At first, Anabel Rivera thought she didn’t need any tech help from Senior Planet. Then she realized that these classes might not just be for her – they could help her do even more for the neighbors she already assisted.
Before long, Anabel was hired as a Senior Planet employee and is now expanding her work as an advocate for older adults, crusading against loneliness and isolation.
How did you first find out about Senior Planet?
I didn’t know about Senior Planet until I received my tablet. I’m already tech savvy, so I didn’t sign up for classes. But then my neighbors who I like to help out were asking me about how to use their tablets.
“I was learning for me and for my neighbors.”
So when I got another call from Senior Planet and I figured, hey, I’ll give it a try. When I took the class I realized there was so much I didn’t know. I was learning for me and for my neighbors.
Where does your passion for helping others come from?
I’ve always been someone who helped those around me, especially older adults. I volunteer at the Senior Center, and bring my neighbors their meals on Friday.
“I can’t sit down; I have to help out.”
When the tablet came in and the classes came in, it kind of turned things around. It made me feel like I was doing something.
What drew you to getting more involved?
I had taken four classes and they asked me if I wanted to volunteer. I was like sure! Why not? This is what I do anyway. I help seniors. This is something I want to continue doing. During the time I was just helping out and then I found out I was employed in March.
It feels like a family to me. We have the Spanish group – they’re wonderful people. Even after I finish my hours, I still am on it.
But Fridays are still for my neighbors. I told Senior Planet that I won’t work that day.
What’s your favorite part of working with Senior Planet?
I always call my participants to give reminders about classes. It’s important and I know they appreciate it. I let people know that “I was in your place.” I took four classes and look where I am now.
When people are having a hard time, I try to connect with them more. If people are out for a day or two, I have to call to see if they are ok.
This one lady called me because she had a doctor’s appointment, but she was scared to go alone. So I told her, let’s go together. Months later she called me and said: “Thank you so much for taking me because I never would have known I had cancer without you.”
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
It’s about independence. And being willing to learn the skills you need to be free.
Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she runs Senior Planet’s Supporter program in addition to being a contributing writer for this site. She can be reached at email@example.com.