Wendy Blum: ‘I just am amazed at how people survive’


Wendy Blum is a 67-year-old social worker who used to be a cab driver and courier and says she never thought of stopping working. She pays a visit to long-time client Samuel Taylor Jr. on Aug. 29. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

Wendy Blum, 67, social worker at Terrific (Temporary Emergency Residential Resource Institute for Families in Crisis), a nonprofit organization that serves District residents 60 and older.

I am a case manager. I go out into the home and do a comprehensive geriatric assessment, and then we come up with a plan.

I like taking care of people, and I like that part of a person’s life, before hospice, before the end, sort of trying to figure out how to live your life as you’re getting less able physically or something happens mentally.

I just am amazed at how people survive. I mean, how do you survive in Washington with a fourth-grade education? How do you survive cleaning hospital rooms? And yet there’s this rich other kind of life people have.

I’ve learned how to survive, I’ve learned graciousness, I’ve learned to be amazed at people’s willingness to go through a lot of bad things to stay alive. I have a client who has a million things wrong with him, but the one thing he loves is life and that is a really important lesson.

It’s not a problem for me to take supervision from younger people. I have four reasons why I’m still working at my age. One is that I need the money. The second reason is that I care deeply for my clients. The third thing is I really enjoy the work. And the fourth issue really concerns social justice and trying to be part of the solution.

Clients look at me and they know I’m an older person and I’m able to sympathize with health concerns. In hospice training you’re not supposed to walk in front of someone or behind someone, you’re supposed to walk beside someone, so it’s an equal process together.

I planned on working until I’m 70. And I should have enough to retire okay, nothing fancy, but I should be okay. As long as I can hoist myself up the stairs, I’m fine. If the seniors can hoist themselves up the stairs, then I will do it, too.

Don’t let your age get in the way. I’ve had such a wonderful experience with my co-workers. It’s important, it’s social, it’s doing something that hopefully benefits the client. It certainly benefits me.

Tara Bahrampour

Tara Bahrampour, a staff writer based in Washington, D.C., writes about aging and mental health.
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