About Jen

The Full Story

I’ve always felt a strong affinity for my elders.


When I was young, I was drawn to George Burns. I adored my grandparents and connected with my older relatives, many of whom were immigrants that spoke different languages. 


My relationships with my elders were rich and delightful. They imbued a deep respect and appreciation within me for their value in my life.


“If you smile at me, I will understand. Because that is what everyone, everywhere does in the same language.” Crosby, Still, Nash - Wooden Ships


In my twenties, I sought out the wisdom of older adults. Their experience and knowledge widened my perspective and helped guide me through some of the most important decisions in my own life. 


Hearing their life stories always expanded my view of the world. The tales they shared from their lives were often incredible and sometimes even beyond belief — the things they’d survived, endured, created, or overcome made a powerful impression that lingered on with me. Learning from their experiences sparked something in me, as I realized the courage and grit it took for them to create their lives. 


Some touted incredible career achievements or visions realized. Many had changed others’ lives by dedicating themselves fully to a passion. So many were amazing multi-skilled people and felt unhindered in what they could achieve, from building their own homes, to making their own clothes, to raising large families. 


Their perspectives — and powerful spirits — shifted the way I looked at my life and encouraged me to take on challenges I might have normally considered too daunting. Ultimately, their resiliency and resolve gave me more confidence to follow my chosen career path.


By thirteen, most of my grandparents had passed — except for one grandfather who lived until I was in my twenties — but their love and affection through my youngest years continues to have a profound effect on me. In high school, I volunteered in a nursing home, visiting residents and doing activities with them. During college and beyond, I’d secured work in a convalescent center and interned at an AIDS crisis organization. Later, I served as staff ombudsman in San Francisco, California for nearly five years, and currently as a volunteer ombudsman in Portland, Oregon.


After earning my Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies from the University of Maryland, I took courses in Social Work, where a colleague helped re-ignite my passion for working with older people. From there, I earned my Masters in Gerontology at San Francisco State University. 


Now I am an Aging Life Care Manager, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, and a Certified Life Coach. 


My experience, education, and training led me to my life’s work — working with this population and their families to understand and make sense of the changes their older family member is experiencing. 


Many older adults become what I call “Masters of Diversion” as they realize their abilities are beginning to change. Their dignity can feel threatened as they notice some decline in their health and memory. The changes can be sudden, due to a fall or illness, or it could be a more gradual change, or even temporary change. However, this diversion can delay the discovery of the changing needs of a loved one and panic can set in when those circumstances are revealed and need to be addressed.