Hello Empowered Aging Family,
I want to start this month’s newsletter with a story about a friend we’ll call Bob. Long before Bob was a resident of a local six-bed facility in Fairfield, long before marriage, kids, grandkids, and now the unfortunate medical conditions that have made it impossible for him to live alone, Bob dreamed of being a pilot. A dream that he made come true. In the 1970s, Bob flew 747 airplanes all over the world. To this day, he still fondly recalls several unique characters lost in wanderlust as he flew them to far-away vacation destinations.
Most of the time, nowadays, Bob doesn’t remember his wife and family when they come to visit. Still, at a moment’s notice, he can tell you about the pride he felt when he got his pilot license and certainly remembers the adventures of the thousands of people he flew around the world and the many friends he made along the way.
A lot of the time, we forget that older adults, especially those living in long term care, are still people with feelings and emotions and histories to share. Just because some can’t remember the here and now or have lost the ability to communicate their needs doesn’t mean they are less or have lived less. Regardless of condition or the ability to function, we all enter our later years having lived lives filled with stories and sometimes adventures. At Empowered Aging, we see the humanity behind every person we serve as part of our mission and the work we do, but we also see the impact when society forgets this vulnerable portion of our population. Older adults and adults with disabilities still have love to give and are loved. They have made mistakes and found pride in their accomplishments. And in many ways, they have paved the way to where we are today. So, as we enter into May, recognized as Older Americans Month, I hope you can take a moment to reflect on the older adults you may know or may have known, the stories they shared with you, and how they have impacted your life.
For those of you who take the time to read our newsletter and support all that we do, thank you. I hope you’ll read on for more about what’s happening at Empowered Aging. And, if you or someone you know needs support, please reach out or have them contact our team by calling 925.658.2070.
Empowered Aging Awarded East Bay Times Share the Spirit Grant
Since the mid-90s, East Bay Times has been publishing stories about the hope and desires of some of our most vulnerable populations. Thanks to Share the Spirit – a unique partnership with nonprofit organizations, and supported through subscriber donations, the East Bay Times can give back to the community, helping support those in need. Empowered Aging is proud to be a grant recipient. These funds will go toward the future of our industry through our MSW Internship program – training the next generation of advocates, and it all started with a story from one of our recent interns, Nate, and a gentleman in long-term care we’ll call Joe. Too often, elders in long-term care have no voice. It’s our job at Empowered Aging as ombudsmen and throughout the Master of Social Work program to change that, sometimes literally. One day, Nate met Joe, who had trouble speaking due to a degenerative medical condition.
Seeing that Joe was frustrated, Nate sat down with Joe to find out more about what was going on. Joe laboriously explained that, over the prior two years, he had been trying to obtain a computerized device to enhance his communication ability. The longer Joe went without the device, the further he fell into a depressed, hopeless, and isolated state. He had felt forgotten because the staff of the skilled nursing facility (SNF) where he lived were too busy to help him get the device or listen to his concerns – they had dropped the ball.
With Joe’s permission, Nate contacted the company that made the adaptive communications device and asked what needed to happen for Joe to get his device. The customer representative said that she had been frustrated over the unnecessary delays. Over the next three months, our intern helped resident Joe submit paperwork to Social Security for income verification and worked with the SNF doctor and social worker to complete their part of the submission. Shortly after, Joe finally received his communication device, and Nate quickly saw improvements in his demeanor. His depression and isolation receded, and he became much more positive and engaged with those around him, but that’s not all. Joe also shared with Nate that it was tradition for people to give their communication device a nickname. In gratitude, Joe named the device after Nate – an Empowered Aging intern who changed his life!
Share the Spirit funding will help provide stipends for our interns working in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Funding will also support training curriculum, staff participation, expanding our reach in developing school partnerships, and more. Thank you to the East Bay Times and Share the Spirit supporters for this life-changing gift!
To learn more about our MSW Internship program, visit https://empoweredaging.org/masters-of-social-work-internship/.
Empowered Aging’s See Me. Hear Me.TM Campaign
See Me. Hear Me. Four simple words that can mean so much. To Empowered Aging staff and supporters, these are words that hold power to advocate for the people we serve – those older adults and adults with disabilities that turn to us for help when they are at their most vulnerable – at their most unseen and unheard.
Every day our team takes on the most critical issues surrounding those who need our support. We never stop fighting to raise awareness, protect against abuse or neglect, work with community partners to provide person-centered resources, and advocate for policy change that will make a difference today and tomorrow.
Inspired by World Elder Abuse Awareness Month in June, Empowered Aging is launching the See Me. Hear Me. awareness campaign to share stories of the people behind the cases we take on while preserving privacy and recognizing vulnerability.
Our goal is to help the community better understand that aging, living in care facilities, and needing the help of others to survive does not mean you lose your identity, humanity, or right to be seen and heard.
For this campaign, we have developed branded See Me. Hear Me. paddles, which are featured by our staff in the picture above. If you want to join us and receive a paddle, please email TiffanyHeard@EmpoweredAging.org.
Once received, on the back of your paddle, we ask that you write what See Me. Hear Me., and protecting older and dependent adults in need means to you. In the month of June, and well beyond, we will utilize the photos and quotes we collect to continue spreading awareness. *Note – if returning the paddle to our office or via mail is not feasible, please email your quote and photo along with the scanned photo release form to SusannahMeyer@empoweredaging.org or call Susannah Meyer, Executive Director, at (925)348-3849.
We thank you in advance for joining us in our advocacy and are excited to continue cultivating change throughout the Bay Area alongside you. If you’d like to support us in our work to protect the rights of older and dependent adults, you can donate to Empowered Aging follow this link.
