By Maureen Callahan | Photos by 726 Visuals
When Susan Sinderson and her husband moved to town three decades ago, Elmhurst was a very different place. She came upon it via her job at Lifelink Corporation, a company that built affordable housing for senior citizens. Sinderson worked alongside former Congressman Henry Hyde to convince the city council that Elmhurst needed subsidized housing at a time when none existed.
She came to love the town.
“The building we convinced them to allow us to build was seven stories. It was the first high-rise building in town,” said Sinderson. “I’d like to think that was the building that helped to start the downtown remodel.”
Sinderson’s entire career has been spent advocating for senior citizens. The first 37 years involved the aforementioned LifeLink Corporation. She also served as a consultant to church-related organizations that wanted to build affordable housing in different parts of the U.S. “I spent a lot of time traveling around with those organizations,” she said. “After a while, I felt I did what I needed to do in that area.”
“Although the houses have changed and the town has grown,
people still care about one another.”
– Susan Sinderson,
Elmhurst resident and Director
of Downers Grove’s Community Adult Day Center
She took a step back and some time off during the pandemic to re-evaluate her career. With a resume full of senior citizen experience, she now runs the Community Adult Day Center (CADC), a place for patients and families dealing with dementia, in Downers Grove.
“Even though I work in Downers Grove with the CADC, I work in very close partnership with Elmhurst University (EU),” Sinderson relayed. “We work with the EU School of Nursing. The students fulfill their Community Health internships at CADC.”
“The Community Adult Day Center really is faith in action,” Sinderson believes. Dementia patients are offered a place to feel useful and interested in daily life. In turn, families that care for their loved ones full-time are afforded a much-needed break to work or rest themselves. It’s a win-win situation.
Activities such as art, music, gardening, and chair yoga classes are all geared to the speed of dementia patients. No one is ever forced out of their comfort zone, as all activities are optional. Certain families have reported members’ dementia condition slowing due to the pathways reactivated by the variety of pursuits available to them.
“Although members might not be able to relay back to their families what they did that day when they get home, they know they enjoyed it and had fun,” Sinderson stated. “People with dementia are still able to do many things and definitely have joyful moments here.”
Sinderson enjoys having students at CADC for their energy and input. She likes to see the reaction of someone new to interaction with dementia patients and have their eyes opened. “Dementia really isn’t the death sentence it used to be,” said Sinderson.
A group of occupational therapists from Governor’s State University are currently serving internships at CADC. Sinderson hopes to model to her interns all the benefits that can come from a day center.
“Day centers are one of the least known and understood services for seniors, which is disappointing because so much good can come of just getting loved ones there,” Sinderson stated. Her hope is that the young people who work at CADC will see the good in these types of programs and be able to recommend it to their patients in their future careers.
When asked how she felt about the Elmhurst community, Sinderson relayed that her family lives in an area of town that has flooded many times over the years. “People came together to help one another out,” she said, smiling. “Although houses have changed and the town has grown, people still care about one another.”
Her favorite activity is the annual Garden Walk. “People are willing to let their neighbors walk through their yards to enjoy gardens,” she stated. “It’s evident how much people here care about the environment. There are many volunteers who take care of the parks and the Prairie Path.”
Sinderson also mentioned how much her daughter loved growing up in the community. She feels the experience gave her much security and a well-rounded start to her life with a lot of opportunities. “York prepared her very well, and she went to Milwaukee School of Engineering. Now she is the president of our family business.”
Although the town she found through her job all those years ago morphed into a city somewhere along the way, Sinderson still opines, “the best thing about Elmhurst is the sense of community. It’s easy to find your people here.” ■