By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–Linda Peterson is on a mission to promote better health, encourage good choices and to expand companion time for countless seniors who are coping with age, health issues and those feeling like they are alone.
“I think I would best describe my work as sharing time with friends,” says Peterson, who moved from West Covina, Calif., to Cedar City in 2016, and has since found her niche as a volunteer with The Five County Association of Governments, Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP). As a volunteer, she leads a weekly class, co-sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, that invites participants to the Cedar City Senior Center.
“We all need to take an active role in preventive health,” says Peterson, who knows the importance of basic exercise, walking or relaxation methods. “Both the elderly, with conditions and their caregivers, often need some time for themselves – so workshops like this one become an opportunity to connect with others who may share the same symptoms or health issues.”
Peterson has worked in various fields over the years – everything from horse shows and journalism to running a document center and medical records office. Her most rewarding experience was her previous role as an adult placement counselor, helping individuals make a good choice when it comes to assisted living, staying at home, or opting for nursing care.
The senior referral role involves counseling and assessing every aspect of good care, with the need for companionship too.
“In each of those decisions, it was important to match their personal interests. Can they still care for a pet, do they have transportation available, how active do they want to be day to day? What relative or caregiver can they count on? It’s about finding a life style they could fully enjoy,” she said.
Peterson and other volunteers with the RSVP program will tackle everything from arthritis and diabetes self-management, managing chronic pain, to classes in walking and wellness programs. Peterson points out that the self-help options are geared to all ages and stages of physical condition with workshops on chronic disease and chronic pain management too.
In today’s class, Peterson leads up to 10 seniors who hope to gain relief from the stiff discomfort of arthritis. During the week her schedule focuses on her Caring Companion service, which offers everything from one-to-one visits, to light housekeeping, or transportation to appointments.
“There is such a need for companion care – the relatives don’t always live close by, and maybe mobility becomes an issue, so I hope to make sure that people are getting the one-to-one time they need.” The Caring Companion service offers non-medical, senior companion care for families and individuals. “Basically, our companions cannot provide medical care, or assist with medical treatment, bathing or with giving medications,” explained Peterson. “But I found that sometimes a visit, or getting over to a class or workshop, also gives the caregiver a much-needed break too.”
While Peterson became a volunteer during a Dementia workshop she attended for caregivers, she is thankful to have found a volunteer role that is a perfect match with her background and experience. “I have to say I have been custom-made to work in this area, it’s the caregiving role that has given me so much reward in the past, and my friends in these classes give me so much back in return.”
The Arthritis Foundation instruction provides basic exercises that encourage flexibility, relaxation, and better range of movement. “So, I may work with someone who is still recovering from an injury and they need to learn how to move and operate a car again; or maybe someone just needs a visit now and then to hear about their progress and how the recovery is going,” she says.
“I’m not big on exercise and I don’t hike,” says Peterson with a smile, “But if I can make life a little easier for people, help them with memory issues, or get them in a better place with their health, I can let them know someone cares and they’re not alone.”
For more information, contact 626-290-1409, or lindagpeterson34@gmail. To volunteer with the RSVP program, contact DaCota Terry, 435-673-3548 or mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption: Linda Peterson serves as a volunteer with the Five County Association of Governments, RSVP program, where she leads a weekly class co-sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation at the Cedar City Senior Center.