Seniors Helping Seniors: A new approach to aging in Indian River County

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Ric and Mona May – like many people over 65 – wanted more than just a change of scenery when relocating to the Vero Beach area about a year ago; the couple wanted a change in lifestyle.

However, and unlike many seniors who move to Orchid Island, the Mays came here to open a business. The Lakeland natives wanted to be close to family – and wanted fulfilling work.

“I felt that we were too young to retire, and we wanted to give back and get involved,” May said. “You reach a point in your life where certain things become more important to you. Ric and I had some personal experiences that made us really start paying attention to the elderly, and what was important to them as they got older.”

The Mays explored several postretirement business options before discovering a Redding, Pa.-based company called Seniors Helping Seniors.

Kiran Yocom and husband, Phillip, co-founded Seniors Helping Seniors as a non-profit organization in 1998.

The organization had grown substantially by 2006, and the Yocoms launched Seniors Helping Seniors as a for-profit franchise system. They decided, ultimately, that the nonprofit needed to turn into a franchise so it could help more people.

Five master licenses were granted nationwide and franchise territories were offered to qualified investors in eastern Pennsylvania.

Yocom grew up in New Delhi, India, and took an interest in helping people at an early age. She lists Mother Teresa as a very important influence in her life.

“I would find ways to see her – I followed her every move,” she said.

Yocom came from a wealthy family, but by early adulthood she was giving most of her money to the church.

She went out and “begged” for food and money to support Mother Teresa’s ministry, helped lepers and cared for abandoned children.

Seniors Helping Seniors is, in many ways, a continuation of her work in India. She’s helping the elderly now instead of the poor.

“Seniors need to be cared for,” she said. “You can’t become a nobody after being a somebody.”

Seniors Helping Seniors is based on the idea of able seniors helping other seniors. The company provides non-medical help to seniors who live on their own.

“This particular company just popped out at us,” said May. “I was so fascinated by their goodwill and that fact that it was unique, because they were putting seniors who had similar life experiences with the people they were helping. So, I did some research looking at various businesses, and I just loved where Seniors Helping Seniors was coming from.”

After making contact with the person who needs care, May goes and talks with the person at their home, sees what their needs are and assesses the situation.

The second time, she introduces the person to a care provider who may come from the same state, play the same card games, or love the same sports as the receiver.

“It’s important to keep people independent as long as possible,” May said. “They lose family and friends and friends over time and spending time with seniors is a big deal. What I’ve learned, is a lot of people don’t realize that an 80-year-old is often the same person they were when they were at 30 or 40.”

Seniors Helping Seniors can also help with day-to-day tasks like light housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation to doctor appointments, and grocery shopping.

“A lot of it is respite care for caregivers who need a break,” May said. “That’s the thing we do more of. It’s a win-win for the receiver, it gives the care-giver a break, and it feels good for us. It’s a full-circle.”

Vero Beach’s Seniors Helping Seniors location on 20th Street serves both Indian River and St. Lucie counties.

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