Children and seniors are at opposite ends of the age spectrum, but Susan Burelli has seen through her professional life there are many similarities between these counterparts. Burelli formerly worked as a teacher and currently works as a senior lifestyle counselor at Rittenhouse Village at Valparaiso. Burelli described her favorite part of both jobs in the same way.
“I used to be a school teacher and what I loved about my third graders is what I love about the residents here,” Burelli said. “Seeing a third-grader come to school, be happy, have friends, and be engaged in what is going on that day is so important and transitions into what I’m doing right now with the seniors.”
Burelli attended Merrillville High School and further pursued her career in education at Purdue University in West Lafayette. After her teaching career, she moved on to home care, and from home care to her present employment at Rittenhouse Village. While the job was a recent switch for Burelli, she enjoys her position immensely.
“I came to Rittenhouse in April of 2020,” Burelli said. “I love it. I love my job. I love what I do. I just absolutely love it. I was in home care before this working with seniors for five years, so working with the senior population has always been a passion of mine.”
While Burelli has enjoyed working in education, home care, and senior care, she is especially happy to be where she is now. Becoming a senior lifestyle counselor at Rittenhouse Village provided her with the shift in scenery she desired.
“It was time for a change,” Burelli said. “I had talked to some others that worked as senior lifestyle counselor here at Rittenhouse in Valparaiso, Portage, and Michigan City. I learned about the opening and decided to make a change and come back to Porter County. I was working in Lake County and live in Porter County, so I was looking to work with the people I live around.”
With the COVID-19 virus being especially deadly to senior citizens, it took quite a toll on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Burelli is grateful that she gets to play a role in taking care of that population.
“Especially right now, I think some of the seniors are at home and not able to get out,” she said. “They’re lonely, so I think we have a lot to offer with them being able to live here and be social with their neighbors.”
Burelli works with families from the first phone call until the resident moves into Rittenhouse. She enjoys educating families by bringing them through the process of teaching them what Rittenhouse does and the lifestyle seniors can have there.
“Families come to me and they don’t know the options. I enjoy seeing the families so happy in the end when their loved one moves in and they’re happy and engaged and have a sense of security,” Burelli said.
At Rittenhouse, seniors are able to engage through activities like bingo, exercise, music, church services and more. This provides them the opportunity to stay active and become friends with their neighbors.
“I think watching new residents make new friends is just really rewarding,” Burelli said. “When you see them sitting and laughing with a friend or having a conversation in one of our common areas, it feels rewarding.”
When she is not assisting seniors and their families, Burelli enjoys spending time with her 28-year-old son and 25-year-old daughter. She and her children often take their dogs on walks and enjoy each other’s company.
“I’m a family-oriented person, so I enjoy seeing families happy at Rittenhouse, too,” Burelli said. “I’m in a good place to help people. That brings me joy.”