Older at heart than their age of 36, one woman from Texas and another originally from Hong Kong are teaming up to provide area seniors with the non-medical, in-person assistance they need.
Katie Killebrew became owner of the Frisco-based Seniors Helping Seniors franchise in June while Wendy Li followed suit in Denton in August. Between them, they cover all of Denton and parts of Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties. While they both learned about Seniors Helping Seniors from franchise consultants, they met for the first time Sept. 10 at their booth at the Active Adult Health Fair at the Flower Mound Senior Center.
Seniors Helping Seniors matches more active seniors with their less-active peers still living in their homes. The benefits to both are virtually endless as caregivers can keep busy while doing something worthwhile and clients can remain independent.
The franchises provide caregivers the flexibility to work as many or as few hours as they want. It targets those aged 50 and above and is seeking as many interested people as possible.
“Our caregivers are very important to us. They are like family,” Killebrew said. “We’re here to work with them and to be as flexible as possible. We want it be something they enjoy doing, something they look forward to. Some caregivers want a specific, limited schedule, while others desire a more full-time arrangement and like to work 40 hours a week.”
Services include companionship, light housekeeping, meal preparation, handyman/repair, pet and personal care, yard work, medication reminders, mailing letters and bills, safety and fall prevention, even transportation to doctor’s appointments or restaurants, family events or even just a drive to get out of the house.
Seniors Helping Seniors was started in 1999 by Kiran and Phillip Yocum. She worked for Mother Teresa in India for 14 years where she developed a passion to care for others. After her first husband passed away, she moved to Pennsylvania to be near her daughters and married Yocum, who had a history with franchises. They now have hundreds of nationwide franchises.
“They saw the benefit of having a person of similar means who can understand what they are going through,” Killebrew said. “One of my grandmas said ‘my body doesn’t match my mind. My mind is sharp, but my body says no.’ How can a 20-year-old understand that. If you are 60 or 55 you can understand what they are going through.”
Killebrew and Li match caregivers with clients based on a number of compatibility factors including common interests and proximity to each other. Each caregiver undergoes background and reference checks and their personalities are matched with seniors who are a natural fit.
The women took much different paths to securing their neighboring territories. Killebrew was born and raised in Victoria and earned a marketing degree from Texas State University in San Marcos in 2008. She always has been in customer facing roles and has a heart for service.
Killebrew began her career as a marketing director for a collegiate summer baseball league. She later worked as a speech therapy assistant with special education students in the Victoria school system followed by seven years in oil and gas sales and business development in New Braunfels.
In March, she moved to North Texas to be with boyfriend Cornel Wasserman and connected with franchise broker Rick Bisio to assess potential opportunities. They looked at pre-school curriculum and HVAC options before settling on Seniors Helping Seniors with her father David, a former automobile dealership owner who was retired, but had a desire to serve the community.
“They were all amazing companies,” Killebrew said. “My Dad and I talked and I told him I wanted to do something that made a difference in peoples’ lives. Fortunately, I had about seven grandmothers and grandfathers growing up, many of whom lived to very late in life, one who lived to 102, another to 98 so I was really close to them.
“I remember visiting them in assisted living facilities and noticed how many people didn’t have visitors. You see them sitting alone. It was heartbreaking. I don’t want anybody to experience that.
“Every person matters and I want to bring happiness and love to their lives. I also liked the concept because it reminded me of when my parents retired. It was much easier for my mom to stay engaged, she went to the gym, and made friends. I noticed, however, that it was much more difficult for my Dad. I think men in general don’t have as many options to stay social. This service solves that problem. It provides an opportunity for people to get out and meet people and do some work and serve their community, even if it is only six hours a week.”
Li moved to the US in 2008 to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for architecture, after which she worked on designing shopping malls in California for about seven years. When her husband William changed jobs in 2016, they moved to Texas and have been here ever since.
About the same time the shopping mall market began shrinking last year, Li hurt her back during an exercise workout. While at a rehabilitation facility, she met a number of seniors and became fascinated with their situations. It made her reminisce about her bond with her grandmother and realize how helping seniors could be a great new career. After six months looking at options with her franchise consultant, she chose Seniors Helping Seniors.
“I lived with my grandmother for 20 years before she passed away,” Li said. “My grandmother was always there for me when I was little, and I was mentally and physically there for my grandmother during her later years.
“Seniors Helping Seniors is something from the bottom of my heart I feel I want to give back to society and something I will enjoy doing. I also love to talk to people. I feel I am helping not just the aging senior but the retiring senior who may need a job.”
As someone brand new to the company, Li is just starting the recruiting phase of both caregivers and clients from Denton to Keller and Grapevine including all areas in between.
Li and Killebrew are focused on finding energetic seniors and connecting them with seniors who could benefit from a little extra help from a friend in their peer group. They are both passionate and are on a mission to serve this often forgotten, but invaluable segment of our society.
If you are looking for help in the Flower Mound, Lewisville, Carrollton, Frisco, McKinney area please contact Katie Killebrew at 469-768-0308 or visit her website at www.seniorcarefrisco.com. If you are looking for help in the Denton, Keller, Grapevine area please contact Wendy Li at 972-345-3777 or visit her website at www.seniorcaredenton.com.