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Joan Raderman: Quality of Life

Caring for the elderly became her life’s passion

By Tyra Sutak
POSTED:   08/24/2013 09:00:00 AM MDT
Original Article

Joan Raderman, the Qualify of Life Pacesetter, realized early on that the elderly were deserving of better care.

Joan Raderman, the Qualify of Life Pacesetter, realized early on that the elderly were deserving of better care. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera)

The elderly have had a special place in Joan Raderman’s heart since she was a child.

Born to entrepreneurial and ambitious parents, Raderman spent much of her time on a farm in New York state in the care of her grandparents, for whom she remains grateful to this day. And then, at age 9, Raderman truly felt her life’s calling.

While touring a nursing home as a potential property acquisition for her parents, Raderman was horrified by the conditions in which the residents were living.

“Some of them were treated very poorly because of their age,” she said, “and it just stayed with me.”

So much, in fact, that she made a career out of improving the life of the elderly. And it’s her role as founder and director of Circle of Care, a nonprofit organization in Boulder, that earned Raderman the Daily Camera’s 2013 Quality of Life Pacesetter Award.

It’s a fitting honor for a woman whose work led to the Circle of Care being awarded the Best Practice Designation from the MetLife Foundation and Partners for Livable Communities, thanks to its strong volunteer base, program model and commitment.

Early in adulthood, Raderman spent time working with people with degenerative diseases. She lobbied in Washington for the Alternative Medicine Act, and she worked in marketing and public relations for integrative cancer centers.

Then came a life-changing moment: Her son encouraged her to visit Boulder. A two-week trip turned into a permanent stay and, eventually, a fortuitous introduction that led to Raderman finding a job at a local senior living community. It was there that, just as she did as a young girl, Raderman witnessed the sadness in the eyes of so many of the residents. It was an epiphany that led her to create Circle of Care.

“It was really born out of an overwhelming emotion and desire to make a change — a positive change in the area that broke my heart,” Raderman said. “There are so many unseen people in our community and in the world, and they slowly retreat and they slowly give up, and it impacts that community on a much broader level.”

Raderman prides herself on Circle of Care’s broad scope, which includes art-centric activities for the elderly, such as outings to enjoy theater and the orchestra. But most importantly, she encourages families and friends to be actively involved in the lives of the elderly with whom she works.

Stories for Change

A few months ago, Circle of Care received a Best Practice Designation from the MetLife Foundation and Partners for Livable Communities Washington DC. Our most impressive acknowledgement as of yet. This publication was released nationally and we have been contacted by cities across the county to replicate our model.

Read the full article.

The Boulder County REAL Awards

The Boulder County REAL Awards honor outstanding local businesses and individuals that really make a difference in our community.

The REAL Awards are presented in 10 categories, including Agriculture/Horticulture, Small Business (fewer than 25 employees), Large Business (25 & over employees), Environmental Heroes, Outstanding Community Service, Most Inspiring Individual, Non-Profit (Health & Human Services), Non-profit (community-at-large), Culture/Performing Arts and Restaurateur who exemplify what it means to contribute to the local community.

With the REAL Awards we salute the outstanding character of those who help make Boulder County such a special place, and pay tribute to their significant contributions made to our local community.

Circle of Hope Giving Seniors ‘a Second Life’


givecareWhen her husband died in 2000, Lois Ilsemann came to a crossroads. She was left alone, with a huge financial cloud over her head following five years of his hefty nursing home bills. She didn’t want to leave her home in Philadelphia but she had few options. At the urging of her daughter she moved to Boulder in 2003. She didn’t have her husband of 50 years by her side. Nor did she have any friends to speak of.

Margaret Leona moved to Boulder almost eight years ago. She, much like Ilsemann, was persuaded to move to Colorado when her husband died, leaving her all alone on Long Island. She didn’t have her husband of 50 years by her side. Nor did she have any friends to speak of.

Loneliness is a tough pill to swallow.

Both moved into Golden West, an independent and assisted living facility in Boulder. That’s where they learned about Circle of Care, a nonprofit that gives seniors an active social life, friendships and involvement in the community.

Loneliness be damned.

Shortly after moving into Golden West, Leona attended a Circle of Care event, a dance complete with wooden dance floor, swing band, even professional Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers look-alikes.

“I absolutely loved it,” Leona says. “I’ve done so many wonderful things. That we get to get out and see these kind of shows, I really appreciate everything (Circle) has done.”

The same goes for Ilsemann: “It immediately felt like home to me, I loved it from the moment I moved here,” she says.

To these women, and more than 1,200 other seniors, Circle of Care has been more than just a helping hand—it’s been a much needed events calendar. It’s made them become a part of something. Sitting at a table surrounded by her new friends, Ilsemann comes close to tears as she speaks of what Circle of Care has done for her.

“It has given me a second life,” Ilsemann says.

Circle of Care helps senior citizens stay involved in the community they live in by providing accessibility to the arts, education, and civic service. Volunteers, ranging  from college students to retired couples, help them to and from concerts and events. With community partnerships like the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boulder Ballet and many more, the organization organizes transportation and volunteers to see concerts and events to those with limited mobility. Circle of Care has also extended its outreach programs to other communities in need. It’s been recognized with by NOVA with its  best civic organization category award.

What began as a one-woman show in 2003 has expanded into a family that both members and volunteers lean on. Joan Raderman started Circle when she realized her life long passion for improving the quality of life-for senior citizens. Raderman said she had a vision to reach out to those who face new challenges with aging.

“Something happens as we age; our losses accumulate. We lose our loved ones, our finances change, our health changes; we lose our licenses, or our homes,” Raderman says. “In this overwhelming loss, how do you define yourself at that point? How am I still valued?”

Raderman has big plans for the future of Circle of Care. With more funding, she hopes to see more daytime programs and activities developed, thus opening the doors for more seniors in need of friendship and activity. Her community design model for aiding seniors will spread to more towns and counties, so that more people will not feel so isolated. Raderman has already been contacted by AARP asking how they can partner.

Never has the need to help elderly citizens been so important, Raderman adds. In 2030 one of five Americans will be 65 years or older, entering in the “silver tsunami” or retiring baby boomers stage. And many will find themselves in lonely situations like those presented to Leona and Ilsemann when their lifetime partners died.

While that life-changing transition still isn’t easy, Circle of Care helps. It’s amazing how a few new friends and tickets and transportation to a classical music concert can help.

“To be able to hear this kind of music, for free; it’s a true lifeline for me,” Ilsemann says.