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THE SENIOR RESOURCE ASSOCIATION IS THE GO-TO-PLACE FOR SERVICES THAT SUPPORT THE INDEPENDENCE OF OLDER ADULTS AND TRANSPORTATION FOR ALL

SERVING OUR SENIORS

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Serving Our Seniors THE SENIOR RESOURCE ASSOCIATION IS THE GO-TO-PLACE FOR SERVICES THAT SUPPORT THE INDEPENDENCE OF OLDER ADULTS AND TRANSPORTATION FOR ALL. WRITTEN BY ANN TAYLOR G

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BY GREG HILLS

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f it’s 9:30 on Thursday morning, John Dearman can be counted on to walk through the kitchen door of Schumann Center tot-

Meals on Wheels volunteer John Dearman looks forward to Thursday mornings when he packs up his coolers and sets out to deliver meals to homebound seniors on his route.

ing empty styrofoam containers and sporting a big smile. As a Senior Resource Association Meals on

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Wheels volunteer, John delights in delivering hot, nutritious

themselves. An additional 32,256 congregate meals were

meals to older adults who may not have the resources neces-

served at various locations throughout the community. Food

sary to prepare or purchase food on their own.

insecurity, the economic and social condition of limited ac-

Yet there’s more to why the retired dentist from North

cess to adequate food, affects older adults more than the gen-

Carolina has been making these visits for 20 years. “Meals are

eral population. As a result, they are more likely to be at an

just the tip of the iceberg,” says John as he looks over the list

increased risk for chronic health conditions.

of names on his route. “For some of these folks, I’m the only

Meals on Wheels is just one of the essential services of-

person they will see and talk with all day. While I’m there, I

fered by the Senior Resource Association, the lead agency

check to make sure they’re doing okay health wise. If they

on aging in Indian River County. Established in 1974 as the

need something, I try my best to help. We’ve become friends,

Council on Aging, the nonprofit organization advocates for

and I look forward to seeing and spending time with them.”

the independence and dignity of older adults by providing

In turn, they are often waiting at an open door when he

services that meet their nutritional, social, and transportation

arrives, anticipation shining in their eyes. John knows their

needs as well as those of their caregivers. While a list of ser-

nutritional needs; and if they have a pet, he makes sure to

vices, such as Adult Day Care, GoLine and Community Coach,

tuck in food for Fido or Fluffy. Donations from Publix, Panera

offers an overview, it’s the words spoken by clients, volun-

Bread and Einstein Bagels add to the daily bounty. “I’m 90

teers, and staff that tell the heart of the story.

years old, and I’m going to be doing this as long as I can,” says John. “There’s such a critical need, and I feel blessed to be able to help.” Last year the association delivered 58,629 daily meals to homebound seniors who are unable to prepare meals for

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ake May Brandt, whose husband, Fred, a retired college professor of philosophy and business management, is considered a “regular” at the associ-

ation’s Adult Day Care Center on 14th Street in Vero Beach.


Linda Cassidy stocks freezer shelves with prepackaged nutritious meals. These meals are used to tide Meals on Wheels clients over weekends and are available on request.

It, like the center on Davis Street in Sebastian, is a veritable

welcome individuals 18 years of age and older who require su-

hub of happiness where music, dancing, art, exercising, trivia,

pervised care in a safe setting. Licensed by the state’s Agency

puzzles, card and table games provide mental and physical

of Health Care Administration, the two centers, completely re-

stimulation as well as social interaction. With a 5 to 1 client-

furbished thanks to grants from Indian River Impact 100 and

to-staff member ratio, the care and attention is extraordinary.

additional philanthropic dollars, are open Monday through

“I call it a miracle place because at this point Fred doesn’t

Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A monthly calendar of events is

realize he has dementia, and he’s very resistant to doing some

jam packed with activities that entertain, engage and educate.

things,” says May. “Every Sunday evening Fred asks if I’ll be

There’s News, Chit Chats, Light and Lively Exercise; Match

able to take him to the center the next morning so he can

Games, Patio Walks, and Art Projects, thanks to a partnership

help Claire [Foceri, Licensed Practical Nurse]. He sets out his

with the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

clothes and gets up early so he can be ready on time. When

Music lovers can’t keep their toes from tapping and hands

we get there, he heads straight for Claire’s office. She makes

from clapping when Mary Margaret Perhaes lets her fingers fly

him feel needed. Everyone who works at the center is quite

over the piano keys. Every Tuesday afternoon, the 91-year-old

exceptional.”

Carnegie Mellon music graduate plays favorites like “Yankee

Phyllis Gemboski, another “regular,” agrees. “Coming here

Doodle Dandy” as those in the audience belt out the famil-

has changed my life,” says the former gift shop owner and

iar words. Every other Wednesday afternoon, it’s time for DJ

cancer survivor, who is the first to arrive when the center

Hobo Jim to spin tunes that get everyone up and out on the

doors open at 7:30 a.m. “My daughter drops me off on her

dance floor. The joy factor is off the charts.

way to work, and I spend the day here. There’s so much to do.

