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Embracing the seniors in our community is a gift

COMMUNITY

Posted: January 12, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 12, 2014 2:00 a.m.

A photo of Stephanie Sauer's hands and that of her clients from the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. Stephanie Sauer/Courtesy photo

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While in elementary school and all through junior college I was very unsure what I wanted to “do” when I grew up.

I went through several areas including marine biology, English major, sociology major, President of Ireland (yes, seriously), psychology - and the list goes on.

I finished my AA degree in Transfer Studies, which is because I had such a wide array of classes and subjects under my belt. While earning my degree I began working for a local assisted living facility as a receptionist. And from then on I knew my purpose in life was to work with seniors, not only that, but I realized that I am good at it.

From junior college I went on to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and finally moved on to University of La Verne to earn my Masters in Gerontology (MSG).

Over the years, while I spent time working on my education, I continued to fall more and more in love with seniors, their families and most importantly helping them.

Following the five years I worked in the assisted living facility I spent five years working in a HUD subsidized apartment building, which was designated for either seniors age 62 and over who financially qualified; and also for individuals that were considered ‘chronically mentally ill’ over the age of 18 who met the same financial qualifications.

Though I enjoyed my job greatly, the commute I was enduring daily was starting to get to me, as well as a physical condition I was suffering through, so I trekked back to Santa Clarita.

After taking some time off to have a surgery I so desperately needed for a physical condition, the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center seemed like my most logical and exciting next step to take—it almost felt like a “coming home” of sorts.

Since February of 2013, I’ve been working in the Supportive Services Department as a Care Manager, and as the Health and Wellness Coordinator. In my work I coordinate educational and health-focused events each week for the seniors to enjoy and learn from.

I have developed a caregiver support group, called Caregiver Bootcamp, which is designed for the family member who is often suddenly thrust into the role of caregiving. We have had two very successful groups and will begin the third group this January 22 which will run for ten consecutive Thursday evenings from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the SCV Senior Center.

I also have clients that I assist with advocating, providing emotional and social support, drafting care plans, monitoring, connecting to services, working with families of the seniors, etc.

Collectively, at the Senior Center, we work to keep seniors living at home as long as it is safely possible through the variety of services offered.

In the short time that I’ve been with the SCVSC I’ve been told - more times than I can count - by our seniors that they don’t know what they would do without the senior center. Sometimes the interaction they receive at the center could be the only interaction they get all day.

I deeply and truly believe that my work with seniors is life-saving work. I get to ensure that the seniors I work with feel valued, important and loved. And, it can be done in the most simple of ways.

One client of mine recently had her teeth worked on and was on a soft diet. She had had a hard day. When I dropped her off at home, I ran through Wendy’s and brought her a chocolate softie. When I brought it to her tears welled in her eyes.

“What would I do without you?” she said.

I have collected several stories like this in my career span and they never cease to warm my heart. Things that are so simple, and are often overlooked, can truly make a difference in someone’s life.

I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to be able to do the work I so love, and to be able to see and feel the differences I’m able to make in the lives of my clients.

I found a quote that I think sums up the experience of both employees and the seniors that we have at our center: “Go where you are celebrated - not tolerated.”

Unfortunately it is an anonymous quote, but as a society we do not revere our seniors. In fact disrespect, neglect and ignorance are more commonplace.

However, this past Christmas season I was able to witness firsthand the generosity within our Santa Clarita Valley as we had 150-plus gifts delivered to our homebound seniors from various families within our valley.

I delivered a great number of the gifts myself, and I cannot even put words to the gratitude and love that was felt by our seniors in receiving these presents.

The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center offers our community seniors a place to spend their days, in a safe environment, surrounded by people that truly care about them as individuals.

It truly feels like a giant family. Not only are seniors able to socialize with people their own age, but through staff, volunteers and community members, they are also allowed to experience respect and assistance, while keeping their dignity intact.

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