Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nancy Gregory - Seniors4Kids Profile

Nancy Gregory describes herself as a type-A personality. After talking with her for some time, though, you would conclude that’s she’s far more than simply driven: she’s upbeat, caring, and at a good place in her life.

“I’m a homegrown Nebraskan who has lived in enough places to know that the Midwest is where I belong,” Gregory explains. “I went to graduate school in Boston and really liked that experience, then lived for a while in West Virginia, not far from Washington, DC. But I must admit that I really came to appreciate living in the Midwest. Life seems less complicated and moves at a little slower pace. And, it’s a great place to raise kids.”

Having a great place to raise kids has taken on new meaning for Gregory ever since the birth of her first grandchild, Michael, six months ago. And it will take on even more importance when her second grandchild arrives next June.

The 50-something retiree now spends her days caring for her grandson and three toddlers – and Gregory loves what she’s doing. “I have two passions in life: children and elder care. When I was a career woman, I was a health-care administrator with Veterans Affairs, working primarily with older adults,” she notes. “Now that I’m retired I get to indulge my other passion, working with children.”

But that’s only the beginning of Gregory’s encore career. Right after she retired in 2012, she took courses to get certified as a health care administrator for elders. Once she takes her certification exam, Gregory intends to blend her two passions by finding ways to connect older and younger generations through her work and volunteerism.

“I would love to see more connection and involvement between generations. My kids grew up away from their grandparents; it wasn’t until they were teenagers that my sons became close to their grandparents. They missed out on a lot of years of sharing time with their elders, particularly when they were very young and most impressionable. I know I learned my most important life lessons from my grandpa.

“It’s critical that older adults be around to be a soft landing for kids, to spoil them and be there for them. We now know that reading and talking to kids from a very young age is critical for early brain development and functioning. Most young parents are so busy worrying about putting food on the table, they don’t have all the time they would like to nurture their children’s development, especially in those important first five years of life.  Grandparents and other older adults have the time, the life experience and the passion to spend nurturing them.”

That’s where volunteering comes in – as does Gregory’s type-A personality.

“I joined the Nebraska Early Childhood Grandparent Network because I passionately believe that older adults’ life experience is critical to their ability to effectively advocate on behalf of children and youth. They can reflect on what they’ve learned over the years and put that experience to good use. Furthermore, older adults tend to have the time to devote to being strong advocates for children of all ages, whether they’re newborns or older adolescents.

“I also think the recent government shutdown was an eye-opener because it showed us how involved the government is in so many aspects of our lives, yet that it has limited resources. We need to look instead to our retiree population to get involved and build a strong legacy for future generations. As I contemplate my future role as a health care administrator for elders, I want to explore ways I can meld my passion for older adults with my passion for kids. I plan to spend more time volunteering and encouraging others to get involved. I also plan to spend a lot of time determining how I can help intersect the generations to bring older and younger together and share life experiences.

“I’m not exactly sure how I will bring all this about, but I do know that I intend to spend the rest of my life thinking about it – and trying to make a difference.”

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