BOOTH’S BOOMER PERSPECTIVE

DCSS TAKING CARE OF NEEDS AND LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

| 2014 Q3 | story by HANK BOOTH    | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
Boomer perspective

Left to right: Long time volunteers Craig Tucker (11 years), Evan Jorn (eight years), Hank Booth, Mary Taylor (18 years), Susie Rice (20 years) and Earl Nehring (two years).

All of us folks in this new “Boomer Generation” have watched our parents, relatives and friends grow older and reach that magical retirement age of 65.

There’s one big problem. For many, there hasn’t been anything magical about it. Some, even with Social Security and a retirement fund, don’t have the resources to walk away from their jobs and maintain the standard of living they’ve reached during their younger years. Many simply like to work, love their jobs and don’t want to stop getting a paycheck just because they’ve turned a certain age. Retirement can wait. Most of the time their employers are happy they want to continue.

Whether they retire or not, many find they need special services and don’t have family nearby to help take care of the basics. Meal preparation, transportation, help with legal and financial problems, entertainment and simply companionship are some of those key elements of living a comfortable life. Since 1972, Douglas County Senior Services has been an active provider of those services and advocate for seniors in Lawrence and this county we call home.

Now we’ve reached a new era in aging America: enter the Baby Boomers. Ten thousand men and woman reach age 65 daily in the U.S. One thing I’ve found we share is little interest in being the same kind of senior citizens our parents were. We don’t even like being called seniors, retirees and certainly not elderly retirees. OK, so what’s that mean to an organization called Douglas County Senior Services? Great folks, who have been helping “the elderly” for decades and doing a real good job. But, there’s a new gang in town and we have many new and different expectations. Hundreds of seniors who came before the new bunch of boomers will still depend on the old plan of action at meal sites, transportation to the doctor’s office, etc. However, what else will be needed and expected in the years to come as the boomer generation expands to become one-third of the U.S. population?

At DCSS there have been many directors that led the organization, several of those people were there for a very short period of time. Today, the center’s director is Kristen Scheuer, a strong leader with excellent marketing skills and many ideas for creating a new direction for DCSS. Scheuer is pleased to have several long-time employees who know how the system has worked best in the past while she undertakes the improvements needed to build an organization for the future. Those folks behind the scenes who have been with the DCSS for many years have carried out the tasks necessary to make the show run smoothly. One of those individuals, Lois Meade, recently retired. Meade took care of so many office activities that it’s impossible to list them all, and she truly loved the people she worked for at the center, which were the seniors. Janet Ikenberry, the Community Services Director, has been with DCSS for nearly 22 years and can remember when there were a dozen full-time employees taking care of the day-to-day business. Today, there are six and two to three part-time people on the payroll. Ikenberry started running the “Friendly Visitor Program,” which went out into the community to talk to seniors about their particular needs. That program has been consolidated, but Medicare counseling and the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansans, or SCHICK, are a big part of her work today.

Boomer perspective

DCSS staff (back row left to right): Darrell Shuck, Hank Booth, Tina Roberts and Kale Atwood. DCSS staff front row (left to right): Kristen Scheuer, Kathryn Newman, Shirley Brown and Janet Ikenberry.

Tina Roberts, the Resource Development Manager, has been with DCSS for seven years and went there because she loves working with seniors. Her primary task is finding the resources and finances to pay for meals, transportation management, care givers support, Safe Winter Walkways and general community services. Roberts is quick to point out that with limited staff available, everyone does a little bit of everything. For good measure, Roberts takes care of everything from media news releases to the custodial staff. Carol Mason has spent 25 years taking care of the Eudora Meals Site and Katherine Newman has taken care of the Lawrence Center’s meals program for many years.

Volunteers are a major part of the work force for DCSS. Last year, more than 2,000 people received help with their taxes and about that many were helped through the SCHICK program. DCSS is a “people first” organization and even with changes planned will remain dedicated to better living for older residents of Douglas County.
Watch for changes ahead as DCSS, their Board of Directors and employees go to work on the task of Reinventing Retirement.

Watch for changes ahead as DCSS, their Board of Directors and employees go to work on the task of Reinventing Retirement.

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