Seasoned Service: Couple finds niche helping older adults

Trained in chemical engineering, Terry Allen spent his career in the oil and gas industry.

Nothing about that training, or his travels that took him from Oklahoma to Wall Street to Canada, led him to believe that one day he would be so familiar with the intricacies of health care that he would be able to help others navigate their Medicare options. His background didn’t indicate he would one day come to understand the complexities of an accountable care organization, which is essentially a group of healthcare providers working together to deliver stronger, more effective care to Medicare patients.

Allens

Terry & Sharon

But here he is, nevertheless, celebrating more than a decade of service to older adults as a volunteer for TMC Senior Services, along with his wife of 51 years, Sharon.

The two have a little blue postcard – and his curiosity – to thank for it.

It arrived in his mailbox in 2004, an invitation from Senior Services Director L’Don Sawyer to come learn about ways he could help his community.

What an interesting name, he thought. So he called just to get to learn more about its origin. The next thing he knew, he was in a training class to become a volunteer, which he had never done. His retirement to that point largely had been consumed with caring for his ailing parents and in-laws.

To be honest, Allen recollects, it wasn’t really about any particular loyalty to TMC, which he has since come to deeply appreciate. And he wasn’t even sure, with all the talk about “active listening” and “establishing boundaries,” that he would even be a right fit.

“But you can’t play golf seven days a week,” he said. His mother’s death in 2002 from Alzheimer’s had released him from the caregiving role he and Sharon had played for so many years, and their two children were raised and out of the house, so he found himself looking for something he could contribute.

He was assigned to support older homebound people, and about a year later, Sharon joined him, along with volunteering in the office.

The program helped them develop deep friendships with the people they were assigned to. “You get very attached,” Sharon said. “You get to know about their families and their histories. They’ll tell you things they won’t even tell their own children,” Sharon said.

“I got out of it much more than I gave,” she continued. “It was a reminder to be grateful for what you have and that your problems are often very small compared to what others face.”

In addition to enjoying their two grandchildren, and serving in their role at TMC – Sharon helps with special events and Terry helps with special projects – Terry also volunteers with Pima Council on Aging. He also spearheads the patient engagement committee for Arizona Connected Care, an accountable care organization that TMC is actively engaged in. Oh, and there’s still golf, of course – just not seven consecutive days of it.

 

 

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Rd. | Tucson, AZ 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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