Shawn was living with her sister in Fair Oaks two years ago when she took a podcast sermon to heart. A local pastor was preaching about the importance of change.
Shawn decided it was time for a change: At the age of 55, she decided to live on her own for the first time in her life. Fortunately, she was already connected with UCP’s CLASP independent living program that teaches people with developmental disabilities the life skills to live as independently as possible.
“I heard that sermon and thought, why not? It’s time to move on,” Shawn said. “It’s hard to change at first, but you have to go through change or else life is dull and boring.”
Her remarkable decision was exceptionally brave considering she had spent 30 years living in Hawaii with her parents after they moved from San Francisco when she was 15. When they passed away, she not only grieved their loss, she moved thousands of miles to live with her sister for 10 years.
But in February 2011, Shawn moved into her own accessible apartment in a senior housing facility in Sacramento. Her CLASP instructor, Patricia, helped her select a facility and coordinate interviews with caregivers. Patricia also helped Shawn learn how to budget, shop for groceries and develop one of her new favorite pastimes – cooking. Each Friday, Shawn and Patricia cook a new dish, often from Shawn’s childhood memories.
Shawn also enjoys her adaptive physical education class at American River College where she mentors students and teaches them about disabilities. She also volunteers for the Sacramento Tree Foundation and Participants in Progress, a social club for people with disabilities. “I like to keep myself busy. If you don’t, you don’t have the energy or will to keep motivated,” she said.
Yet Shawn’s favorite part about living on her own is the people. “They’ve been great to me here. We’re like one big happy family,” Shawn said. “And they say I’m the most cheerful person here.”
She also believes that her parents watch over her and that she was able to persevere through grief and change because that is what her father taught her to do.
“I guess I have a lot more confidence than I thought,” Shawn said. “And I don’t know what I would have done without God, Patricia, and my family and friends’ support.”
UCP’s CLASP focuses on renewing the independent spirit of people with developmental disabilities.