Dale Elliott enjoys interacting with people, especially the elderly. The likable Scottsdale actor-screenwriter makes weekly visits to senior citizen facilities around the city to visit with residents.
He brings a gentle smile, easy manner and all kinds of stories with him to captivate those he speaks to.
“About a year ago, I generated letters saying that I’m a volunteer who would be glad to talk with residents at these homes at no charge,” Elliott said. “I said I was a storyteller. My profession doesn’t give me much opportunity around here to get a lot of work, so I have the time. The Bible says the Lord tells us to visit the sick and the elderly. That’s what I like to do.”
Elliott is a prime example of what National Volunteer Week, which began Sunday, is all about. He spends an hour each Wednesday at Freedom Inn, Brighton Gardens and The Springs.
He selects a topic to talk about with residents at the facilities, sometimes using ideas audience members previously suggested.
He said because most of the elderly aren’t computer savvy and can’t research a topic they might want to know more about, he does it for them.
“These are mainly people 84-85 years old,” Elliott, 50, said. “They are people who built this country. Their families visit but don’t see them all the time so they enjoy things like this. I ask what they want to learn about, or bring a topic to them, things like what it would be like going to Paris.”
Elliott’s visits are called “Dales’s Tales.” He said he researches a topic for about four hours and brings a written synopsis of what he wants to talk about to each venue.
Topics he has discussed are General Motors and the FBI from start to present, the Big Bang Theory, mystical places, and major religions of the world.
He has also included conversations about philosophers such as Plato and Socrates, the origin of the automobile engine and the Egyptian Pyramids.
Resident Fred Chakour, 85, appreciates the variety in Elliott’s presentations.
“I like geography, history, and world events,” Chakour said. “I get a chance to have my say and I’ve been many of the places we talk about. Dale is very interesting and that’s why I go every chance I get. We have real nice conversations.”
Gil Georgeff, 77, agrees. “He presents a good program, it keeps us glued in to listen,” he said. “He’s a great guy and I don’t miss it.”
Elliott gets as much, if not more, satisfaction from his time at the facilities as do residents.
“I love seeing a resident’s face light up when a certain topic evokes a memory or their mind is stimulated,” he said. “It’s amazing how they recall events that I’m talking to them about. These people have so much wisdom, they are so patient, caring and experienced, yet so innocent. The world would be a better place if the younger generations spent more time with them.”
Elliott said he believes the weekly meetings also promote camaraderie among residents. They find each others’ common interests and talk about them after he’s gone.
“The residents absolutely look forward to Dale’s visits,” said Karen Zeller, activity director at Freedom Inn. “It’s great for their minds. They relate to him and interact.”
That’s the kind of feedback Elliott loves to hear.
“There is no better feeling than to be around these people,” he said. “Two places I feel best are Sundays at church and my time at a retirement community. I feel calm and peaceful. Life is good.”
Have a suggestion?
Each Monday, the Tribune tells the story of a person with ties to the Scottsdale area who isn’t in the news. They are the people involved in the great yet simple endeavors that make up a community, the unsung folks you see at a grocery store check-out or a table next to you in your favorite café. If you have an Everyday People suggestion, e-mail John Leptich at email@example.com or call (480) 970-2333.