A smile by Dawn Knight, 72, lights up the room. Elegant and articulate, she has led a fascinating, stimulating life that is now somewhat circumscribed by the effects of brain cancer. She struggles with memory loss and can’t drive.
Her daughter Melissa Taylor and son-in-law Glen Taylor share their Sebastopol home with Dawn so they can be on hand to assist her. It’s a busy home, filled with love, and family, including Dawn’s two young grandsons. The boys keep Melissa extremely busy, to the point where she can’t spend as much time as she’d like with her mother.
Fortunately, Melissa discovered Council on Aging’s Sebastopol Senior Social Club, a program at the Sebastopol Senior Center that provides exercise, entertainment and companionship for seniors. Melissa brings her mother to the social club several times per week.
“I have a brand new baby six weeks old, and a toddler who is almost two, and it can be overwhelming at times,” says Melissa. ”So I am not always able to provide the socialization, stimulation, and entertainment my mom deserves. Fortunately, the Senior Social Club provides me with piece of mind that she is getting that kind of interaction.”
Before her illness, Dawn enjoyed a creative and fulfilling career as a “world-class interior designer, who did beautiful work for many interesting people,” according to Melissa, who is herself an artist. Dawn entered the field just out of high school, when she went to work for a furniture store in Anchorage, Alaska.
Although Dawn’s personal aesthetic tends toward “simple, sophisticated, contemporary styles,” she relished working for a people with a variety of tastes. “I liked to have an open philosophy, because the more open you are, the more different types of designs you can do,” she says.
Dawn ultimately ended in up Sacramento, and unfortunately developed stage 4 esophageal cancer in 2012. “She managed those treatments all by herself, impressively,” says Melissa. The cancer seemed to go into remission, but a year later, returned as brain cancer.
At that point, Dawn’s daughter and son-in-law decided to move from their home in San Francisco to Sacramento to help Dawn through the radiation treatments and their side- effects, which include memory impairment. It was apparent she would continue to need help from her family.
Less than enthused about living in Sacramento, Melissa researched other locations where the family could live, and settled on Sebastopol, a decision that has delighted. Dawn. “It’s like being in a vacation spot,” she says. “People are lovely, and the town has a lot of things going on.”
Dawn finds the same warm spirit among her friends at the Sebastopol Senior Social Club. “I enjoy the people. They are really warm and loving.”
Council on Aging provides four Senior Social Clubs in Sonoma County, located in Healdsburg, Sonoma, southwest Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. The program is designed to enrich the quality of life for older adults with limited physical and cognitive functioning. For more information, contact Laurel Anderson at (707) 525-0143 x103.