join via Zoom. While registration has not yet opened up, we wanted to get this even on your radar in hopes that you will join us as we come together to raise awareness and fight elder abuse.
Empowered Aging is looking for kind, compassionate, driven, and service-oriented people to join our expanding team. If you are dedicated to protecting the quality of life for older adults, then we want to hear from you. For more information on our current job openings and to apply, please visit our job listings.
Know someone else who fits the bill? Feel free to forward this email or share the link to our career portal.
Kindness is more than a gift from one person to another – it’s a gift to the whole community. If you’re looking for a way to give back, start here at Empowered Aging! By volunteering as a field ombudsman, auxiliary ombudsman, or Solano county friendly visitor with our team, you can help seniors in your local community maintain autonomy, independence, and dignity. Our work is powered by you! Learn more about how you can help by visiting https://EmpoweredAging.org/Get-Involved.
Did you know there are 56 million adults ages 65 and older in the US? That’s 16.9% of the population. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to 73.1 million, which means 1 in 5 people will be at retirement age.
The need for oversight, advocacy, and support to help older adults age how they see fit increases with time. At Empowered Aging, we mobilize communities to lift up the voices of all older adults. Everyone deserves to remain connected and engaged with their communities, regardless of age.
Ready to learn more about how YOU can support our mission? Visit EmpoweredAging.org/Ways-to-Give today.