Who we are
Aging Optimist's purpose is to foster resilience by sourcing excellence in crisis or calm.
Our team is comprised of care managers with degrees in gerontology, nursing, psychology or social work. We work together to provide bespoke solutions for our clients. We provide a plan of action which may include referrals to best practices or practitioners in traditional medicine as well as alternative approaches such as Healing Touch, Educational Therapy, Rock Steady Boxing, Neuromuscular Therapy, Neuro-Optometry and Acupuncture. We also have relationships with Brain Health and Memory Centers, Universities (for research and second opinions) and Senior Living Communities.
We are guided by these philosophies:
Be open to experiences and people.
Uncover everyone’s strengths and how to leverage to help others.
Be of service.
Listen, ask questions, understand needs, establish goals, and teach back.
Create care plans that include self-care for client and caregiver.
Provide the best solution in a timely manner critical to the client’s success.
AS BETTE DAVIS ONCE SAID, 'OLD AGE AIN'T NO PLACE FOR SISSIES.'
Aging Optimist, LLC is a member of Aging Life Care™, a U.S. association of care management professionals. Aging Life Care™ is also known as geriatric care management, a holistic, person-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing ongoing health challenges.
Working with families and responsible parties (Bank Trustees, Attorneys), Aging Life Care Professionals provide answers in times of uncertainty. Our guidance leads families and responsible parties to actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for whom they care. The primary benefits are reducing stress and time off of work for caregivers through:
Assessment and monitoring
Planning and problem-solving
Education and advocacy
Aging Life Care Professionals are members of the Aging Life Care Association™ (ALCA) and differ from Patient Advocates, Senior Advisors, Senior Navigators, and Elder Advocates. ALCA members must meet stringent education, experience, and certification requirements of the organization. All members are required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
AGING OPTIMIST FOUNDER
pictured with her beloved grandfather & late muse, B.C. Bolt, who was the ultimate 'Aging Optimist'
Julie’s passion for working with seniors began as a child, in her grandmother Helen's kitchen, and in her grandfather B.C.'s greenhouse. She volunteered at a senior center in high school, and her entrepreneurial parents had a large influence on her upbringing. Her mother initiated and executed programs for seniors, replicated by churches city-wide. Her father developed and managed senior living communities in the Southeast.
After a career in technology sales, Julie took her skills to the senior care market where she quickly rose to leadership positions in sales, marketing, operations and programming.
Realizing her ambition to make an even greater impact, she completed her Master of Science in Gerontology in 2012 with Honors from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her thesis on brain nutrition, presented at the American Society on Aging Conference, was the impetus for the launch of the Brain Health and Wellness Center at the 2013 International Alzheimer’s Conference Boston. She enjoys being partner of a certified therapy team through Dog B.O.N.E.S.sm with her dog named Biskit.
Prior to moving to Charlotte, Julie worked at Long Life Matters, serving the financial and care management needs of seniors in Boston. She served on the GeriJoy board of advisors and helped found Mature Caregivers, a homecare company that provides employment opportunities for older adults.
She also has experience developing innovative memory preservation and enhancement programs, teaching classes on communication and dementia care, and integrating digital tools to manage individual care plans while improving the caregiver experience.
Julie is a Certified Manager of Care (CMC), Certified Dementia Practitioner® (CDP®), Certified Animal and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (AAT) and certified by the Alzheimer’s Association in Habilitation Training.
Julie is an active member of South Park Charlotte Rotary Club, a Board member of Parkinson’s Association of the Carolinas and a volunteer at Trips for Kids.
