Up Front With Grace Cheng Braun - WISE & Healthy Aging President/CEO
Posted Apr. 17, 2013, 9:28 am
Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief
Grace Cheng Braun joined WISE Senior Services in July 2005 as the organization’s President and CEO.
The 42-year-old organization merged with Center for Healthy Aging in November 2007 to become WISE & Healthy Aging.
With a mission to enhance the independence, dignity and quality of life of older adults through leadership advocacy and innovative services, the nonprofit organization has been recognized for its wide range of social services designed to meet the needs of a diverse clientele within the greater Los Angeles area.
An accomplished business executive, Braun holds a masters degree in health planning and policy from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the UC Riverside.
She is an executive business coach, having completed the coaching certification training through The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, and is an accredited coach through the International Coach Federation.
Her career includes a highly successful, six-year term as Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations at Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles – the largest, nonprofit, private, academic health system in the western United States. At Cedars-Sinai, she was responsible for all marketing, public relations, sales activities, and community health outreach. She was also the medical center’s official media spokesperson.
She has also served as Associate Director of Business and Organizational Development at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. In this vice president-level position, she was responsible for human resources, public relations, legislative affairs, marketing, community/business outreach, strategic planning, program development, and physician relations.
With more than 25 years of distinguished communications and marketing experience, she attributes her accomplishments to her ability to communicate, build teamwork, and recognize the potential in others, bringing forth the best in people.
How important is WISE & Healthy Aging to the community?
WISE & Healthy Aging has been in the community for close to 50 years, and is the merger of WISE Senior Services and Center for Healthy Aging (both were started by community leaders who want to promote independence, dignity and quality of life of older adults); we are the only 100 percent senior-focused social services agency on the Westside, a “one-stop shop” resource for older adults and their caregivers.
How has the organization evolved under your leadership?
I led the efforts with the then CEO of Center for Healthy Aging, Monika White, for a successful merger of the two social services organizations five years ago.
With the merger, WISE & Healthy Aging now offers a greater range of programs and services, and is more effective and cost-efficient in its operations.
Though there have been set-backs due to government funding cuts, WISE & Healthy Aging has been able to maintain private foundations support and individual donor support to continue our high quality programs and services.
What are some of the most popular services and programs?
WISE & Healthy Aging administers the City and County of Los Angeles Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, since 1981.
We have the largest Ombudsman Program in the U.S., and are considered by the state of California to be a “best practice” model.
We advocate for the rights of disabled adults and senior residents who live in long-term care facilities.
In this program, we also have the state mandate to be the preliminary investigators of any allegations of abuse or neglect.
In addition to adult day care, mental health services and in-home care management, we also have another exciting new program – “WISE Connections: Your Neighborhood Resource for Living Well.”
WISE Connections is a membership-based “virtual” community that supports “aging in place” for those age 50 and older.
We have members in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, West LA, Venice, Mar Vista and Culver City – all committed to supporting each other to remain living independent, quality lives in their homes as long as possible.
What do you see for the future of Wise & Healthy Aging?
With the aging of the “boomer” population, and the fact that adults are living so much longer, WISE & Healthy Aging has the exciting opportunity to continue to develop programs and services to meet the needs of both the younger older adult and the frail elderly.
The area of caregiver support and training is also of great importance and priority for WISE & Healthy Aging.
How important are volunteers to the success of the organization?
Volunteers are critical to the success of not-for-profit organizations.
We could not do all that we do without volunteers. At WISE & Healthy Aging, we have more than 300 volunteers who give generously of their time and talents.
We have instructors in our Club 1527 who teach yoga, tai chi, and eating healthy to volunteer drivers who help the frail elderly get to their doctor’s appointments or grocery shopping to volunteer peer counselors to volunteer tax preparers to volunteer friendly visitors for isolated, homebound seniors.
There are many ways to give back, and we hold volunteer orientations on a regular basis for people to come and find out about all the volunteer opportunities we have at WISE & Healthy Aging as well as at the 30 plus other nonprofit organizations in the Westside that we help refer volunteers to.
Are all the services provided by WISE & Healthy Aging free?
Most services provided by WISE & Healthy Aging are covered by funding sources (private and government) such that they are “free” to older adults.
We do provide private, fee-for-service in some of our programs.
Wherever possible, we look to collaborate with other agencies in enhancing access to services; for example: Monday morning free legal clinics at our main office in conjunction with the Santa Monica office of Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Thursday morning free community acupuncture clinics at our main office in conjunction with Yo San University.