December 19, 2018

Susan Hoskins Is Retiring After Long Career at PSRC

By Anne Levin

Susan Hoskins

Princeton is paying tribute this week to Susan Hoskins, who steps down at the end of this month after 17 years as executive director of Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC). Hoskins was honored by Princeton Council at its meeting Monday night, and PSRC will celebrate her at an open house farewell on Thursday, December 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. Everyone is invited.

“In this era of identity politics when many groups are focused on their own special interests, it is refreshing to honor a person and an organization that work every day to benefit every Princetonian while simultaneously helping to sustain and advance our invaluable generational diversity,” Councilman David Cohen said in a tribute to Hoskins. “Thank you, Susan.”

Hoskins’ departure from PSRC comes at a sad time for her. Earlier this month, her mother died. “This is a time of looking back and looking forward and saying goodbye for me,” she said during an interview last week. “I didn’t expect both of these things to happen at the same time. But I still have a Dad who is 96, so the caregiving goes on. I ran PSRC’s caregiving groups till earlier this year — one for spouses, and another for children of aging parents — and they will go on.”

The Caregiver Resource Center Hoskins started in 2004 is just one of the innovations that took place under her tenure. Others include the Engaged Retirement program, getting Princeton named by the World Health Organization as an age-friendly community, and growth — lots of it.

“Everything has grown — the budget, the number of programs, and the different kinds of programs,” said Hoskins, who recently turned 65. “We work really hard to reach out to include younger seniors, because we now have at least three generations of seniors. The question has been, what does the younger generation want? Will they go to a senior center? We feel very strongly that they do want to be involved in being part of the community and in lifelong learning. We have found that people will go to a center that feels welcoming and has interesting stuff going on.”

Prominent among PSRC programs is The Evergreen Forum, which provides daytime study and discussion programs. Since about 40 percent of the participants come from outside Princeton, and PSRC’s building is too small to accommodate the more than 600 people who attend, half of the program’s classes now take place at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville.

The issue of overcrowding at PSRC has been important as baby boomers age and programs expand. Hoskins has worked to raise money for an expansion of the Suzanne Patterson Center building, where it is based, but it is far from a done deal. “We need more space,” said Hoskins. “Our population is growing, our programming is growing. But there are challenges because we are in a municipal building.”

Hoskins, who has a master’s degree in social work, was a family therapist working in the Princeton office of Mercer County’s Family Guidance Center when she got interested in working in the field of aging. She got her certification, and soon after heard that PSRC was looking for a new director. “It was perfect timing for me,” she recalled. “At the time, they were especially interested in having someone who could strengthen the support and guidance services, and that fit really well. So that’s how I started here.”

PSRC had never had a paid membership, and Hoskins has kept that rule. “So many people have had experiences of being excluded from members organizations, and we didn’t want anyone to feel that they didn’t belong here,” she said. “So that was a big part of what I have stuck with. It’s important to be open and welcoming to everybody.”

The Caregiver Resource Center has been a particularly significant project for Hoskins. “For many people, retirement isn’t an option. Family caregivers have a lot to juggle,” she said. “How could we provide information and support those families so they could get through this and feel successful? Having dome to the last chapter of that myself, I really appreciate the peer support I received.”

Equally important is Engaged Retirement, designed for people who are contemplating an end to employment. “It was started so people don’t feel like they’re jumping off a cliff,” Hoskins said. “We started it right before the recession. A lot of people we saw were being retired by their employers. But also, people are working longer. One of the issues we see being more loudly discussed is ageism. As employers find there aren’t enough young adults to plug into jobs, they are starting to look at older workers. And older workers have felt for a long time that their wisdom wasn’t valued. Now, they have the opportunity to come back.”

Hoskins’ last day in the office is Thursday, December 21; her official last day is December 31. A search for her successor is underway.

While she is retiring from PSRC, Hoskins will still be involved in the field. She will be the executive director of the Friends Foundation for Aging, a small foundation that funds projects in Quaker-based organizations that address the aging process. “It’s a nice half step,” she said. “It combines my passions for Quakerism and aging.”

The job is part-time, which leaves Hoskins time for travel and visiting her son and daughter-in-law on the West Coast. “I’m not retiring because I’m running out of energy, though I do have less than I used to,” she said. “But I’m ready for the next chapter. And I wish my successor well.”