By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – On Nov. 25, Sharon Yager was organizing files that had accumulated over the course of 24 years as the Council on Aging’s (COA) first full-time director in preparation for her retirement the next day.
Yager, 50, isn’t completely retiring. She has accepted a position with Montachusett Home Care in Leominster.
“I’m returning to my roots… working with people in …what their long-term care options are either for themselves or their loved ones,” she said.
Her calling to serve the elderly stems from an early age. She grew up with her paternal grandmother living with her family.
“It really goes back to family… My grandmother and I really clicked. I just loved being around her friends and hearing their stories; it was like being in a time machine,” Yager explained. “I clicked with her generation more than with my own.”
Born and raised in Utica, N.Y., She spent a great deal of her youth visiting her other grandmother in Northborough.
She studied business administration at Worcester State College with the hopes of a career in hospital administration. Along the way Yager became involved with a gerontology studies program that tied together her interest in business and the elderly.
Her first full-time job was with Mystic Valley Elder Services, north of Boston, as a respite care manager. The commute was difficult however, because at that point she was a young mother with a growing family.
She had married her high school sweetheart with whom she had five children – two biological sons and three siblings adopted from Russia. She is now a grandmother as well.
In 1995 she was hired as director of the COA.
“I grew with the position because in 1995 there was no senior center; we had some activity space at Parker Road that we shared with Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services and Shrewsbury Media Connection and the Special Ed. Department,” she noted. “From 1990 to ‘94 the previous director, who was part-time, had a card table and a makeshift office at Town Hall.”
“I came on board and basically said, “OK, we are on board a ship and I’m your new captain so tell me where you want to go,” she exclaimed. “I’ll do my best to get you there!”
She began with a staff of one-and-a-half employees, including herself, one bus and limited programming. The town’s senior population then was less than 5,000.
Her successes include the building of a senior center with a broad range of programming that functions as a community center for over 8,000 seniors. They now have four buses, three full-time and three-part time employees.
“I feel the more people that I’ve met the more that I have lived,” she said. “I know this is the end of this particular part of the journey but my own journey will continue.”
When asked what advice she would give to her successor, Yager replied simply, “Enjoy the ride.”
A reception was held in Yager’s honor Nov. 25 in the Main Hall at the Senior Center.