A Page on Age: Let"s revere the old

By Betsy Zuber' email='

People tell me "I don't like getting older." In this country our culture tends to revere the young and discount the old. So why did I choose to work with older adults? I was 15 when my maternal grandparents moved from eastern Oregon to an apartment in Bellevue near our home. My mother asked me, and I thought nothing of it, to bike over after school to check on grandma and grandpa. Grandma always offered up specially prepared food when I arrived and grandpa was ready with a deck of cards. I realize now how lucky I was to have them close by and to spend time with them learning about my cultural heritage over fresh potato pancakes and cinnamon rolls. My grandfather's German accent would slip out when he started losing at cards and grandma's quick wit kept me on my toes. They moved here to be closer to family as their health was becoming problematic. I got to spend six months with my grandfather before he died. I then helped my grandmother with weekly tasks such as grocery shopping, getting to church and errands. (At 16, I was eager to use any excuse to borrow the family car.) I have always been drawn to helping others. I was the one in the church group to volunteer to visit residents at the local nursing home. I was one of the few junior volunteers at Overlake Hospital willing to spend time on the ward where older adults were treated. I believe my early experiences led me in later life to provide service to older adults. I watched my grandparents' health fail and noticed the courage they displayed in living life to the fullest despite their increased dependency on others. Just as I was helping them, I also was helping my mother who was raising three demanding teenagers, working full time and providing care to her parents. It felt good to have an important role in my family and to assist where I could. I feel lucky I got to know my grandparents before they died.

I am honored to have been asked to write a monthly column on aging issues for Mercer Island residents. I will address concerns regarding aging, provide information on topics relevant to the subject and inform readers of the many resources available for older adults and their families. I have been working with King County elders for 15 years -- the last five at Mercer Island Youth & Family Services. I help people 55 and older who live on the Island and their families face difficult issues such as grief, death, loss of independence and the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer's. The services I offer include case management, mental health counseling, facilitation of grief and loss groups, support for care givers and classes on health and aging. I also refer people to professionals and work in conjunction with those professionals. Additionally, I provide other resources and information on aging. There is nothing better than helping families negotiate on behalf of their loved ones the labyrinth of medical and social services. If I can make it easier for them, then I consider myself successful. I love my job. I get to assist many interesting people and work in a caring community with skilled, supportive colleagues. Working with older people and their families is a privilege for me. I am in awe of their courage, strength and fortitude when faced with the challenges of aging. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and information on topics such as the new Medicare prescription coverage, older adults and driving, and fraud, scams and exploitation directed at seniors.

Betsy Zuber has been working in the field of aging for 15 years. You can contact her at 236-3525, at, or by mail at MIYFS 2040 84th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island, WA 98040. Mercer Island Youth & Family Services is a department of the City of Mercer Island.

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