Seniors help seniors

Seniors help seniors
Visiting Angels personal care attendant Phyllis Peterson.

A combination of longer life spans and a need for financial security and social interaction has led many to stay in the job market longer.

Home care provided to elderly people in Rochester increasingly involves providers who are near or past retirement age themselves.


Phyllis Peterson, for example, is 66 years old.

She works for Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services providing companionship, reminding someone to take medication, helping a person get ready for bed, or offering a helping hand when someone gets up during the night.


Care providers receive more than an income-boosting paycheck. They also form close bonds with those they help.

"I love them," Peterson said. "They mean the world to me."

Joanne Roeber, 73, of Rochester, said she was looking for a part-time job. A friend suggested caregiving for elderly residents at home and in long-term-care settings.

"We're not nurses or anything," Roeber said, who has worked with people from age 85 to 94. "What we're called is personal care attendants."

If a client needs help with daily showering, having meals set up or making the bed, Roeber and other caregivers can lend a hand.

Dave Himmer, of Bloomington, is thankful for the assistance his mother Margaret received. For a time, she lived in Stewartville at a retirement center.

"They would prepare the meals for mother and they would help her with her shower," Himmer said. They helped last summer with light cleaning, and helped her read her Bible.

"Several of them are actually in their 70s," said Jim Barloon, Visiting Angels' home-care coordinator. About 20 to 25 of the company's staff who provide home-care services are 65 or older, something that's become a national trend. Up to 70 percent are 55 and older, though the company doesn't specifically track employee age breakdowns.


After a medical recovery period, Himmer's mother moved to Madonna Meadows and, with assistance, became "able to take care of herself."

The care assistants were pivotal in helping her reach that level of independence.

"Whatever she needed, they got for her," Himmer said. "A couple of times, they went to the grocery store for her, even." When he took his mother to medical appointments, the care assistants went along for times when she needed help in the bathroom.

Vicki McIntosh said her 88-year-old mother, of Byron, needs someone present. When a care assistant arrives, McIntosh said, "somebody's with her so I don't have to be here as much. It gives me a little bit of respite."

Her mother would probably do OK alone, "but I'm more comfortable when the (Visiting) Angels come and then I dare go shopping," McIntosh said. 

As the workforce ages, so does need. Bringing aging care providers into the equation is helping to quench a thirst for compassionate care.

"Now," Barloon said, "they're doing something they feel a calling for."

What To Read Next
Get Local