Maddie, Barbara Kalt’s dog, gives a kiss to John J. at Rosener House in Menlo Park. Photo by Magali Gauthier/The Almanac
Rosendo N. shakes the paw of Maddie, Barbara Kalt’s dog, at Rosener House, a daycare center in Menlo Park for adults with dementia. Kalt recently retired from her position as the center’s director. Photo by Magali Gauthier/The Almanac.
By Maggie Mah
Special to The Almanac
You know how it goes: You go about your life feeling like youth will last forever and that aging, with all of its implications, is just a concept. Then one day, you suddenly notice the skin on your arm looks different —like what you see on your older relatives — and the realization that no one is immune from this process starts to sink in. Along with the prospect of losing one’s youthful looks and learning to cope with physical challenges, another specter looms in the distance: Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of cognitive function.
The good news: We are living longer. The bad news: The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop some form of dementia. It is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
The medical field has advanced light years in treating many ailments caused by “birthdays,” but for people with dementia, not much has changed in the last 50 years. Until science is able to crack the code, ways must be found to help the growing numbers of people afflicted with degenerative brain diseases.
Barbara Kalt has devoted nearly 40 years to doing just that. She retired recently from her position as director at Rosener House, Peninsula Volunteers’ day care center in Menlo Park for adults with dementia. Although she has handed the reins of management over to her successor, she is continuing as a volunteer.
The Almanac caught up with her at Rosener House to talk about her experience, her thoughts on issues facing dementia patients and their caregivers, and of her dreams for the future.
Barbara Kalt’s warm personality and easy laugh immediately put you at ease, and within a few minutes of meeting her for the first time, it feels as if you are talking to an old friend. She is also refreshingly candid and feisty, qualities that hint at her determination to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers.
Originally from Wisconsin, Kalt grew up an only child and recalls being very close to her maternal grandmother: “I just loved her. She treated everyone like they were very special. That stays with you.”
Kalt moved to Menlo Park in 1975 with her husband, Howard Kalt, a communications industry executive. Although she worked for a time as an instructional aide in the Portola Valley School District, she found the atmosphere too pressured and began to search for a different situation. She found it at Rosener House, and began working there part time while raising her two children.
“I started in 1981, when Rosener House was in a little school house. It was real mom-and-pop — I drove the bus,” Kalt recalls with a laugh. Considerable changes have been made since then, many of which are due to Kalt’s determined efforts to create what is now widely recognized as a state-of-the-art facility with a staff of 20 serving the needs of 120 regular participants in Rosener House’s program.
This story was originally featured on the Almanac. Click here to view the article in its entirety.
Download PDF Almanac June 26, 2019 VOL. 54 NO. 43