In slow lane at 80

AT WORK

The master of a 15-passenger van always has a joke to cheer the elderly behind him

August 15, 2007|By NANCY JONES-BONBEST | NANCY JONES-BONBEST,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Nelson Seiler

Driver

Church/Harbor Hospital Adult Day Health Center, Baltimore

Salary --$28,000

Age --80

Years on the job --Eight years

How he got started --After working as a truck driver for 35 years, Seiler retired. He then took on odd jobs including driving a limousine, a cement truck and a coffee truck, but decided to take the offer at the center to stay busy on a full-time basis.

Typical day --Seiler transports people in the Baltimore area to the center and back again. He starts the day picking up passengers from about 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., then returning them to their homes from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

During the midday hours, he often will take people at the center to doctor appointments. Trained medical staff help get people on and off the 15-passenger van he drives. He also does other work at the center, such as maintenance tasks or small repair jobs. He enjoys socializing with the center's participants, especially by playing cards with them.

Nickname --Co-workers call him the "Energizer bunny" because he's always trying to stay busy.

The good --"Mostly I get to kid and joke with the people. Many are in homes [for seniors] and nobody laughs or jokes with them. This day care is the greatest thing going for most of my people."

The bad --"Getting up in the morning."

Retirement --Seiler said that he could retire but that he enjoys working. The job allows him the opportunity to travel with his wife, Vivian. The two have vacationed in Egypt, Japan and Hawaii. This November they are headed on a cruise to the Caribbean. "When I'm not driving, I travel."

Traffic --Seiler grew up in Baltimore and knows the streets well. As for the morning rush hour, he said he learned long ago to keep cool. "You have to be patient and go with the flow," said Seiler, who mainly travels in West Baltimore and northern Anne Arundel County. "I've been doing that my whole life."

The people he transports --He said he has gotten to know them well and enjoys seeing them. Some come on a daily basis, while others use the facility a few days a week. Most are senior citizens and many suffer from Alzheimer's disease, dementia, epilepsy or have had strokes.

The center, on the Harbor Hospital campus at 3001 S. Hanover St. in South Baltimore, provides a safe place where they can spend the day, participate in group activities and have on-site medical supervision. "We have 45 or 50 people here and I know just about everyone by their first name."

Staying light-hearted --When the passengers are grumpy or arrive in a bad mood, Seiler said he just remains courteous. "If they get upset and try to take it out on you, you just go along with it. I kid and joke with them, but I don't go too far."

Philosophy on the job --"To try and make these people happy. To get them to laugh."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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