Tera Stegner has a heart for the elderly in Corvallis, the college town she’s come to know and love since transferring to Oregon State her junior year to study gerontology, part of the Human Development and Family Sciences program in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
She recognizes the dichotomy of working with older adults in a town focused on youth and education, but she says she knows she’s doing exactly what she is meant to do.
Tera is co-director of Grace Center for Adult Day Services and focuses on the program’s community relations. She is working to change the way people think about the aging and disabled population.
“People view aging strangely in this culture,” she says. “I would love to see more people embrace older adulthood, not fear it, and embrace our seniors by helping them continue to live engaged lives in natural communities. We’re doing a lot of great things in long-term care, but there is a need for more services like Grace Center that provide the missing stepping stone between independent living and facility placement.”
Grace Center is a day-facility for elderly and/or disabled adults who live at home, with family, or in an adult foster home. The Center provides activities and fitness opportunities for participants five days per week.
“Grace Center is a place that empowers seniors and disabled adults to remain living in a home setting with family,” Tera explains. “We are a new approach to long-term care.”
Tera got her first job working with the elderly by chance.
“After high school, I was applying for jobs all over the place, mostly to restaurants because I wanted to save money for college. I happened to get a caregiving job, essentially by accident, and it was amazing – I discovered this passion inside of me to serve the elderly and better their lives.”
She never looked back.
“I’m so grateful for Oregon State, my internships and everything that lead me to this path,” she says.
In her current role at Grace Center, Stegner spends most of her time behind a desk, but she still enjoys interacting with the program’s participants and calls them her “inspiration.”
“I’m always inspired by them,” she says. “I feel very connected to what I do because I know this work is making a tangible difference in their lives and their families’ lives.”