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Cocktails Help Seniors Be a Part of, Not Apart From, Community
Friday, October 15, 2021


Robert and Margot Shuford made the 32-hour drive from their home in Atlanta, Ga., to Sun Valley for 25 years, navigating through Nashville, St. Louis and Lincoln, Neb., before throwing up their hands in jubilation when they hit Salt Lake City, knowing they were on the home stretch.

When they moved here full time three years ago, they immediately began looking for ways they could plug in and settled on The Senior Connection, among other pursuits.

Wednesday night Margot Shuford co-chaired the 6th annual Cocktails for a Cause on behalf of The Senior Connection, along with Mary Colhoun and Mardi Shepard.

“They have so many services to help older people feel connected, even when they’re homebound. And I think it’s important to feel connected in these crazy times,” said Shuford.

The crowd was limited to 125—half its pre-pandemic size—because of COVID restrictions. But there was a palpable excitement inside Gail Severn Gallery as people visited amidst art by Marcia Myers, David Devillier and others.

“This is the first fundraiser we’ve attended indoors in 19 months,” said Robert Shuford.

Liz Hickey and other servers offered up appetizers made by The Connection Chef Brian Ahern that included puff pastry topped with fig jam and bleu cheese and roasted jalapenos with chorizo and cheese.

“I’m so impressed with his hors d’oeuvres,” said Susan Passovoy. “I went to lunch at the Senior Center  and it was fabulous. Everything was fresh—no bulk stuff from Costco. And the atmosphere was great.”

The chit chat run the gamut. Lisa-Marie Allen, attending with her husband Peter Hendricks, told how she’d gotten a new horse named Hitz to occupy her time as the pandemic restricted their travel to far-flung places.

A natural athlete, she had been a gifted horse rider and ice skater growing up in California. She chose to focus on skating over horses when she was 15 and ended up placing fifth at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid behind Linda Fratianne, another Sun Valley Olympian.

“I decided I could ride horses forever but that I wouldn’t be able to skate forever,” she said.

Connie Post, meanwhile, was bursting with excitement about the upcoming daffodil plant-in at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden. Volunteers are wanted to help plant more than 30,000 daffodil bulbs at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday, Oct. 21-22, in preparation for a Daffodil Festival benefitting The Senior Connection and the garden next spring.

“AARP bought the bulbs. I’m going to drill holes with an augur. I’m totally into it,” she said.

The Senior Connection serves more than 750 seniors a year, providing Meals on Wheels, day care for those with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, home care that enables seniors to stay in their homes and more.

“The first Cocktails for a Cause raised $50,000 and we were ecstatic,” Board President Michael Beck told the crowd. Last year’s, held virtually, raised $265,000.

“Our operations continue to grow. Isolation and social distancing have been tough on many of our seniors,” Beck added. “It takes a real toll on their physical and mental health. Your paddle up helps our seniors be a part of, not apart from, the community.”

R. L. Rowsey led the Paddle Up.

“This I know—this is where smiles happen,” he said. “Look at the pictures on Facebook and there’s always two people smiling together.”

A handful of people raised paddles pledging $10,000 each. A pledge of $5,000 would provide a month of transportation for seniors wanting to visit the doctor, attend lunch at the center or go on field trips, they were told.

A $1,000 pledge would cover 40 hours of home care, including bathing, dressing, meals and running errands to pick up the mail and prescriptions. A $500 pledge could repurpose a hearing aid. And a $250 pledge could provide a week of fitness classes, including the popular Fit and Fall Proof fall prevention classes and an Ageless Motion class encompassing breathing, meditation and stretching.

By the time the paddles had been raised, the Connection had reached its $200,000 goal.

In addition to Cocktails for a Cause, the Senior Connection’s board members and volunteers have quietly spent the past year meeting with donors, raising $2.3 million of a $2.5 million sustaining campaign that includes expanding the kitchen.

Donor Don Lofgren said that the campaigners performed as well as professional fundraisers.

“Most had never gone out and asked for money,” he said. “They had some concerns (about how to approach people), but they were passionately committed.”


  • The Senior Connection can feed a senior for an entire year through its Meals on Wheels program for the same cost as one day in a hospital or 10 days in a nursing home.
  • Men outlive their ability to drive safely by 10 years and women by seven years. Consequently, the transportation The Senior Connection provides to meals and activities, doctor’s appointments and other errands helps fight isolation and keeps roads and seniors safe.
  • One in three seniors fall each year. That’s why the Senior Connection offers Fit & Fall Proof classes three times a week to improve balance and mobility.
  • One in five adults over 65 need help with daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing and eating. The Senior Connection provides 8,000 hours of home care.
  • Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s why the Connection Club offers 2,500 hours of adult memory day care to offer those adults stimulation while giving family caregivers a respite.
  • Cognitive function is 70 percent higher in seniors who are socially active. The Connection provides more than 4,000 rides each year, transporting members to symphony and elsewhere to provide time with friends.
  • The Senior Connection's Meals on Wheels program grew 420 percent during the pandemic.


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