University of Massachusetts Boston (with Honors), 2012
Adjunct Faculty, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC
Aging Life Care Association Member
Advanced Professional Member, Care Manager Certification (CMC), 2015; Member, Southeast Chapter, Charlotte Unit Leader, National Webinar Committee Member
ICCDP International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners
Certified Dementia Practitioner® (CDP®), 2015
Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts
Caring for People with Alzheimer's Disease: A 13-Hour Habilitation Training Curriculum Certification, 2015
UNCC Department of Gerontology
Participant: 2021 Caregiver Thrive, Learn and Connect Evidenced Based Study
Research Assistant: Community Needs Assessment of Older Adults in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
Alzheimer's Association Support Group Facilitator
Animal Assisted Therapy & Equine Assisted Psychotherapist
Assisted Animal Therapy Programs of Colorado Certification, 2013
American Society on Aging Conference
Dissertation delivery on brain nutrition, 2012
Engineering in Humanity Grant Investigator & Author
Olin Engineering College, 2014 & 2015
Heart Math (https://heartmathtutoring.org/)
Tutor, Montclair Elementary School, 2021-present
Jasmine Kitchen (www.jasminekitchen.org)
Volunteer, 2016 - present
Legacy of Wisdom Driving Longevity Study Participant
Harvard Medical School, Brigham & Women's Hospital, North Hill, October 2014
Parkinson's Association of the Carolinas (https://www.parkinsonassociation.org/)
Board Member 2021- Present
Rotary International: South Park Chapter
Sigma Phi Omega National Academic Honor Society
Trips for Kids (https://www.tripsforkidscharlotte.org/
Volunteer 2021 - Present
Kay Falls, RN
Kay is a native Charlottean. From a small child, she always wanted to be a nurse. As soon as she was old enough, she became a Candy Striper, not in the soda shop like so many; but, on the floor “where the real action was!” Kay graduated from CPCC School of nursing and took a job in ICU-CCU at Presbyterian Hospital. After a few years of hospital nursing, she secured a position with two general surgeons acting as their private scrub and rounding nurse. Later she attended UNCC where she earned her BSN. Here she fell in love with her Home Health rotation and knew that care in the home was where she could make her best impact as a nurse. She joined the Presbyterian Home Care team and quickly was promoted to the Nursing Supervisor. Later she transferred to the Presbyterian Hospice Team, supervising nurses and aides and providing end of life care in the home.
Kay has also led a very active life in her church where she coordinated the nurse ministry for many years, served as elder, coordinates their widow’s group, sings in the choir and is active in their women’s ministry.
Working with Aging Optimist affords Kay the ability to truly make a difference in the lives of clients and their families by providing them with an opportunity to make life more manageable; and thus, strengthening their quality of life.
Darla is a 5-year old Pomeranian. She is never without a bow and prides herself on always having a good hair day.
Jen Conley, BA, MSW
Throughout Jen's childhood, her grandmother spent every winter with her family. She developed a very special bond with her that sparked her interest in the geriatric population. In high school and college, Jen volunteered at nursing homes where she provided friendly visits to residents. Post college, she worked in retail, soon realizing that she wanted to pursue a career with the elderly. Jen enrolled in Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service and completed her MSW. Post graduation, she served as a social worker for multiple long-term care and rehabilitation facilities including Waveny Care Center in New Canaan, CT, Somers Manor in Somers, NY, and most recently, Clear Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation in Mint Hill, NC.
Jen is a mother of four wonderful children ages 19 to 25. She also has a 14-year-old Shih-Tzu Poodle named Bella and a puppy, Jack. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with family, traveling to Maine to visit her mother, practicing yoga, and cooking with her husband. The Conley family moved to Charlotte in 2017 from the Northeast; they love the friendliness of the people, the weather, and the Southern BBQ!
She is delighted to be a member of the Aging Optimist team where she can advocate for our clients, help them maintain independence, and ultimately enhance their quality of life.
Jack is a feisty young Sheepadoodle who keeps Bella on her toes and helps keep her human mom in snuggles.
Kaitlin Abernathy, MA, CTRS
Kaitlin’s entire life has been dedicated to helping others. From growing up surrounded by Special Olympics athletes, to advocating for people with disabilities in recreation, Kaitlin knew her career was going to be in line with advocacy and autonomy.
It took meeting a special someone to steer her into recreational therapy her junior year of college. One class about programming for vulnerable populations and she was hooked. She had the fortune of helping establish the Therapeutic Recreation Lab at UNC-Greensboro under the tutelage of Dr. Linda L. Buettner, LRT/CTRS. An undergraduate research assistantship lead to publications regarding animal assisted therapy interventions for older adults with dementia and a life changing study abroad experience learning from integrated care at a community nursing facility in Norway. Dr. Buettner passed away due to pancreatic cancer a few days before graduation, and Kaitlin chose to specialize in Gerontology at UNC-Charlotte for graduate school. Dr. Buettner’s passion for the field of aging lives on through those who admired her most.
Kaitlin has experience working in long term care, short term rehabilitation, memory care, and home health operations. Her heart lies in where she can do the most good for the most people. She is married to her college sweetheart and they have three wild children plus two cuddly pups.
Gunny & Susie
Gunny is a 12 year old cockapoo who thinks he’s human. He enjoys barking at animals on TV and waiting for his littlest human to drop snacks. Susie is a 3 year old wired-haired rescue who is just happy to be wherever her people are.
