Helping navigate aging process


Longtime Powell resident Dana Ullom-Vucelich is celebrating the release of her children’s book, “I’ll Never Forget,” which launched on April 28 and is currently available on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

The story begins with a poem representing a promise from a grandmother to her granddaughter about how she will love her through whatever life may have in store. The poem continues throughout the book as the two create memories through various activities while developing compassion and understanding for the aging process and how love and relationships evolve through life’s progression.

Ullom-Vucelich completed her undergraduate studies in child development and gerontology and currently works with an agency that offers aging services. Through her studies and career, Ullom-Vucelich has analyzed both ends of the aging spectrum and developed a passion for intergenerational relationships and how they’re forged and maintained over time.

While writing a book was never a set goal, Ullom-Vucelich saw the process as a vehicle for creating dialogue on a topic not easily approached or embraced regardless of age.

“I think the notion of being a writer, for me, was always on a smaller scale,” Ullom-Vucelich told The Gazette. “I love writing newsletters. I love reaching out to people and bringing joy and building conscious or connecting dots and information. So that’s always been a passion of mine. And I’ve had other people tell me I should write a book. I don’t know that I’ve been one of those people who’s been like, ‘All my life I wanted to be an author.’ I don’t think that’s true for me. But what I think is true for me is that I have a passion for sharing information and a passion for bringing conversation to tough topics where other people might shy away from those topics. I think my strength is helping to put it on the table and then helping people navigate that tough space.”

Ullom-Vucelich drew her deepest inspiration for the story from her personal experiences with an aging loved one and the anguish brought on by dementia after her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“Back in 2019, I was sitting in the place where she lives full-time, and I saw other families coming and going,” Ullom-Vucelich recalled. “And then I saw some families that never came. I sat there and thought that was really depressing and frustrating that when someone you love, their capacity changes, you can sit there and feel sorry for yourself or feel sorry for them. But I think in that moment, I had a revelation that I was not going to cure my mom’s disease. I’m not going to make a dent in helping cure Alzheimer’s no matter how much money I donate or how passionate I am. But what can I do? What is the control I have in the situation?”

Out of that self-reflection, Ullom-Vucelich came away with an idea to give families a resource on how they can come together to celebrate one another and embrace the complexities of an aging process everyone must endure in some way.

“I think that’s where my passion started,” she said. “Sometimes in your moments of brokenness and when you feel like you can’t do something, the only way out of it is to be hopeful and ask, ‘What can I change?’ I think that was the catalyst of a moment where it’s 2019 and I’m feeling hopeless and searching for hope. Well, sometimes you have to create it for others as you’re reaching to create it for yourself.”

Having enjoyed the love of four grandparents in her life, and now being a parent herself while enduring her mother’s disease, Ullom-Vucelich has a foundation built both in experience and memories she can reference for strength, perspective, or whatever is necessary to navigate the journey. However, in her professional career, she has come to find that not everyone shares those life experiences and, subsequently, isn’t well-equipped to approach the realities of aging in loved ones.

“Inside that space, I see that not everybody has the capacity to embrace aging; some people are in denial about it, and some people haven’t been exposed to older people,” she said. “I had my grandparents growing up … That’s an experience you have that maybe you talk to older people or approach older people, or maybe you’ve had older neighbors in your lifetime, and when you slow down, you think, ‘My golly, these people have such depth and breadth, and I could learn so much and become so much through their eyes. So part of it is that, for one, all of us are aging if we’re blessed to live a long life.”

She added, “What I think is powerful is that children can help navigate tougher conversations better than anyone else. If you want to create hope, and you give the story to a child, a child will make sense of it. A child will create the pathway for better understanding in families, in themselves, in their parents, and in their grandparents. They get it done. So to me, if you want to create change, you go to the next generation and plant the seed. And from that seed grows the change.”

While the book may be marketed for children, it’s not without lessons awaiting readers of all ages who either have or will have experienced the joys of parenting or grandparenting. Ullom-Vucelich shared a story from a 60-year-old reader who wrote to her after reading the book, describing the emotional impact it had on him and the reflection it spurred for his own cherished memories with his grandparents.

Another reader, this one in his 70s, reached out to Ullom-Vucelich to speak of the valuable reminder it gave him that he’s doing ok as a person, that he matters, and that he makes a difference.

“Certainly, I framed it as a children’s book but I did so because the simplicity of the message can be delivered at any and every age,” she said.

To learn more about Ullom-Vucelich or the “I’ll Never Forget,” visit

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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