Stephanie Ehle’s new role isn’t all that new to her.
Until last month, Stephanie Ehle was was already working closely with seniors through her own health and wellness company, Eudemonia LLC.
There, she helped elderly people stay independent in their homes, providing personal training and working to improve their quality of life.
Now, as the Verona Senior Center director, she’s doing many of the same things, only in more of a community setting.
As a self-proclaimed extrovert, that suits her well. She likes having coworkers to bounce ideas off of.
“Being here has been energizing,” Ehle told the Press. “Especially being around more people again and seeing the initial impact of our programs.”
Since starting the position Oct. 7, she has been planning to bring some of her health and wellness expertise to the center’s programming.
It will take some time, Ehle said, as she’s encountered some learning curves in her new position.
One is that she’s filling-out more paperwork than she thought she would. She also has to learn her daily responsibilities, such as opening the center, getting coffee ready for patrons in the morning, recruitment and training new volunteers.
Ehle also has been trying to meet with senior center guests and connect with community members during big events like Monday’s Veterans Day celebration, to learn what gaps the senior center can fill.
“I can’t plan programs if I don’t know who I am serving,” she said. “I have to know our clientele. I can’t guess what they want. I like to pick their brains, find out, can they offer something to the center and if not, what are they looking for the center to offer them?”
Ehle has begun working on some new program ideas of her own. She has been talking to a case manager about forming a low vision group, wants to offer more intergenerational programs and would personally love to see nutrition become a larger topic along with bladder health.
Ehle said she wants to engage the center’s guests to not only attend events, but also provide events.
“Everyone who comes through our doors has a story to share. Until we talk to them, we don’t know someone’s life story,” she said. “We may end up just talking about playing bridge or it may end up with them offering to lead a class. So many of our guests here can lead a class. We are coming together in a melting pot.”
An important part of Ehle’s role as she sees it is encouraging wellness. That, she said, involves focusing on multiple aspects of a person’s life.
“You have to ask, ‘What does their home life look like? How is their mental health?’” she said. “You have to consider how all of these pieces prevent them from eating right or exercising or managing their stress. We have to think about people’s quality of life outside of the senior center since they don’t live here.”
Ehle enjoys exercise and nutrition herself. She’s a fan of snowshoeing, being outside, practicing yoga and meditation, and she keeps a salt lamp and essential oils on her desk.
She expects the center’s new nutrition coordinator, Tori Beckwith, to help with that emphasis. Beckwith will manage in-house dining and the Meals on Wheels program.
“She’s been a really great addition,” Ehle said.
Now, the senior center is fully staffed for the first time in a year, Ehle said.
“It’s almost like a new chapter,” she said. “We are able to breathe a little bit and not be pulled in so many directions.”
As Ehle continues to learn her role and plan for 2020, she is seeking to define a new norm.
She’s open to learning from the community. Beginning in December, Ehle said she will be having “coffee with the director” sessions to get feedback, both good and bad.
She said attendees should bring their ideas to the sessions – about their perception of the center, whether or not its meeting their needs and feedback on how the center uses its resources.
“Sometimes I think the older generation will say, ‘Oh you did a good job,’ even if you didn’t do a good job,” she said.