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BOULDER — Joan Raderman of Boulder wants to get seniors out of their houses and to concerts and all kinds of cultural entertainment.

But she can’t do it alone, so she and 100 volunteers are giving rides and attending up to 200 events a year through the Boulder-based nonprofit Circle of Care — all for free to prevent Boulder County seniors from becoming socially isolated.

Raderman wants to grow the program beyond Boulder County, so she seeks a larger office space, plans to add to her administrative staff and volunteer base, and soon will replicate what she does in other cities and counties starting with Larimer County. She has 2,000 registered volunteers but cannot manage the numbers until she has the staff in place, she said.

“If we get younger people connected to older adults through exciting and enriching experiences, they will find an organized way to learn more about each other … and discover the human connection again,” said Raderman, founder and program director of Circle of Care.

Circle of Care aims to get seniors — those who are homebound, live in senior facilities and have physical, cognitive and financial challenges — into community settings by providing them with access to arts, education and social and civic opportunities. To do this, the program receives nearly $1 million of in-kind resource donations a year.

“This volunteer transportation program is a door-to-door, arm-to-arm escort service to performing art venues and academic programs to end social isolation and unite the generations,” Raderman said. “The ripple effect is to build inclusive communities, so we can improve health and (have) healthy outcomes.”

The seniors and their companions, also called senior members and volunteer members, receive tickets to entertainment outlets and can take continuing education classes at no cost through three programs and partnerships with 50 cultural and academic partners.

One of the programs, Arts for Elders, provides the seniors and their companions with tickets to cultural events in the Boulder area, including the Colorado Music Festival, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as festivals, concerts and theater and opera productions.

Another program, Senior Audit Partners, gives senior members who may lack the money or need assistance the opportunity to take continuing education classes through the University of Colorado Senior Audit Program. The seniors take the classes with their audit partners, who sign up for the classes, which now cost $100 and create the need for a lifelong learning fund with the associated administrative support.

The final program, the Legacy Project, Learn and Serve, an Intergenerational Exchange, brings together seniors with CU students and elementary and high school students and teachers to work on preserving stories through oral, written and video biographies.

Volunteers, who range in age from 21 to 80, might initially be attracted to the three programs for the free offerings, but Circle of Care vets them through a volunteer orientation about why the program exists and the impact volunteers can make. The majority of the seniors in the program has cognitive, emotional or physical challenges and need to be responded to with care from those volunteers.

“The primary focus is the care and safety of our seniors,” Raderman said.

The volunteers pick up the seniors at their homes or care facilities and meet up at the event, sitting in the same area, or take them to class. So far, Circle of Care has provided 300,000 volunteer-assisted rides with a 100 percent safety record.

“We build up shared experiences,” Raderman said. “Relationships become stronger. People support each other through challenge. They start with an experience they want to share, and they become close.”

That’s what happened with Orah Elron, 95, of Boulder, as he explained in an educational video, “COC 1 4 Can’t Let You Go,” donated by Warren Miller Films in 2017,

“After losing a spouse, having no transportation and being so isolated, Circle of Care is very important in my life to keep me active, engaged, happy and alive,” Elton said.

Boulder resident Beryl Pettigrew, 90, who is legally blind, said in the video that Circle of Care gives him a reason to wake up in the morning.

“Just knowing I will have music and culture in my life and people who make sure I’m not alone and bring me here, it keeps me alive,” Pettigrew said.

Raderman started Circle of Care in 2004, working from her home office for one year before moving to the CU campus, where she worked for eight years until the 2013 flood took the space. She rotated through a few donated spaces, including her current office at 2504 Fourth St. in Boulder that is too small, so all coordination has to be done virtually.

To grow the program, Raderman seeks an office space in Boulder that supports a volunteer staff of three and includes a meeting area. She wants to add a staff position of a program assistant and chief executive officer in Boulder County. This will allow her to respond to local and national interest in scaling the program in other cities and counties beginning with Larimer County in 2019 and to develop a Circle of Care community toolkit and education and training programs.

In 2019, Circle of Care will receive a $25,000 grant from the city of Boulder, and Raderman hopes to access a matching grant and additional $100,000 to build out her team in Boulder.

The Bohemian Foundation in Fort Collins and the Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities contacted Raderman over the summer to replicate the program in Larimer County as a branch of Circle of Care. PAFC Larimer County received a grant from the American Association of Retired Persons to help identify and implement programs for older residents in the community and contacted Raderman about beginning the replication process in 2019. An initial $100,000 and a staff of two is needed to start a program and 18 months to make it sustainable, she said.

Jim Becker, executive director of PAFC, considers the program to be ideal for Larimer County, he said.

“We have a vibrant music, arts and cultural community in Fort Collins, Loveland and other communities, and we are dedicated to building an age-friendly community and work to reduce social isolation for people as they age,” Becker said. “Circle of Care is a great fit.”

Raderman also wants to spread the program because of the interest she has seen, she said.

“This has to get out there because so many people want it,” Raderman said. “We’re growing faster than the team can respond to it. This issue that’s going to impact everyone, it’s not an isolated issue. … It kind of provides an opportunity for people to realize age doesn’t need to confine you. You can live fully longer.” 

By Shelly Widhalm — 

Published by Bizwest