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Seniors Helping Seniors provides care, connection to SLO County's older population

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After working in corporate America for two decades, retired human resources career-man Ron Torres realized he wanted to continue serving in a meaningful way.

Calls with a career coach last year brought him face-to-face with Seniors Helping Seniors—a national franchise that matches older and active community members with senior citizens who need help with tasks at home.

PEER SUPPORT From left to right, Seniors Helping Seniors chapter co-owners Maria and Ron Torres and caregivers Katrin Carter, Amyna Weeks, and Brenda Schoennauer provide personal services to senior citizens. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SENIORS HELPING SENIORS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Seniors Helping Seniors
  • PEER SUPPORT From left to right, Seniors Helping Seniors chapter co-owners Maria and Ron Torres and caregivers Katrin Carter, Amyna Weeks, and Brenda Schoennauer provide personal services to senior citizens.

"I myself am a senior, and it's a way I can give back to my community, not just on a one-on-one basis but to be able to multiply that several times," he said. "I took a significant portion of my retirement and invested that into the business."

Ron and his wife, Maria, signed the franchise agreement for Seniors Helping Seniors this March. Operational since November, they run the San Luis Obispo County chapter of the program out of Paso Robles.

Helping out seniors is familiar to Maria. A physician's assistant since 1998, she had to step away from that job to care for her mother when COVID-19 hit. Maria's mother now lives with the couple.

"I love the model of a senior helping a senior because mature people understand seniors a little better and they can really connect," Maria said.

Seniors Helping Seniors has a variety of care services. Around the house, hired caregivers can assist with light housekeeping, cooking and grocery shopping, pet care, medication reminders, and safety and fall prevention, among other things. Outside the home they can help with escorting seniors to appointments and events, and running errands.

The franchise supplies family caregivers who can provide dementia and Alzheimer's care, long-distance check-ins, and respite care. Currently, 20 caregivers work for Seniors Helping Seniors. It has caregivers from the Five Cities area and North County, but is looking for more caregivers in the city of SLO.

According to SLO Health Counts, 21.4 percent of SLO County residents are 65 years and older.

"Right now, there's a need for 24/7 care, and to provide those services we need more than one person," Maria said. "There are people on the waiting list but in the meantime, they still need help. So it's amazing how much need there is."

Those interested can visit the Seniors Helping Seniors website and check out the "Want to Help" page. Ron told New Times that companionship is a significant part of the job. He detailed the experience of a new caregiver who was in her first week.

"The care receiver was just wanting to sit in his chair all day long and do nothing. That's not good for your health," he said. "She was able to take him on walks. They're actually making huge progress within a week. This is something his family couldn't do, but our caregiver stepped in."

Catering to the "sandwich generation" is also a part of Seniors Helping Seniors. It refers to the group of people who care for both their children and their parents.

"We ourselves are experiencing that because we have a teenage daughter and we're also caring for our mother-in-law," Ron said. "That's a very real thing."

When Seniors Helping Seniors gets a lead on someone who wants care, he said they talk to them over the phone first to determine potential. After that, they conduct a free assessment of the physical property and the condition and needs of the client to figure out whether they have the ability and staffing to help.

"With Maria as a PA with her medical training, she picks up on things that I don't," Ron said. "She understands what the medications are for and gets an insight on what the clients are dealing with and how we might help."

To him, the most surprising lesson was learning that caregivers stand to gain as much as the people they provide for.

"The caregivers perhaps receive as much reward," Ron said. "They have found so much satisfaction from that, and I think that will help extend their health and vitality for longer because they are active and engaged in those relationships."

Fast fact

• Embrace the new year with a chilly dip in the ocean. The 11th annual Avila Beach Polar Bear Plunge will take place on Jan. 1, 2023, at noon. Interested bravehearts can gather on the east side of the Avila Beach pier at 11:30 a.m. For more information, visit slolug.com/polar. Δ

Reach Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal at [email protected].

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