Dorothy* is a World War II generation senior citizen and self-advocate who has been involved with The Arc – Jefferson, Clear Creek & Gilpin Counties for many years. Recently Dorothy’s sister contacted The Arc with concerns that her sister had been missing work for extended periods and seemed to be visiting the neighborhood she had lived in 20 years ago, which is some 10 miles north of where she currently lives.
After talking with Dorothy’s sister, The Arc’s adult advocate assessed the situation and suggested some possible causes for the changes in Dorothy’s behavior. Was she having transportation issues? Had she lost interest in her work? Or was she just feeling nostalgic, as all of us do as we age, and wanted to revisit her former stomping grounds?
Rather than convening a large team meeting, our advocate put together small group discussions with key people in Dorothy’s life. First Dorothy and The Arc’s advocate met with Dorothy’s supervisor at work, and quickly learned that transportation problems were in fact part of the problem. We suggested another more reliable transportation provider, contacted the company and assisted with getting Dorothy set up with them. In addition to the transportation issues, Dorothy’s current responsibilities at work were no longer interesting to her. She craved notoriety and exposure, so the group worked together to adjust her responsibilities to better meet this need.
Today Dorothy is once again enjoying her work, at an age when most people are retired. She’s using a transportation service that works well for her and is more involved in community and volunteer activities.
But Dorothy’s story doesn’t end there. The Arc’s advocate took time to explore what other activities Dorothy might like to be involved in during her twilight years. Our advocate reached out to Katie T., one of our partners at the local community-centered board, DDRC, who coordinates the self-determination project. As Katie and DDRC have been working to develop a continuum of supports for end-of-life planning for adults like Dorothy, Katie suggested a new tool that could be developed for Dorothy: making a video of her life to celebrate her contributions to this world. The video would include interviews, photos of longtime friends, family members and professionals who have been important to Dorothy’s life, including both of the adult advocates from The Arc. The video would also include Dorothy’s favorite music in the background and snapshots of her “heritage” items.
The Arc’s advocate visited with the filmmakers, Katie, and Dorothy and together the project was planned out at the local senior center where Dorothy attends VOA lunches, exercise class, and bingo. Dorothy and the rest of the team identified places and people she would like to include in the project. While the group was talking about Dorothy’s early years living on a farm, many other seniors came around to listen and enjoyed hearing the stories and learned about the project.
The filming was done at Dorothy’s home, workplace, church, a favorite restaurant she often visits, and at the monthly Coffee House sponsored by The Arc. With filming completed, the producers are currently editing the video and will have a finished film shortly. At a time in her life where other seniors are writing their memoirs, Dorothy is fortunate to have her own life captured on video.
This wonderful collaborative effort brought to life an opportunity to help Dorothy create something special in her life that goes well beyond the basics.