- Suzanne Anderson
- Executive Director
- AGE of Central Texas
- Years as Executive Director
- 9 months
- What does your organization do?
- AGE of Central Texas helps older adults and their caregivers thrive as they navigate the realities and opportunities of aging and caregiving. We have 6 core programs:
The Thrive Social and Wellness Centers – Licensed, secure, non-residential adult social centers in Austin and Round Rock.
Health Equipment Lending Program – Free long-term durable medical equipment loans
Caregiver Education and Resources – Free personalized assistance and guidance, educational seminars, and support groups.
Computer Lab – Peer-based computer classes for seniors.
Memory Connections – Weekly cognitive activities and support for individuals with early memory loss.
CaregiverU – Free caregiving and falls prevention class series offered year-round across 4 counties.
- How did you become interested in this work?
- I was a caregiver for my father for 10 years as he declined with COPD. I used AGE resources as we traveled on our journey together. When Joyce Lauck announced her retirement after 19 years at the helm of AGE, I really felt a calling to explore whether I was a fit. I am very grateful for the opportunity to steer the organization through our next chapter.
- What drives your passion?
- I have worked in the non-profit sector for most of my working life, serving first in the disability community. My personal experiences as a caregiver and in my journey supporting my father’s desire to age in place has provided me with a real life lesson that our caregivers and older adults experience every day. It has fueled my desire to be a part of making our community a place where older adults can live an enriched and active life, while caregivers are afforded the tools they need to stay healthy and grounded while navigating their partnership with their older adult.
- Did you have a mentor or role model?
- Dr. Michal Anne Lord (now the Executive Director of Texas Recreation and Parks Society) was the Director of Programs at Special Olympics Texas, and she hired me right after I finished my Master’s program. She left not soon afterwards, but she stayed on as a volunteer for the organization and also was elected to the Board of Directors. I have leaned on her for advice and guidance throughout my career. Her leadership style is one that I still strive to emulate.
- What's the biggest challenge in your work?
- For me, as a new staff person within the aging and caregiving movement, learning the language and the interconnectivity of all the non-profits in the space has been my first opportunity. We are also in expansion mode which started before I was hired, so stewarding that effort is both exciting and challenging all rolled together.
- What's the best advice that you have ever received?
- I have been hiring new staff within the non-profit industry for many years, so I am repeating to myself the words that were shared with me when I first was hired by a non-profit, and then have been repeating in new employee orientations going forward, and that is…breathe. You will be able to answer questions in 3 months, feel like you have a better hold on the steering wheel after 6 months, and you will be on solid ground after a year. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself.
- What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
- People are time consuming but so worth it. Get to know your staff, BOD, and your constituency groups as soon as possible.
You are going to make mistakes and it is okay.
Be transparent. Folks will worry about someone new coming in so good solid communication as well as a “management by walking around” philosophy will allow them to get to know you, and will alleviate anxiety.