Heather Hogston, BS
CARE MANAGER ASSISTANT
Growing up Heather always new she wanted to help people. From babysitting, to volunteering at church, to teaching elementary school, Heather has always had a heart for service. Heather moved from Sarasota, Florida when she was twelve years old, and has always considered herself a native Charlottean. In high school she loved volunteering at the food bank, or with elderly at church, and realized she had a gift for helping people. After graduating with a BS in education and psychology from Appalachian State University, Heather taught in elementary and middle schools in South Charlotte. Whil taking time off to raise children, Heather created a tutoring program which brought senior citizens together with younger middle school students.
Heather enjoys meeting new people, getting involved, being creative, organizing, as well as traveling with her family. She is married to a Wifi Engineer, has 2 children and 2 stepchildren, along with a very spoiled Airedale terrier. Heather is also very involved with the Airedale Rescue Group of the Carolinas and enjoys volunteering at Winghaven.
Finley is a rescue from Alabama, and was adopted when she was 2. This is Heather's fourth Airedale, and third rescue. She Ioves the personality and tenacity of this bread. There is never a dull moment with an Airedale around!
CERTIFIED THERAPY DOG
Biskit* is an international dog of the world. Her mother is a white Bischon Frise from France; her father is a black Havanese from Cuba. She was born on St. Patrick’s day (so she’s Irish) in South Carolina and spent most of her life as a Yankee in Boston. She was the most precocious of her family and first to leave the puppy pen. Her first job, at three months, was in Assisted Living in Chestnut Hill where she thrived and enjoyed filet mignon and belly rubs. She graduated from therapy dog school and quickly moved on to skilled nursing, hospital and hospice visits. Her skills at dance, roll and speak led to children’s day care visits and spreading joy to folks living in memory care communities and adult day centers.
In her spare time, she enjoys long walks on the beach, paddle boarding, kayaking, bike rides in her basket and co-facilitating support group meetings.
*Although she spells her name phonetically, Biskit is a tribute to her “biscuit and gravy” southern heritage and credited to her God sister, Rebecca.
Who we help
The ideal client is the one who is preparing for the future or in the midst of unexpected chaos and is willing to accept help for their own peace of mind, professionally or personally. Family caregivers are not the only people who can’t sleep at night; trust officers, financial planners and attorneys carry the burden too.
Although Aging Optimist is located in Charlotte, NC, we are available for phone consultation and face-to-face visits in underserved areas. For example, in one case, we coordinated move management services from N.C. to Cape Cod, MA.
The move included downsizing, fair and equal distribution of belongings amongst family, hiring packers and movers, choosing the senior care community, unpacking and decorating, vetting local medical professionals and referring a local Aging Life Care Professional to assume responsibility for the client upon relocation.
Our clients reside locally in Charlotte, Wilkesboro, Concord, and Hickory, NC as well as from Greenville and Columbia, SC, and Atlanta, GA. If we are not the best fit for you or your family, we will refer to another member of the Aging Life Care Association.
Why contact us
Family are not close, physically and/or emotionally or no family
The client’s care is medically complex.
The family/client needs an advocate with healthcare knowledge
Client has memory loss, poor physical health or mental health issues.
Client needs help choosing the best senior living and negotiating the contract.
Client needs guardianship, POA or HC Proxy.
Assistance during emergencies/crises
Coordinating and monitoring medical care
Facilitation of communication among client, family and health care facility
From a fiduciary responsibility perspective, attorneys and trust officers may hire an Aging Life Care consultant to lessen the financial burden on the family/client
Legal and financial professionals do not have the expertise nor the time to care for their clients’ medical needs
Provide an objective assessment of a client’s needs and resulting overarching care plan for clients
Assess, plan for long-term needs
Review Long Term Care Insurance policies and how to implement
Preserve client’s independence
Get client to “open up” and consider options
Arrange outside activities to enhance the client’s social support and quality of life.
Communicate client or family status changes
Completion of paperwork associated with the client’s insurance, benefits or finances.
DISTINCT TRENDS WE WORK TO MITIGATE
Lack of resources and service for seniors and cuts to services
Inability to get a single answer from providers
Increasingly complex medical issues, provider communication and health coverage questions.
Lack of understanding of benefits provided by Medicare.
I can’t thank [Aging Optimist] enough for everything you did for us. Mainly, thank you for being a ray of sunshine when I was in a tunnel of darkness.
Julie is a wealth of information regarding elder care. She is very experienced, professional, polished and genuine. She always makes her clients and colleagues feel comfortable and her presence just truly lifts people by the way she lights up a room.
MELISSA PLOURDE, LSW, CDP
Hospice Community Liaison
Hospice Services of Massachusettes