Dr. Gail Rymer to Keynote Aging Summit

We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gail Rymer to Buckeye Hills Regional Council on July 16th for our first ever summit on aging, Aging in Appalachia.

Learn about Dr. Rymer’s background below! And, click here to learn more about our upcoming summit, Aging in Appalachia.

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Dr. Gail Rymer believes that all human beings deserve to live with dignity and respect, and have opportunities to remain engaged with the world around them. She devoted her life and career to lifting others up when they could not stand up for themselves.

Dr. Rymer was born the year after her father returned from World War II, and quickly became her father’s shadow. He taught her to love the outdoors and instilled in her the values of dedication and discipline he learned in the U.S. Marine Corps. She carried these values into her pursuit of education and her career.

Dr. Rymer earned her bachelor’s, masters and doctorate degrees from Ohio University. Her career began with jobs in health planning and the ministry. She noticed that there were not many opportunities in the community for older adults to feel valued, loved and engaged. She organized efforts to visit elders and host senior luncheons and fellowship meetings. She reached out to other churches to recruit their congregations in these efforts. She started food banks and Christmas Day dinners for those who were alone during the holidays.

After Dr. Rymer earned her doctorate degree, she worked in community mental health and later opened her private practice. Today, much of her practice focuses on services to the elderly and she advocates for quality of life. Older adults are often victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. An elder is abused every five seconds in America. That is a fact that she simply will not accept.

Working with older adults, she realized that the barriers to health care for seniors were notable. She 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. She wrote a series of articles exposing the poor conditions of these institutions and mobilized families and others to lobby for mental health changes.

Building on that success, Dr. Rymer continued to advocate and start programs like “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.

As an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a lay pastor of a rural church, she addresses the needs of poverty stricken communities by partnering with other churches to complete home modifications and repairs for seniors. In October 2017, volunteers made 19 homes safe and accessible for the older residents. She also is working with churches and other organizations to write ethical statements and guidelines to prevent elder abuse and exploitation, and advocates for broader mandatory reporting requirements.

Dr. Rymer and her husband Donald met at Ohio University. They had two daughters, one is deceased, and one granddaughter. They share their home with her two psychotherapy assistant Pugs and his two Great Pyrenees. They enjoy walking in the woods, gardening, fishing as well as cruising the Caribbean and the European waterways. They are looking forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by dancing in the streets of Santorini, Greece.

Dr. Rymer plans to write a children’s book with junior high school students about a severely abused Pug dog “Liberty” that she rehabilitated. Dr. Rymer belongs to multiple professional and civic organizations and has had many community leadership roles. She is part of the Attorney General’s Elder Justice Unit as a board member. She also plans to look for life adventures with enthusiasm and expectancy.

Dr. Rymer says, “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 elaborated, “I know that I have walked with many as they struggled, and I was fortunate to see many grow and blossom.”

Background provided by the Ohio Department of Aging