When residents of Tyler, TX, see Wade Emerson at their door, they feel more comfortable having an Alzheimer’s victim in their house. Kevin Turkington has applied the skills and energy he used to build a business to help Alaskan seniors build a better community. And grieving seniors in California find consolation because Wally Buyer radiates compassion.

For their efforts on behalf of seniors, Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Denver, honored Wade Emerson, Kevin Turkington and Wally Buyer with its Service to Senior Awards, which recognize the volunteer activities of Certified Senior Advisors (CSA).

Fifty-three CSAs were nominated for three awards: the CSA Samaritan Award, which recognizes one-to-one efforts in meeting the needs of seniors; the CSA Community Citizen Award for donation of time effort and talent to a senior-related organization or cause; and the CSA Trailblazer Award for creation of a program to benefit seniors.

SCSA President Ed Pittock presented the awards at the SCSA International Summit in Las Vegas. “These outstanding CSAs combine the knowledge of how to work with seniors with the selflessness of volunteerism. They set an example for all of us.”

Wade Emerson

Samaritan Award recipient Wade Emerson is a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Northeast Texas. Faced with the awful fact that about 60% of Alzheimer’s patients will develop the tendency to wander away from their homes or facilities, and the knowledge that a wandering person’s chances of survival drop 50% if the person is not located within 24 hours, the Alliance began a tracking system based on wristbands that emit tracking signals. While it sounds simple, the system, called Project Lifesaver International, requires an 18-hour training process for volunteers to learn how to maintain the wristbands, operate the tracking equipment and conduct searches.

Emerson, a member of the Alzheimer’s Alliance Board of Directors, dove into the training. Every month, he makes house calls to his clients to change the batteries in their wristbands. He also regularly drives by clients’ homes to ensure that their signals can be picked up by the system’s receiving equipment. “Wade’s good nature and winning personality make him a trusted ally and a welcome guest. He takes the time to encourage family caregivers. He visits with his clients, jokes with them and treats them with dignity rather than simply as ‘someone who has Alzheimer’s disease.’ He joins them in their reality and brightens their day. He sincerely cares and his clients can sense that,” read his nomination. In recognition of his actions, Society of Certified Senior Advisors made a $500 contribution to the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Northeast Texas.

Kevin Turkington

As President of Anchorage’s Older Persons Action Group, Community Citizen Award recipient Kevin Turkington has led four-fold growth in the agency’s services to seniors over the four and one-half years he has served as president of the non-profit. In his professional life, Turkington is CEO of Senior Care of Alaska, which provides home health care services for homebound seniors.

As a volunteer, his efforts have produced more than $1.5 million in grants and matching funds for senior services and programs, including establishment of a senior information hotline covering topics such as health, housing, nutrition, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; bilingual computer training; two new full-time AmericaCorps VISTA staff members; training for personal care assistants and certified nurse aides; a job information service; growth in the agency’s staff from four to 14 members; production of award-winning publications that reach 45,000 seniors monthly; establishment of eight satellite chapters throughout Alaska staffed by 25 volunteers; translation of food safety materials from English to Spanish and a slew of other initiatives to benefit Alaska’s seniors.
“Because of his dedicated commitment and untiring efforts, Kevin has significantly enhanced the quality of life for thousands of seniors in Alaska,” said Ray Clements, executive director of Older Persons Action Group, Inc. (OPAG). In recognition of his efforts, Society of Certified Senior Advisors made a $500 contribution to the OPAG.

Wally Buyer

CSA Trailblazer Award honoree Wally Buyer helps seniors when many most need help: after the loss of a family member. Over the past eight years, Buyer has organized four bereavement support groups that he facilitates. Each group meets twice monthly for an hour and a half. “Those attending grief support groups most commonly are experiencing a variety of emotions, and continue to feel despair and grief well beyond the time when society would otherwise dictate that they should be getting on with their lives,” Buyer said. “Faced with such pressures of getting on when, in fact, they are still trying to cope with their loss, the sense they come in to the group with is, ‘What’s wrong with me? Am I crazy?’ Given those circumstances, coming to a bereavement support group has helped individuals come to grips with the reality of a loss.”

Buyer, a tax preparer and financial planner in Montclair, Calif., became involved with grief counseling as a consequence of having six clients die during the course of one tax season, leaving grief-stricken widows behind. “I was ill prepared to deal with weeping widows other than to put them on extension and come back when the atmosphere was less moist. Somehow, however, I felt that was inherently wrong. As fate would have it, I was coming out of church shortly thereafter and my pastor asked me if I would be interested in attending a workshop on bereavement ministries. I acquiesced, despite my own reluctance to attend, and have never looked back. It was an eye-opener for me, and I have since immersed myself on the subject matter. I have become a certified grief counselor and was pleased when taking the CSA course that the training devoted as much time as it did to grief. Given the axiom of not being able to beat death and taxes, becoming a CSA specializing in both death and taxes just seemed a good fit,” he said.

A panel of professionals who work with seniors and persons who volunteer with seniors selected the recipients.