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Neighbors of Kane County

Sailors to Seniors: A Journey Home

Jul 05, 2016 12:41PM ● By Neighbors Magazines

After a challenging 30-year career in the military traveling across the country and overseas, Fox Valley native Caroline (Carlson) Olinger has returned home along with her husband Scott to offer a unique program that helps seniors live independently in their own homes.

Caroline, a retired U.S. Navy Captain and Scott, a retired U.S. Marine helicopter pilot along with sister-in-laws Judy and Mary Ann Carlson saw a growing need for in-home health care that uses a unique peer-to-peer model, offering seniors a way to give back by providing non-medical services to other seniors.  Together they launched Seniors Helping Seniors of Fox Valley, a franchise organization headquartered in Pennsylvania with over 250 locations in 42 states.  “The demand for this service is rapidly growing as our population continues to age, “ Seniors Helping Seniors co-founder Kiran Yocom said. “We accepted Caroline, Scott and Judy into our family of franchise owners because they truly understand the needs of this population - not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level”     

 Caroline and Scott had both cared for family members who were terminally ill and they understood the toll that care-giving takes on people. Through her previous job in bereavement services, Judy also saw how necessary compassionate care was. They all agreed this was the time to take charge. “For a short time, I was a primary care-giver for my terminally ill parents as they were in the final stages of cancer.  Scott and I also assist in the care of his father, and had provided support for an aunt who has dementia,” said Caroline.                                                          

After receiving a license from the State of Illinois, Caroline began seeking seniors who wanted to help, reaching out to her large network of over 150 family members and many friends in the area. She now has a staff of over 30 helpers to ensure that Seniors Helping Seniors of Fox Valley is able to provide immediate service for all inquiries.

Sue, whose 88-year old mother Jean is under 24/7 care with help from Seniors Helping Seniors says that the “helpers all bring special qualities and have interesting personalities.” Her mother Jean adds that “I am so impressed with the quality of the helpers. They are always so caring.”

The team of helpers is diverse with both male and female helpers ranging in age from 50 to 85. “Having senior gentlemen as helpers has been a very positive and unique component of my team,” said Caroline, “There are many senior men who prefer to have assistance from another man and this ability has been a pleasant surprise to the families I speak with,” she added.  Most helpers are retired like 61-year old Andrea Hough, a published writer and piano instructor. After moving to Geneva two years ago to be closer to her family, she was seeking a way to develop relationships with the elderly. She learned about Seniors Helping Seniors and completed the training program. She now works for about 12 hours a week as a caregiver to 2 different senior women. She loves to hear the stories they share and says that “what they give me is equal to what I give them.” She is thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the community and added that “Caroline has a great talent for matching people!” 

Seniors Helping Seniors of Fox Valley provides non-medical services in Kane County and surrounding areas that include companionship, personal care, medication reminding, light housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, organization, wellness checks, pet support, technology support, and minor home maintenance.