10 things you need to know Featured Stories

10 Things You Need to Know | Black History Month

February marks Black History Month. Here’s what you should know.

1 | Black History Month is nearly a century in the making.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Black scholar born to former slaves, founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915. In 1926, he and his organization established the first Negro History Week during the second week of February.

2 | It expanded to a month-long observance in 1976. 

President Gerald Ford officially extended the celebration to a month, proclaiming, “In the bicentennial year of our independence, we can review with admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our national life.” Ten years later, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress established the month of February as National Black History Month.

3 | February has special significance in black history.

Dr. Woodson chose February for the celebration because it includes the birthdays of two influential early proponents of freedom, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

4 | It has a different theme each year.

Since its very beginnings, Black History Month organizers have provided a theme to focus the public’s attention and study. Past themes include Black Health and Wellness (2022), Black Women in American Culture and History (2012), Black Business (1998), America for All Americans (1976) and Democracy Possible Only Through Brotherhood (1947). This year’s theme is Black Resistance.

5 | Other nations observe Black History Month, too.

Canada first officially recognized February as Black History Month in 1995. Some other countries, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, observe it in October.

6 | Black history reaches across the aisle.

Since the 1970s, every president—regardless of political affiliation—has issued a proclamation endorsing the observation of Black History Month.

7 | African Americans represent a growing proportion of U.S. seniors.

Today, African Americans comprise around 10 percent of the population over age 65 in this country; all racial and ethnic minority populations combined represent about a quarter of older adults. Both of these figures are on the rise: By 2040, it’s projected that one-third of all older Americans will belong to a minority group, and the African American population over age 65 will grow by 80 percent.

8 | Economic and health disparities exist among older Americans.

The poverty rate for African Americans age 65 and older stands at 18 percent, double that of all older Americans. They also have a shorter life expectancy than the population at large, and in the early part of the pandemic were up to five times more likely than their white peers to die of COVID.

9 | Booklists can help you delve deeper.

A variety of organizations publish suggested Black History Month reading lists for people of all ages, including the Boston Public Library, the Innocence Project and even Amazon.

10 | You can take part in Black History Month without even leaving home.

A full lineup of roundtable discussions, author talks and other events are streaming online all month long. Visit for details.

Featured Stories Living with Dementia

Patrick Hurts: Dignity is not negotiable

“It’s still tried and true, with all the research and changes in technology, the one thing that is consistent is just listening to the residents. And dignity.”

Norma lived on the second floor of a nursing facility in Arizona, down a long, sterile hallway lined with metal doors that had little round porthole windows set into them. Day in and day out, she paced that hallway, past the cold and characterless rooms where residents’ lives were divided by merely a curtain. At 93 years old, Norma had dementia, and at the time—in the late 1980s—memory care meant something very different than it does today.

As food service director at the facility, Patrick Hurts befriended Norma when he came to deliver her meals and on visits he’d make to the isolated ward during his work breaks. Both had their roots in the South—he from Louisiana, she from Georgia—and the two bonded over their shared Southern heritage. “She reminded me so much of my grandparents,” recalls Patrick, now director at Bickford of Oswego, Illinois. “She was my buddy.”

One day, Patrick arrived at work to find Norma in the lobby, fighting off five or six staff members. “She was swinging and hitting them and telling them, ‘I’m a grown woman. I need to get home to Georgia. I’m just trying to go home to Georgia,’” he remembers. The altercation had been going on for 15 minutes, so Patrick stepped in to see if he could reason with his friend.

A Life of Caring - It's Gonna Be OK Featured Stories

Katie Fogarty: The Impact of a Caregiver

“What Simone gave us, and what Bickford gave us, was the peace of mind of knowing that when we leave him they are going to treat him with dignity and respect, the way he should be treated when we are not there. Because he couldn’t tell us what was going on. That’s what it meant, peace of mind.” 

Katie Fogarty and Simone Pena became colleagues in caregiving at Bickford of Oswego, Illinois, more than seven years ago, when Katie joined the branch as a concierge. But that’s not how the two met: Their friendship goes back more than a decade, to a time when Katie and her family found themselves on the receiving end of Bickford’s care. 

At just 68 years old, Katie’s father, Joe, developed early dementia after a series of mini strokes, or TIAs. Her mother could no longer care for him safely at home, and so the family decided he should move into memory care at Bickford of Oswego. Katie, now community relations director at Bickford of Aurora, Illinois, remembers the night she brought her dad to live at Bickford with vivid clarity. Joe was lucid enough to realize he was somewhere new, but couldn’t understand why. He manically roamed the halls, looking for his car, his wife, his home. 

Simone, at the time a relatively new certified nursing assistant, leapt into action. She took off her shoes so she could follow along and reassure Joe, who was still young and healthy enough that keeping pace with him wasn’t easy. 

