Little Hocking woman placed in Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame
LITTLE HOCKING — A clinical psychologist from Little Hocking was inducted Thursday into the 2018 class of the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
Working with older adults, Gail J. Rymer realized the barriers to health care for seniors were notable and was shocked by the conditions of state mental hospitals where elders comprised more than half the population. At the time, many were restrained and had little if any cognitive stimulation.
Rymer wrote articles exposing the poor conditions and mobilized families and others to lobby for mental health changes.
She continued to advocate, starting programs such as “We Care,” a hotline for elders and others to call when in need of assistance or services. She helped start and hopes to expand the Southeast Ohio Elder Abuse Commission to educate the public that elder abuse is a rapidly growing crime in America.
“I hope that I have, in some way, touched the lives of others by my actions and words so they might know the spirit of love,” she said. “I know that I have walked with many as they struggled, and I was fortunate to see many grow and blossom.”
The Hall of Fame is a project of the Ohio Department of Aging to recognize the achievements and contributions of older Ohioans. More than 450 people have been inducted since 1977.
Rymer received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Ohio University. Her career began with jobs in health planning and the ministry.
She saw there were few opportunities in the community for older adults to feel valued, loved and engaged and organized efforts to visit elders and host senior luncheons and fellowship meetings. Rymer collaborated with other churches and their congregations to help and started food banks and Christmas Day dinners for those who were alone during the holidays.
Rymer after she received her doctorate worked in community mental health then opened her private practice. Her practice focuses on services to the elderly while advocating for their quality of life.
She is an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a lay pastor of a rural church. Rymer works with churches to complete home modifications and repairs for seniors. In October 2017, volunteers made 19 homes safe and accessible for older residents.
Rymer also is working with churches and other organizations to write ethical statements and guidelines to prevent elder abuse and exploitation and to support broader mandatory reporting requirements.
She plans to write a children’s book with junior high school students about a severely abused Pug, Liberty, which she rehabilitated. Rymer belongs to multiple professional and civic organizations and has had many community leadership roles, including the Attorney General’s Elder Justice Unit as a board member.
Rymer and her husband, Donald, met at Ohio University and are looking forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by dancing in the streets of Santorini, Greece.