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2006 Award Winner Mary Lou Bigelow

Mary Lou Bigelow, of Bowes GMAC Real Estate in Arlington, Mass., received the National Distinguished SRES® (Seniors Real Estate Specialist®) Award from CEO Alan Arora and COO Don Flynn of the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council® (SAREC) at its annual meeting during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Convention in New Orleans on November 12th. Executive Director of NAR's Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council® (REBAC), Marc D. Gould, who now runs the SRES® program for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, attended and added his support.

The selection committee, according to Director of Program Development for the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council® Candace McGranahan, chose Ms. Bigelow, out of the 15,000 nationwide membership, because of her innovative vehicles for bringing seniors' housing issues to the attention of the community.

Mary Lou's interest in helping the senior population began when she became a caretaker for her mother Winona Moore, who at age 95 began to show signs of disorientation. Mary Lou found she needed instant answers to a myriad of questions when trying to find ways of keeping her mother at home or finding alternative housing. From this personal involvement, Mary Lou quickly turned to the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® program.

In April 2005, she took the courses and received her SRES® designation.

The following month, Ms. Bigelow produced and hosted a 60-minute educational video for community TV in Arlington and surrounding towns called The Team Approach to Real Estate and Housing Solutions for Seniors. A six-member panel including a real estate attorney, a reverse mortgage lender, a mortgage loan officer, an elder law attorney, geriatric social worker and financial advisor discussed how to work more effectively, together, for the elder population.

For a second initiative Mary Lou launched a free Monthly Seniors Real Estate Forum, held at the Arlington Council on Aging, where guest speakers address the concerns of seniors. Mary Lou does a mailing to former attendees each month and submits press releases to local newspapers as well as to Senior Notes, the Arlington Senior Center/COA newsletter.

In 2007, Mary Lou produced and hosted a two-panel 60-minute video called Housing Solutions for Seniors. The first panel discusses the ways an elder may safely remain in the home. Panelists include an elder law attorney, the executive director of a major home health services company, an independent case manager, a geriatric social worker and a move specialist. The second panel features the executive directors of a retirement home, an assisted living facility with a memory impaired section on site, a nursing home and a rest home.

Mary Lou often participates in Alzheimer fundraisers, health fairs and other elder-care events, where she hands out her brochures and free DVDs. She also gives talks to professional senior service-provider organizations about the importance of using the services of an SRES® designee.

She sees her job as a slowing down of the real estate process and of cautioning her elder clients to

  1. engage all advisors and favored family members in all decisions,
  2. not sign any contracts for real estate or any other transaction with out careful deliberation with the elder's lawyer and/or professional advisors,
  3. decide on the alternative housing before beginning the selling process.

As a special service, Mary Lou

  1. refers senior care managers, geriatric social workers, elder law attorneys, move-planning specialists and other senior-provider professionals
  2. takes the elder to see the various assisted living, retirement homes or nursing homes.
  3. Provides constant communication by phone and visits, often months before a listing is in place.

Mary Lou feels her profession as a REALTOR® has taken on more personal meaning now as she truly feels she is doing good by giving of her time, care and love. She establishes friendships for life as, long after the sale, she continues her visits at retirement, assisted living and nursing homes for clients' birthdays and holidays.

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