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Shannon Riberdy: A Fierce Will to Love

“If you don’t know Simone, you’ll want to know Simone. No matter what the situation, she’s just that calm, steady, loving force.”

On her first day as interim director at Bickford of Oswego, Illinois, Shannon Riberdy felt like a deer in the headlights. Charged with taking over a property that had lost its leadership, she didn’t know any of the employees, families or residents whose care she was now responsible for.

Then a young, certified nursing assistant, just 20 or 21 years old, approached Shannon and told her, “It’s gonna be OK.” That CNA was Simone Pena.

“From the minute that I walked in, not knowing a soul, she took me by the hand and said, ‘I’ll teach you everything about how our branch operates. I can help you with anything that you need,’” recalls Shannon, now Bickford’s Vice President of Operations. Simone got Shannon up to speed on scheduling and took her under her wing as she adjusted to the new role. Most importantly, she ensured that the quality of care for the branch’s residents never faltered through the transition. “Not a beat was missed,” Shannon says. “She was the glue that was holding everything and holding everyone together in the absence of a director.”

A Life of Caring - It's Gonna Be OK Featured Stories

Simone Pena: Blessed

“If you’re blessed with someone to take care of you, it’s an honor to take that blessing and give it to someone else.”

It was a cold night in Aurora, Illinois, and 11-year-old Simone Pena stood outside her family’s apartment building, bereft and waiting.

The friction between Simone’s 13-year-old brother, her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had reached a breaking point that evening. What began as an accidental fire started by an untended candle ended with the apartment building being evacuated, the police called, and Simone, her brother and 7-year-old sister getting kicked out of the house.

“I think the most disappointing thing was I had always been there for my mom and did whatever she said,” Simone remembers, wiping away tears. “So for her to say she was going to send us away was hurtful.”

Her father in prison, her mother’s back turned, Simone felt the weight of responsibility for her siblings fall onto her own young shoulders. “The only thing I could think of was keeping my sister safe,” she recalls, “and letting them know that everything was gonna be OK.”

Featured Stories In a post - COVID world, is assisted living safe?

Ann Cheverton: Warrior, Defender, Caregiver

Sixth grade human biology class. That’s when she knew. Ann Cheverton’s destiny was laid out before her, as clear as the brightly colored musculoskeletal system chart taped to the blackboard. She was going to take care of people.

There was nobody in Ann’s immediate or extended family with a medical or caregiving background. Not even a nurse as a neighbor. It was just in her.

Ann stayed true to her inner calling, exiting her professional training as a registered nurse in England. In the late 80s, Ann crossed the Atlantic and settled in the suburbs of Chicago, working as an oncology, bone marrow transplant nurse.

“I wanted to save everybody,” Ann said. “I was on the acute side of oncology. The high-tech side.”

That drive to save lives and evolve with the field led Ann to branch out into mental health, pharmacy, home health, hospice and population health. It’s like a magic bag of experience.

Featured Stories In a post - COVID world, is assisted living safe?

Judith Miranda: Care & Wisdom Beyond Her Years

When her peers were spending the last days of summer lounging at the local pool in Aurora, Illinois, Judith was a thousand miles away. In Georgia. Her cousin was hospitalized after the removal of a 10-pound tumor. The family needed Judith, so she arrived a week after her cousin’s surgery and stayed for a month. She was 14.

“Even at the hospital, my aunt said I was the one waking up when a nurse would come in, and I would be asking what they were giving my cousin,” Judith said. “My mom said as a kid, I could see videos of women giving birth and it wouldn’t gross me out.”

Featured Stories In a post - COVID world, is assisted living safe?

Dave Connell: Seeker & Teacher of Happiness

Like an extra pudding cup in a school kid’s packed lunch or a giddy secret, some things in life are just better shared. For Dave, that thing’s happiness. He’s been giving it away for 81 years.

Maybe Dave’s rosy outlook came from years of working deep in the earth, in coal mining country, Pennsylvania. Or maybe Happiness 101 was the best lesson Dave ever taught in his 30 years as teacher.

Didn’t take long for Dave to find ways to bring light and life to fellow residents.

Featured Stories In a post - COVID world, is assisted living safe?

Bev Boudreau: A Time for Work, A Time for Play

Bev was as tough as farm wives come. A real ball of fire. No time for fun and games when there were crops to tend and mouths to feed — cows’ and kids’.

“Mom is painting cavasses. This just crazy!” Bev’s daughter Dana reported this leisure-time phenomena to Tom, her brother, and they shared a laugh. Their spunky, not-to-be-messed with 78-year-old mother also finds whapping balloons with foam pool noodles quite hilarious. And a great way to engage mind and body daily with her fellow residents.