After my talk last month at for the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York, a woman with a wonderful face handed me her card and mentioned that she’d been collecting birthday cards for years. Would I like a look? Yes I would. We got together last week, and I’ve posted a select and quease-inducing selection on the This Chair Rocks Facebook page.
Elizabeth Schneewind turned out to be just as interesting as I’d thought she might be. Married to a professor, she translated German philosophy, had three children, and got involved in community activism around daycare and school integration in the late ’60s. When her husband’s work brought them to New York, she met Rose Dobrof, founding director of the Brookdale Center on Aging, who became her mentor and catalyzed a career working with olders. Schneewind studied homecare services, then supervised New York City’s Foster Grandparent program, a federal program that pays low-income olders a stipend that doesn’t count as income, and “survives because you’re getting a lot of services for not much money,” she explained. She went on to work get a degree in social work and a number of jobs in the field, and now works part-time out of the Henry Street Settlement as a field instructor for grad students in social work.
Schneewind has also been fired or resigned three times because she “stood up for something I believed in.” She found the last of the three through ReServe, a non-profit job-placement service for older workers, which placed her with New York’s Department of Aging. Four years in, Schneewind reported that her boss, who had been a competent unit head, had been fired unjustly. The city fired Schneewind too. (ReServe also removed her from their roster.) She sued the city. She won. I’m willing to bet that she would’ve preferred to keep doing an excellent job for a boss she liked and respected.