BUCKHANNON – Everyone has heard the amount of seniors – those over the age of 60 – is on the rise.
In fact, 22 percent of the population in Upshur County is currently over the age of 60. And while taking care of the aging population is a huge responsibility, there are many other factors – some of which are often overlooked – to consider.
Sarah Campbell, the new director of the Upshur County Senior Center, is striving to meet the needs of Upshur County seniors.
She said when caring for the elderly, one factor to keep in mind is that baby boomers, who are just starting to qualify for senior services, don’t have the same needs or wants as the seniors currently being served.
“There is a change in serving seniors at this time – I would term it as almost a cultural shift,” Campbell said. “The people who are in their 70s or 80s now grew up a certain way. The baby boomers are just starting to get to the age that they are seniors and are qualifying for services. However, they are not interested in the same things as current seniors.”
Campbell said senior centers now are having to provide services for current seniors, but also moving to ensure they’re meeting the needs of up-and-coming seniors, as well as providing them with activities that interest them.
Campbell said this shift really interests her, and she is anxious to be a part of this change in meeting the needs of all seniors.
Although Campbell has only been at the helm for a little more than a month, she’s spent lots of time with seniors. She said after church on Sunday, she still travels to her grandparents’ home to spend quality time with them.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents,” she recalled. “They owned a personal care home. I always enjoyed listening to their stories and learning from them. There are people who have had some amazing lives and experiences – you don’t get to see that if you don’t take the time to sit down and talk to them and hear about that.
“The Upshur County Senior Center is the perfect example of that,” she added. “We have so many folks who come here who have so much wisdom and have so many experiences to learn from. But there are so many vulnerable populations in our community and we need to help meet their needs.”
Campbell is originally from Tyler County, but said her mother hails from Lewis County, so she has always felt like this area was home. Following her high school graduation, she came to West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in history.
“While I was in college, I was really involved with the Center for Community Engagement & Leadership Development and nonprofit work. I loved the feel of that kind of work – the ability to have a job that really makes a difference,” Campbell said, adding that many corporations really make a difference as well.
“I decided then that I wanted to pursue a career working full time for a nonprofit and decided to take some time off and reapply for graduate school,” Campbell said.
That’s what brought her back to the Buckhannon area.
“I applied to a school in Indiana, to WVU and to WVWC,” she said. “Wesleyan, at the time, had started their new nonprofit concentration for the MBA program. That fit my needs perfectly. I loved Wesleyan and that worked so well for me.
“My professors there emphasized getting us involved and putting what we were learning in the classrooms into practice,” she added.
During her graduate study time at Wesleyan, Campbell served as the interim director for a Buckhannon nonprofit agency called Appalachian Impact. They work with at-risk youth in the community. Campbell said even though it was at the other end of the spectrum from what she is doing now, the experiences were very useful.
Upon her graduation in May, Campbell briefly worked for the City of Buckhannon as the volunteer center coordinator, which was a brand new position.
From there, Campbell was hired as the interim director and then the director of the Upshur County Senior Center.
Campbell said she has a list of goals for the Upshur County Senior Center, including offering more activities including Zumba or yoga; training more volunteers to help at the center; and becoming more active in the community.
Currently, Campbell said about 40 people utilize the Upshur County Senior Center each day for meals and activities.
Programs offered through the Upshur County Senior Center include transportation through the Country Roads Transit System, weekday meals, senior exercise classes, senior art classes, presentations, music, home-delivered meals and in-home care services.
One reason Campbell feels being the Upshur County Senior Center Director is a perfect fit for her is because she strives to always do better.
“We are not perfect, but we are going to continue to listen and strive to do better,” she said. “That is what I try to do for myself in life, too. We are not perfect; we are going to make mistakes but we are going to look for ways to be better and to do better for our people.”
After attending multiple meetings about seniors in West Virginia, Campbell realized she is the youngest senior center director.
“The other senior center directors have been wonderful to share their ideas, experiences and answer questions,” she said. “That is good to draw on. I offer a different perspective being so young and coming from an organization that was so connected to the community. I think my experiences have given me some ideas that can be helpful.
“We serve our communities best when we look for collaborations – we don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Campbell continued. “Bridging the gap between people my age and melding that has been great in this position. I think this senior center needs to find a way to bridge the gap, and I am here to help see that accomplishment.”
Campbell said she continues to enjoy the Buckhannon area.
“I like Buckhannon because I believe it is very community-focused,” she said. “The residents here really care about their community and the city, and it shows because the area is being taken care of and I think what drew me here is the sense that this is a place where you can really belong. It is very pretty and welcoming.”
Campbell is very active in her church, the New Community Church in Buckhannon.
“In my free time I enjoy hiking. I like to read, and I really like to bake,” she said. “I really like the outside areas and am grateful Audra and Sago are so close. I like that Dolly Sods is only an hour away. In the evenings, I like to go to the Stone coal Lake and sit on the dock and watch.
“I enjoy a simple life,” Campbell added. “I enjoy crocheting towels, washcloths and blankets.”
The Upshur County Senior Center is located at 1 Senior Drive. Additional information about the center is available on Facebook or online at www.upwvsc.org or by calling 304-472-0528.