“When I go into the Adult Day Care centers and see what’s

I especially like to play bingo, bridge and poker, which I didn’t

happening, then I know all of the planning and hard work is

know anything about until my late husband taught me. I got

worth it,” says Karen Deigl, association president, chief ex-

so good I ended up beating him. I’m pretty competitive.” The

ecutive officer, and head cheerleader. “While we’re providing

grin on Phyllis’ face says it all.

direct service to the senior, the other side of it is that the fam-

Senior Resource Association Adult Day Care centers

ily knows mom and dad are having a good time and are being

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Teamwork pays off as a volunteer helps ensure meals remain hot before delivery.

A Meals on Wheels volunteer makes sure to tuck in an extra carton of milk. If a client has a pet, a can of cat or dog food is included.

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An Adult Day Care client concentrates on finding the right piece to the puzzle she’s working on, savoring a sense of accomplishment as the picture begins to emerge.

well taken care of. Caregivers need the respite time so they can run errands and take care of personal items. The service we’re providing leads to a better quality of life for so many people. I feel so blessed to have this job.”

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ince Karen came on board 10 years ago, the association has undergone a transformation, starting with the former name Council on Aging. “We did focus groups and

surveys, and not once was the word ‘aging’ used when describing what we do. We’re a resource, a place for people to go for information about services that support older adults.” Another major change involves public transportation. “The transit system has been in Indian River County since 1986,” Karen points out. “When I started here, the buses were all white, and people really didn’t know much about the system. There were six or seven routes in place, with about 250,000 trips a year.” That was then, this is now. Renamed the GoLine, buses painted with tropical leaves and flowers can be seen traveling throughout the county. According to Transit Operations Manager Chris Stephenson, last year there were 1,131,787 trips on 16 fixed routes. A transit hub at 4385 43rd Avenue was established, and maps with color-coded routes created, making it easy for riders to take GoLine buses to work, school, medical appointments, grocery stores, the mall, beach and dozens of other locations. There is no charge to ride GoLine; however, donations are greatly appreciated. “We have 56 drivers, who are all licensed and trained in

An Adult Day Care staff member and client step lively to the music of DJ Hobo Jim who plays “Oldies But Goodies” on Wednesday afternoons.

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Volunteers not only deliver meals to clients’ homes, they provide a daily wellness check and socialization.

Adult Day Care clients unleash their creativity as volunteers from the Vero Beach Museum of Art arrive armed with supplies, in this case watercolors.

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Pedro is one of GoLine’s 56 bus drivers who provide transportation service on 16 fixed routes throughout Indian River County.

customer service, safety and security,” says Karen, who points to a monitor screen showing the color-coded routes and where buses are in real time. “We have an app called ‘Route Shout’ for your cell phone that tells you what time the bus will be at a particular stop. One of our most popular pick ups is at the Vero Beach Marina on Route 1, which goes to Miracle Mile where those living aboard can get groceries and do other shopping.” Colleen Cox, whose disabled daughter Chelsea depends on the bus, lives on that route. She can’t say enough about the public transportation service. “Because of GoLine Chelsea, who is unable to drive herself, is able to get around town. It allows her a degree of independence,” says Colleen, who has first-hand rid-

A smiling Meals on Wheels volunteer heads home after delivering meals to clients on her route.

ing experiences of her own. “When my car broke down, GoLine allowed me to continue working; and when Chelsea was hospitalized, I took the bus to see her. There’s a group of people that ride the same bus at the same time every day. Kids going to school, people going to work – everybody forms a kind of community, which is really neat.” For those needing door-to-door assisted transportation there’s Community Coach. Vans are wheelchair accessible and reservations are on a first-service basis. All eligible riders and companions pay $2.00 per one-way trip.

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here is much that can be written about the services the Senior Resource Association provides and how the agency touches lives. Perhaps a new brochure titled

“Life is a Journey” tells it best. It focuses on Meals on Wheels and a husband and wife, who over the course of 74 years of marriage raised a family, worked, played and always ended the day having dinner together. By the time they were in their 90s, they found it

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Linda Cassidy holds a colorful pop-up card for Florence Redstone, who celebrated her 104th birthday in March.

GREG HILLS

Grace, a happy Adult Day Care Center client, looks forward to spending her weekdays engaged in activities she enjoys.

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nearly impossible to cook a hot meal on their own. For them and

“On my route there’s a woman, Lillian, who’s about 90-years-

so many others, Meals on Wheels is a lifeline, and the demand is

old and most grateful for our daily deliveries. She’s very live-

growing.

ly, alert, and fun to be around. We always chat for a few

Denise Hegener wasn’t tuned in to what Meals on Wheels was

minutes, but the other day she was a little down because of

all about until a few years ago when she heard about a bingo

a recent loss. Someone she had been caring for died. I stayed

event to raise money for the program. “It sounded like fun, so

a little longer so she could tell me what happened. Lillian

I decided to go. That’s when I heard people talking about how

appreciated that. Making a small difference in someone’s life

crucial the need for funding and volunteer drivers was. Meals on

is what draws me back to help as much as I possibly can.”

Wheels has become a passion for me,” says Denise, who with her

To learn more about Senior Resource Association

dog Penny Lane, has been delivering meals ever since, every week,

and ways you can become involved, visit www.seniorresource-

sometimes every day, if there’s a shortage of volunteers.

association.org or call 772-569-0760. `

Karen Deigl gives high praise to her management team: Chris Stephenson, Shawna Callaghan, Cheryl Stephens, Deigl, Jennifer Johnson, and Michele Peters.

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