The mobile van to transport seniors is parked in front of the Scotts Valley Senior Center on Wednesday. According to staff, the vehicle works, but they don’t have any drivers to operate it. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Many years ago, I took a group of high school students who belonged to the Interact Club, a Rotary sponsored volunteer group of 14-18-year-olds, to a local community care center to distribute the Christmas gifts each student had purchased with their own money and gift-wrapped as well.

One of the students noticed a woman, we’ll name her Dolores, walking up and down the corridors dressed in an evening gown. She was so dressed up the student thought she was going out to a black-tie event and told Dolores how beautiful she looked.

Dolores simply said, “You know, honey, I heard I was going to get a visitor today, so I wanted to look nice.” It turned out that Dolores was one of the residents the student volunteer had on her list to visit, and Dolores had never had a visitor during the many years she had lived there. She had outlived her friends, had never married nor had any family living.

The residents of these community care centers were once known as the Greatest Generation, 1900-1925, and the Silent Generation, 1928-1945. The “Greatest” having gone through World War I and the “Silent” still terrified from the ravages of the past war and the Great Depression, went about silently restoring order in their private lives.

Families were separated by moving about. Young men returning from the last war, many had married girls from other hometowns and countries such as England, Italy and France, were needing jobs and moved to other states where jobs were plentiful. Parents were left behind, and as they grew older and frailer, had no one living nearby to help with their daily needs.

From the greatest to the silent to the forgotten generation, all of this has transpired into the lives of those living in these care centers today.

Family members say they live too far away, or are too busy to visit, having their own children and careers, and many say it is simply too depressing to visit, or that their parents may have dementia and do not recognize them nor understand what is being said, anyway.

The entire year prior to my hubby Norm’s passing, I spent days on end at Stanford hospital with him, sitting in a chair by his bedside and then in a rehab/long term care center in Capitola. One day Norm leaned over to me whispering, ”Please, don’t let me die in a place like this”; I promised him I wouldn’t. Three weeks later, Norm passed in Dominican Hospital, the Almighty answered Norm’s request.

Actor George Burns, at the age of 85, made popular a song…“Oh, to be eighteen again…I’ll never again turn the young ladies’ heads, or go running off into the wind, oh, I wish I were eighteen again.”

I read somewhere that life is like a journey on a train…that train takes you through life…while boarding you meet your parents, and at one of the stations, they get off, leaving you on this journey alone.

People will join you on this journey at each station’s stop, your brothers and sisters, cousins, aunt and uncles, friends…and then over the years, and at each station’s stop, all have gotten off the train…and at life’s end, how do we cope, left alone on that train of life?

For myself, I honestly must admit, I cannot return to any rest home to visit the elderly people living there, alone. I turn my head the other way when passing by the signs on the streets that identify their buildings and I avoid the street where my hubby spent that last terrible year.

But something over these past years while living alone, has kept pushing me to do something, something that might help people living alone in their own homes who are lonely, and people who are elderly and needing help with everyday living.

You might call me a Pollyanna, that’s OK by me, but I have dedicated myself, from now on, to helping those seniors who are living alone and are lonely, needing help in order to live in their own homes, and who need to get out of their homes and become more social…to enjoy their beautiful valley once again.

I do have a question…that being the mobile van that has been parked in front of the Scotts Valley Senior Center with no evidence, at least to me, of it ever leaving that parking spot. The van has sat there for at least a year that I am aware of. How can that be?

We have isolated seniors, seniors that helped build your community, taught your children, administered to your family when you were ill, built your roads, parks, city hall and fire department, but now have no way to enjoy the parks, library, senior center, coffee shops or restaurants because they no longer drive, or on a walker or worse, wheelchair…HOW CAN THIS BE?

I want that van up and running, bringing in seniors that are unable to drive themselves, to the senior center, enabling them to enjoy the soup/salad/let’s talk luncheons, the exercise and table game programs and if nothing more than to sit and visit with other seniors over a cup of tea or coffee.

I want those seniors to leave their homes for a few hours, where they are being isolated from the rest of us, day after lonely day.

I cannot do this alone, but I can and will find a way to get that van up and running, along with a qualified driver…can YOU help?

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


  1. That would have been the Interact Club, not the “Internet Club.” Interact Clubs usually are based in a school and present great opportunities for students to provide community and international servie

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    • Slip on my part, liken to your sp. on the word service. We all do it. I led this club for 8 years in Westlake Village, CA Colly

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