Micky Salatino’s position as program director at The Heart of Ida, a nonprofit whose aim is to inspire independence in older adults in Long Beach, made her a natural to be a producer of a television show. Or so the organization’s executive director bet on.
“Dina said, produce, and I’ve never produced anything!” Salatino said. “At first, I said, uuhhh, wut? Then, I said, why not—it’ll help me grow and learn.”
What emerged from the challenge was “Seamus and Friends,” a pet-centered segment of AgeWell TV. AgeWell TV’s programming is funded through a partnership with Long Beach Community Action Partnership and broadcast on its television service, PADNET.
”COVID-19 was kind of the catalyst for it—the idea was to reach more people,” Salatino said. “A lot of seniors don’t have internet—they rely on phone calls and TV to know what’s going on.”
AgeWell TV directs its content at Long Beach’s older adults, but anyone can benefit from its episodes—gentle fitness, chair yoga, nutrition tips, interviews with local personalities, television sitcoms from the 1950s and ’60s. “Seamus and Friends” connects viewers with people in the rescue community, offers tips for pet wellness, provides advice and tips for keeping their pets with them instead of surrendering them to shelters, and gives them crafty ideas for making pet toys. Each show features videos of adoptable pets from Long Beach Animal Care Services as they frolic and snuggle with shelter volunteers.
“The Heart of Ida’s mission is to keep seniors in homes and independent, and this includes helping them keep their animals,” Salatino said. “Pets are more than emotional support—they’re family members.”
The “Seamus” of the show’s title is a lab mix who makes an appearance on each “Seamus and Friends” segment. He belongs to Dina Berg, the co-founder of The Heart of Ida and Salatino’s boss. Berg founded The Heart of Ida in 2008 with her sister, Keri Reich, in honor of their grandmother, Ida Alice Reich. Ida Reich was an activist in the community for older adults, and she took her granddaughters with her on many of her errands of heart. Today, The Heart of Ida’s aim is to help older adults in Long Beach stay in their homes and preserve their independence as long as possible, and to enrich and provide some pleasure for residents in assisted living. Its offerings include mental health resources, events to brighten holidays and outreach efforts. The Heart of Ida’s publication, AgeWell Long Beach, provides articles of interest to seniors and their caregivers and family as well as a list of resources. Several sections are in Spanish.
Ida’s Walkers is another effort to make it easier for older adults, particularly low-income residents, who cannot leave their homes to walk their dogs. Salatino coordinates Ida’s Walkers, matching volunteer dog walkers with seniors. She said that the program has dialed down somewhat since the virus hit, but volunteers and human dog companions who still want to participate follow COVID-19 guidelines, such as waiting outside the door as the resident hands over dog and leash through the doorway.
“Seamus and Friends” also enhances older adults’ relationship with their pets. It shows human companions enjoyable, inexpensive ways to make toys to exercise their dogs as well as their cats, who need to be coaxed out of couch-potato mode. Here’s Seamus helping Salatino show viewers how to make a toy for their dogs. (Watch for Seamus’ sniffer snail trail as he noses a cup across the floor.)
Video by Maura Cotter Photography
Salatino has embraced the idea of using her newly discovered production skills and combining them with her training in pet wellness and nutrition and as a rescue volunteer. She plans to conduct interviews with members of the rescue community; she’s completed one so far with Helen Sanders CatPAWS volunteer Deborah Felin.
A grant from the city of Long Beach will make it possible to produce several shows in Spanish; Salatino is bilingual and appreciates the opportunity to record her own show in Spanish.
Salatino is having a great time with “Seamus and Friends,” and she hopes that everyone will get at least as much out of it as she is. Turns out that Berg’s confidence in her was well placed.
“I thought back then, even though I know nothing about producing shows, I can meet all these cool people!”
Access “Seamus and Friends” at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Frontier Channel 41; Spectrum Channel 32; or padnet.tv.
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