40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Rebecca Moriarty

Executive Director, Hampden Senior Center; Age 38

Rebecca Moriarty

Rebecca Moriarty

Becky Moriarty was always close to her grandparents, and it hit her hard when she lost a grandfather in 1994. But it also altered her future.

“He had gotten really sick, and there were people who came in and provided care for him. At the same time, they were there for my mom and her sister while they were going through the process of losing their dad. I thought, ‘if I can be a person who helps someone the way they helped my family, that’s what I want to do.’

And that’s how a 15-year-old girl decided she wanted a career helping the elderly.

She started out after college working with an elder-services agency, but the work did not provide the face-to-face interaction with older adults she craved. That changed when the Hampden Senior Center came calling in 2002.

There, she’s responsible for day-to-day operations like budget, payroll, staff supervision, and grant writing. But she most enjoys the daily interactions with the folks who show up to participate in myriad programs.

“Every morning, one woman comes in, sits in my office, and tells me about her night or her weekend; it’s one of the best parts of my day,” Moriarty said. “It’s the interaction with the people I love the most — people who come in and say, ‘this is my home away from home,’ or ‘I wouldn’t have eaten a meal today if I hadn’t come here for lunch.’ We provide transportation for people if they don’t have family members close by. If someone goes to the hospital, we send cards and check on them. We’re an extension of their family.”

It’s the type of service, she said, that will only become more important as the over-60 population in America soars. “This is one of the most important resources we can offer older adults. We’re not just playing bingo and cards, that stereotypical image.”

No, seniors also partake in health and wellness programs, get help navigating the maze of Medicare issues, and, for lower-income participants, receive fuel assistance and meals. “This is a place where people come to socialize, which is really, really important, but we’re also getting to the heart of what people need to stay home and independent longer.”

‘Heart,’ in fact, is a good word for someone who’s had a heart for the elderly since she was a young teenager.

“I love it here,” she said. “I still wake up every day wanting to come to work.”

— Joseph Bednar

Photography by Leah Martin Photography