Personal Story

Impact feature issue on Retirement & Aging for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Through Work, Play, and Pandemic: The Circle of Friendship

Author

Tina Ferguson, Kathy Reedus and Fred Reedus have been co-workers and friends for decades, most recently coming together through a program called Circle of Friends through the Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities. They live in St. Louis, Missouri.

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An African American woman in a purple shirt with black short hair smiles as she sits.

Tina Ferguson, now retired, enjoys visiting with friends.

An African American man and caucasian woman sit next to each other in chairs. He is wearing a striped, short-sleeved collared shirt and she is wearing a solid navy shirt.

Kathy and Fred Reedus are working to avoid a nursing home stay.

We call ourselves the Senior Hot Shots. We’ve been friends for many years, but we started as co-workers at Industrial Aid Inc., a sheltered workshop. One time we were joking around and someone just said the name Senior Hot Shots and it stuck.

Recently, we were among about 20 seniors who got together for a new program called Circle of Friends. It’s a group that started in Finland for seniors to fight against social isolation. We’re the first group that formed among people with developmental disabilities who are getting older.

When the pandemic hit, our group got tablets with the help of AADD so we could continue seeing each other. I (Fred) have been working with electronics since I was 6 years old, and I encouraged Tina to learn how to use the tablet, which she had never done before.

I (Tina) called everybody in our group regularly to check on them. I talked to Freddie and Kathy all the time, and I called JoAnne and MaryBeth and Tammy. I called everybody, and they were happy that I called to check in with them. When we got the tablets, I didn’t think I could learn to use one. I got help and encouragement from staff, friends, and family. I kept on practicing and practicing, and now when we have meetings I log in and do everything on the tablet that I need to do by myself.

Now I’m 63, and I’ve been retired from the workshop since my mid-50s. It got harder as I got older. I didn’t like getting up early for work, and my mother, who has now passed away, didn’t like me going in early, either. Now I like visiting with friends, and when I’m alone I like to exercise at home and do puzzles.

Kathy and I (Fred) are still working one day a week doing cleaning, but I want to retire next year to spend more time with her and to get more rest. I’m 67, and have been working most of my life.

I (Kathy) like getting up early in the morning and having structure to the day, but I’m also looking forward to retirement to have more time to color, exercise, go bowling, and go out shopping.

One thing I do know about what we want in the future is that we don’t want to go to a nursing home. Today we are living with our niece and paying rent, and we want to stay independent as long as possible.

Getting to this age, of course I have family members who are now deceased. I lost my father in 2009, and my mother in 2001. It was hard, but I got through it one day at a time, with help from my husband and friends.

What I (Fred) want to be remembered for is that I worked hard during my career and that I was respectful of others, honest and trustworthy.

We all want to be recognized for what we’ve done to live independently, and to stay together as friends.