Generous gestures

RENEWED STRENGTH The selfless dedication of active senior volunteers help motivate others to action.

As the year winds down, I find myself in a reflective mood. Maybe it is due to hearing renditions of “Auld Lang Syne” everywhere I go. Here at Live Oak Adult Day Services, we welcomed many new seniors this year and we, sadly, have mourned the loss of others. The staff here is often asked how we cope with such loss. Basically, we focus on making each day special for the seniors here, and when they are no longer with us we know that we helped them to feel appreciated while they were part of the program. Those thoughts console us.
I also think about those who have inspired us this year. Renette Torres comes to mind. I just happened to run into her in a doctor’s waiting room when I was dropping off Live Oak brochures. She said, “I’m a senior. Tell me about your program.” Hearing that we have guest speakers on occasion, she said, “I can come and speak. I’m 82, I’ve written two books about coping with widowhood, I’ve started several businesses and I’ve traveled all over the world.” She has been coming to Live Oak every month to share her experiences, including her challenging recuperation from a recent serious injury. It has not dampened her enthusiastic attitude, her love of fellow seniors, and her desire to share with widows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I feel braver when I hear her speak, and she leaves our staff with renewed vigor while we work with seniors coping with many issues of their own.
I think about Mary Jane, who has been volunteering here since her husband died last year. They had known each other for 70 years, and we are honored that in her grief she decided to reach out to others. She has been a loving, gentle presence here. We appreciate her long history of advocating for local senior services. When we have a particularly challenging day, her grace inspires us. We also feel such inspiration as we interact with all the family caregivers who strive to provide loving care to their frail elders. Some of them are weary after years of caregiving, others are just beginning this journey. I have been especially in awe of Bob, who has been the primary caregiver for his sweet wife for quite a while now. She has dementia, which can be so heartbreaking, but watching how his face lights up when he picks her up at the end of the day makes everyone take heart. He is so kind and gentle with her.
Lynn is like that with her mom, who is now well over 90 years old and has needed more and more assistance this past year. Lynn will cheerfully tell us, “She only woke me up three times last night,” and I wonder if, under the same circumstances, I could be as wide-awake and raring to go as Lynn.
We all know people who give us strength and confidence, who inspire us to work hard and be kind to others. Our community is full of such wonderful people, and I am so grateful for those who inspired us at Live Oak all year long.
Cheryl Huguenor is the program director at Live Oak Adult Day Services in Gilroy. For more information visit

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