Growth is an ever-present part of our culture here at Empowered Aging. It means we are expanding our reach, but it also means we are evolving to meet the changing needs of those we serve. In that spirit, we’re proud to share a few of our latest internal promotions.
Former Regional Supervisor, Promoted to Ombudsman Program Manager in Alameda County
Kiev Harris joined Empowered Aging in late 2019, bringing with him over 12 years of social service experience. In addition to his roles here as Ombudsman Support Specialist and, most recently, as Regional Supervisor in Alameda, Kiev has served in multiple capacities thorough out his career, including a case manager for homeless families, an intensive care coordinator for adolescent youth, an advocate for the reentry population and the sexually exploited, and as a benefits specialist for the elderly.
“Kiev has demonstrated dedication and devotion in meeting the needs of residents in Alameda County since he began working with our organization,” said Executive Director, Susannah Meyer. “Kiev is fiercely passionate about ensuring every resident receives quality care and is thriving. We’re excited for him to take another step in his career with Empowered Aging and look forward to his continued growth and the growth of our Ombudsman program.”
Daunje Sanders becomes New Elder Justice Program Manager
Daunje Sanders joined Empowered Aging in 2019 as a Regional Supervisor for the Solano County Ombudsman team. In 2021, she was promoted to Program Coordinator for the county and recently stepped into the role of Program Manager for the Elder Justice Program in Solano. Before Daunje’s Ombudsman role, she served for 13 years with Sutter Medical Foundation in Radiation Oncology. During her time there, she explored multiple aspects of healthcare, from clinical to administrative settings.
“My passion for helping others, especially seniors, came from my childhood experiences as my great-grandparents raised me. It’s truly an honor to advocate for those who can’t or aren’t quite sure how to use their voice, and I thank Empowered Aging for allowing me to grow with them and continue my mission of serving others.”
Christina Farnham, Former Regional Supervisor, Becomes Ombudsman Program Manager in Solano County
Christina Farnham began her career serving older adults in 2015, working at a local skilled nursing facility, but her passionate drive to help older adults was born out of a close relationship with her grandmother, who took care of Christina and her brother while they were growing up. Christina loved working at the skilled nursing facility but knew she had much more to offer. She soon transitioned into a job working alongside caregivers and Certified Nursing Assistants who provided home care. This job gave her great insight into not only the needs of our seniors but the true challenges and ageism they face. Through this experience, she knew becoming an advocate was her next step, and that’s when she joined Empowered Aging.
“I’ve been loving every minute of my time at Empowered Aging. Our seniors need to be protected and advocated for. I’m honored to help people fight for their rights, and I am thankful to Susannah and the entire team for the opportunity to take that advocacy to a new level as the Ombudsman Program Manager in Solano.”
Did You Miss Susannah’s Interview on Dishing with Debbie?
Dishing with Debbie is a weekly show hosted by Choice in Aging President and CEO Debbie Toth. Each week Debbie interviews a special guest to discuss relevant topics related to the world of aging. In a recent episode, Debbie sits down with our Executive Director, Susannah Meyer, to discuss Empowered Aging, how we serve the community, and more about her roles as Executive Director and Vice Mayor for the City of Brentwood. Watch Now!
Join Our Board of Directors!
Empowered Aging Board of Directors is actively seeking passionate and diverse individuals to help guide the organization as we expand our reach across the Bay Area. Empowered Aging board members have the privilege of working collaboratively to address the challenges and changes in the world that impact the older adult community by helping build a more equitable journey in aging.
You will work alongside other community leaders with experience in family law, mediation, the financial industry, business development, merger and acquisitions, private sector healthcare, government, private sector, healthcare/pharmaceutical consulting, and retired service members.
If you are passionate about eliminating barriers and changing perceptions of the world of aging, can commit to spending 4-10 hours per month doing board work, and have experience in: fundraising, marketing, public affairs, public policy, legal/regulatory, financial, technical, direct service to the community we serve, strategic planning, or program management skills, we want to hear from you!
Interested candidates can complete our board interest application to be vetted by our team. To submit your application, please visit https://EmpoweredAging.org/Get-Involved/Board-Opportunities/. We look forward to connecting with you.
Register Now to Join Us for WEAAD!
Empowered Aging is proud to once again be a planning partner for the statewide World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event on Thursday, June 1st, from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Our keynote speaker this year will be Margot Bushel, MD, a professor of medicine at UCSF, who will highlight her research on reducing the burden of homelessness on healthcare outcomes. There will also be a panel discussion with two state departments and a non-profit agency that works to provide housing to older adults and people with disabilities. The in-person gathering will be held at the California Department of Social Services headquarters in Sacramento. There will also be the option to join via Zoom. To register to attend the event, in-person, follow this link. And to join us virtually, use this link to register.
Empowered Aging is Hiring!
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.
Volunteer with Our Team!
Without volunteers, the Empowered Aging mission would not be possible. The selfless individuals who graciously donate so much of their time support older adults and adults with disabilities by helping bring their voices forward and encouraging them to advocate for themselves and their peers. If you want to be a part of our life-changing work, please sign up to volunteer by visiting www.EmpoweredAging.org/Get-Involved.
Donate to Empowered Aging!
Elder abuse is a serious problem in the United States and is more common than you may realize. According to the CDC, 1 in 10 people aged 60 and older living at home experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Data from 2002 – 2016 shows that more than 643,000 older adults were hospitalized and treated for nonfatal assaults.
Our mission at Empowered Aging is to keep older adults engaged and active in their communities and where they live, while fighting elder abuse and ageism. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support to help keep our programs going and expand our reach. Visit www.EmpoweredAging.org/Donate to learn how you can make a difference today!