When her husband died in 2000, Lois Ilsemann came to a crossroads. She was left alone, with a huge financial cloud over her head following five years of his hefty nursing home bills. She didn’t want to leave her home in Philadelphia but she had few options. At the urging of her daughter she moved to Boulder in 2003. She didn’t have her husband of 50 years by her side. Nor did she have any friends to speak of.
Margaret Leona moved to Boulder almost eight years ago. She, much like Ilsemann, was persuaded to move to Colorado when her husband died, leaving her all alone on Long Island. She didn’t have her husband of 50 years by her side. Nor did she have any friends to speak of.
Loneliness is a tough pill to swallow.
Both moved into Golden West, an independent and assisted living facility in Boulder. That’s where they learned about Circle of Care, a nonprofit that gives seniors an active social life, friendships and involvement in the community.
Loneliness be damned.
Shortly after moving into Golden West, Leona attended a Circle of Care event, a dance complete with wooden dance floor, swing band, even professional Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers look-alikes.
“I absolutely loved it,” Leona says. “I’ve done so many wonderful things. That we get to get out and see these kind of shows, I really appreciate everything (Circle) has done.”
The same goes for Ilsemann: “It immediately felt like home to me, I loved it from the moment I moved here,” she says.
To these women, and more than 1,200 other seniors, Circle of Care has been more than just a helping hand—it’s been a much needed events calendar. It’s made them become a part of something. Sitting at a table surrounded by her new friends, Ilsemann comes close to tears as she speaks of what Circle of Care has done for her.
“It has given me a second life,” Ilsemann says.
Circle of Care helps senior citizens stay involved in the community they live in by providing accessibility to the arts, education, and civic service. Volunteers, ranging from college students to retired couples, help them to and from concerts and events. With community partnerships like the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boulder Ballet and many more, the organization organizes transportation and volunteers to see concerts and events to those with limited mobility. Circle of Care has also extended its outreach programs to other communities in need. It’s been recognized with by NOVA with its best civic organization category award.
What began as a one-woman show in 2003 has expanded into a family that both members and volunteers lean on. Joan Raderman started Circle when she realized her life long passion for improving the quality of life-for senior citizens. Raderman said she had a vision to reach out to those who face new challenges with aging.
“Something happens as we age; our losses accumulate. We lose our loved ones, our finances change, our health changes; we lose our licenses, or our homes,” Raderman says. “In this overwhelming loss, how do you define yourself at that point? How am I still valued?”
Raderman has big plans for the future of Circle of Care. With more funding, she hopes to see more daytime programs and activities developed, thus opening the doors for more seniors in need of friendship and activity. Her community design model for aiding seniors will spread to more towns and counties, so that more people will not feel so isolated. Raderman has already been contacted by AARP asking how they can partner.
Never has the need to help elderly citizens been so important, Raderman adds. In 2030 one of five Americans will be 65 years or older, entering in the “silver tsunami” or retiring baby boomers stage. And many will find themselves in lonely situations like those presented to Leona and Ilsemann when their lifetime partners died.
While that life-changing transition still isn’t easy, Circle of Care helps. It’s amazing how a few new friends and tickets and transportation to a classical music concert can help.
“To be able to hear this kind of music, for free; it’s a true lifeline for me,” Ilsemann says.