Joyce Gandelman

Legal Services

An older woman with dementia was romanced by a much younger man. She lost her house when he gambled her money away. He continued taking her Social Security money as they lived in her car, until Joyce Gandelman secured a restraining order against him and got the older woman placed safely in a skilled nursing facility.

"When I hear about someone taken advantage of, I’ve got to do something," says Joyce, who founded the Senior Advocacy Network in 2011 with an Older Americans Act grant administered through the Area Agency on Aging in Stanislaus County. Today the nonprofit manages 20 grants focused on legal protections and housing for older adults.

In college, Joyce studied anthropology, and she has always loved antiques. "I have an affinity for aging, I guess," she says.

Joyce had several jobs as an adult when, in her late 40s, she saw a newspaper ad seeking long-term care ombudsmen. Finding older people whose rights weren’t always defended, "I woke up one day and said, ‘I’m going to law school,’" she recalls, and she was nearly 50 when she became an attorney. "If you have a calling, you have a calling," she says, and she never looked back.

At age 69, Joyce recently passed the torch to a new executive director and continues advising the Senior Advocacy Network. Her story embodies the positive impacts of dedicated services for older adults, going strong in California for 50 years and counting.

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