Granite Falls residents visiting the Senior Center might have noticed a new face there recently. Last month, Chris Jensen began work as the new Senior Advocate for the Granite Falls area. The Senior Advocate is the primary community liaison for senior members of the community, and helps organize events, advocate on behalf of residents, and connect individuals with appropriate resources. It is an extension of Yellow Medicine East Community Education.

Jensen was born and raised in Granite Falls, making him a familiar face for many residents. “I grew up with a lot of these folks,” Jensen explained. “I used to work in the grocery store when I was in high school, so they all seem to know me. The older women would appreciate when I would help them carry out their groceries.”

After graduating from St. John’s University with a history major and communications minor back in May, Jensen returned to Granite Falls looking to pursue his interest in health care administration. He completed a four month internship at the Granite Falls Hospital working on different projects.

He says that his experience at the hospital helped “solidify his decision” to go into the healthcare profession. “I knew I wanted to be involved in long-term care as populations age,” he elaborated. Applying for the open Senior Advocate position at the Senior Center therefore “seemed like a logical first step.”

Jensen enjoys creating relationships with senior residents and says that it’s important for him to connect with senior residents before they need to move to an assisted living facility. Despite the age difference between himself and the people he works with, Jensen says that he loves getting to know local seniors; “I really care for our elderly population.”

Jensen says that it was a lucky coincidence that the Senior Advocate position opened up at the end of his hospital internship, saying it was the “right place, right time.”

“I was really unsure of what to expect at first,” Jensen admits. He knew he would advocate for seniors, but as he quickly came to find out, “that can mean a myriad of things.” Jensen now spends his time at work doing everything from helping people out with day-to-day chores to answering questions about programs and events.

Although Jensen is still in that learning stage of any new job, he says that he is lucky to have a supportive school board and administration that has helped him out in various ways. He says that he is also indebted to the previous Senior Advocate Steph Fry, adding, “I can’t say enough about what she’s done for me. It’s great being able to ask her anytime I have questions about anything.”

Now over a month into the position, Jensen says that he is feeling more confident in the position. “Every day is an adventure that brings new challenges,” he explains. “There’s always something different going on, whether it’s somebody calling you for a reference or just something that I can do for them, like help them set something up.” Jensen spends a lot of his time putting together the daily community meal, in addition to assisting with other programs like the Heart 2 Heart Memory Cafe or organizing special holiday events.

When he’s not busy helping local residents at the Senior Center, Jensen is enjoying a game of football or hockey on TV from the comfort of an armchair (Jensen explained he was a better spectator than actual player). In addition to sports, his big passion is music and theater. In college, he sang in the choir, and this past fall, helped organize the school musical. For Jensen, his biggest asset as the Senior Advocate is his friendliness. “I always like meeting new people. I really enjoy helping with seniors, whether it’s something as simple as opening a door or helping them get some of their yard work done during the summer.” Working on a daily basis with seniors makes this passion all the more satisfying. “Being able to see the people that I’m helping is probably the most rewarding part of my job,” Jensen said.

Jensen went on to say that he looks forward to meeting more Granite Falls area seniors, and hopes more community members take advantage of the resources offered at the Senior Center. For more information about the Senior Advocate or the services offered through the Senior Center, please contact Chris Jensen at 320-564-0947, or email him directly at cjensen@isd2190.org.