Why we help: Embracing the wild, wonderful world of aging

Heather Bauer

I have always had a heart for the generations that came before me. As the oldest grandchild of over 40, I grew up with the elders in my family and was honored to know great-grandparents, great-aunts and my own grandparents. I spent a lot of time in nursing homes and had the opportunity to be part of the caregiving journey, better understand Alzheimer’s and other conditions, and to practice dignity and respect in my interactions.

I came to senior care professionally in 2007 and spent these years being welcomed into homes, hearing many stories, and connecting individuals and families to resources. In the early stages of my career in aging services, I hired professional caregivers and trained them, offered falls-prevention classes, caregiver support and dementia-friendly awareness sessions in the community, and supported clients and their caregivers in a 24/7 on-call environment. I found the next phase of my career in 2020 at Council on Aging of Buncombe County.

With ongoing education and experiential growth as part of my development, the role at Council on Aging is in perfect alignment with my focus areas on promoting the independence, dignity and well-being of adults through service, education and advocacy through a wide array of programs and services available in an equitable, home and community-based model of care.

I’ve been inspired by family members, clients, caregivers, friends, colleagues, my daughter and even the “strangers” I encounter. It is difficult to choose just one person or experience. By observing, listening, and tuning in to others, I pursue my work with a vision of living well in our beautiful mountain community and embracing meaning in our lives. Through connection and building relationships as we all age, the work of Council on Aging is an honor to represent. We have an amazing network here that continues to strengthen and support our shared commitment and values in embracing the wild and wonderful world of aging.

The collective impact and knowing we make a difference keeps me motivated in my work, despite some of the hurdles we continue to face. Working with such a diverse population, seeking diverse solutions and exploring the different lived experiences of those we serve is an incredible gift! I am motivated by serving others and working with others who have chosen and are committed to this selfless work.

Some of the challenges of this work include ensuring that we have the sustainable resources to continue to build our programs to serve the growing number of older adults in our area, connecting with the most isolated and vulnerable adults (especially in rural areas), and can include mitigating risks for staff burnout due to the nature of the work. We experience great reward but also have witnessed a lot of loss and death. Of course COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges and reinforced the necessary capabilities to adapt, dig in, stay focused and embrace our humanness.

While we know that we cannot always please everyone, we continue to receive such amazing feedback from our community. Gratitude keeps me going. Whether it’s a successful client outcome, new partnership, kind word, a simple smile, a gift of time or financial support, teachable moment, failure, a prayer or a good laugh, I never forget why I’m here.

— Heather Bauer
Executive director
Council on Aging of Buncombe County Inc.


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