Person of the Week
Marlene Thorp: A Creative Flair and Seamless Planning for Seniors
After a career as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, Marlene Thorp has combined her results-oriented expertise and her creative skills to keep her elders engaged through her role as program coordinator at the North Haven Senior Center. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Scientific theorists once believed that humans were either “right-brained” or “left-brained,” based on the premise that the left side is more analytical and the right, more creative. Today, the belief is that both sides of the brain actually work together, and Marlene Thorp is a living testament to this tenet—her life has been full of both analytical and creative work.
Marlene spent 29 years working in clinical research for a pharmaceutical company, dealing with large amounts of data and facts.
Now, as North Haven’s Senior Center program coordinator, she uses her imagination to develop creative programming to enrich the lives of senior residents.
From writing the monthly newsletter to inviting guest speakers like a beekeeper on-site, planning trips to the casino, or setting up for a valentine’s day luncheon, Marlene uses her organizational skills to have the activities flow seamlessly from one day to the next.
“I set up all of the events,” said Marlene. “I have to coordinate with other people. If it’s a luncheon, I have to get the catering done. If there is entertainment, I get the entertainer...”
She uses her creativity in coming up with ideas to keep the seniors engaged.
“Paul Mitchell is coming in to do nails,” Marlene says. “They go to the movies. Sometimes I get a movie from the library and serve them popcorn. We celebrate birthday months, so I have to get the cakes ordered...”
Marlene thrives in the varied nature of her position.
“I enjoy being busy,” Marlene says. “I don’t like to sit at a desk and just type anymore. That is what I used to do. It was all at a desk. Here, it is always on the go. I don’t sit much.”
Depending on the activity, Marlene hosts anywhere from 30 to 100 seniors at a time, on- or off-site.
She gains satisfaction in knowing some seniors “are home with nothing to do [and] they come here and are busy,” she says.
“You know they came here and left happy,” she adds.
Marlene’s caring and supportive nature is often sought out by seniors who have suffered a loss or simply need advice on family matters.
For Marlene, it’s rewarding to see individuals progress from feeling sadness to enjoying the activities and social nature of the senior center.
One individual in particular stands out as an example.
“She makes me proud,” said Marlene. “I came here for a reason. I’m helping people, even though it’s not where I thought I would be.”
The majority of Marlene’s professional background was working for Bristol-Myers Squibb, when it had a location in Wallingford. But her first job was in a nursing home.
“I always had that compassion for the elderly,” Marlene says.
This trait would lead Marlene to take a position as an emergency room technician at MidState Medical Center in Meriden.
During this time, she earned an associate’s degree in allied medical science. She also met her husband, Bruce. They were married in 1994.
After they had their first child, Marlene was studying for her bachelor’s degree and working part-time.
“I was juggling all three,” she says.
Yet, she was determined to earn her bachelor’s degree before her child turned one.
“That was my goal and I got [it] done,” she says.
He degree from Central Connecticut State University is in psychology with a minor in biology.
Upon graduating, she heeded the advice of a senior member of the hospital’s medical team, who recognized her potential.
“He said, ‘There is a research company that is starting up in Wallingford,’” Marlene recalls. “So, I sent my résumé over to Bristol Myers-Squibb.”
In her many roles at the company, she managed vast amounts of data, helping to ensure the accuracy of information and resolving data issues, among many other duties.
After a long day of work, Marlene says crafting and making jewelry “used to be my outlet [to] get my creative side going.”
She participated in craft shows at various churches or local schools for about eight years while she was working for Bristol Myers-Squibb.
She left as an assistant research scientist, when the company relocated.
Today, Marlene doesn’t craft as much at home, her energy is focused on “what the next craft is for the seniors,” she says.
Marlene’s thoughtfulness and emphasis on personal relationships are keys to her success in her current position.
“I go home feeling good because I know I helped somebody,” said Marlene. “If I wasn’t here they wouldn’t have that type of interaction. I fulfill their day.”
And they, in return, fulfill Marlene’s.