Know your financial roadmap. It’s important to know your own needs, as well as those of the person you’re caring for. There are times when caregivers are paying out of their own pocket for their parents.

With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. Caring for elderly or aging parents can be particularly stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate stress when caring for our aging parents? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, and mental health experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Marlena del Hierro.

Marlena del Hierro is a gerontologist with over 10 years of experience in the senior care industry and is VP of Partnerships and Commercial Strategy at Seniorly, a national senior living marketplace. She was selected as a scholar for the LeadingAge California EMERGE program, and was part of the National Association for Professional Gerontologists in taking action on the Age-Friendly CIty Project for Los Altos and Los Altos Hill, CA. Marlena is committed to improving the quality of care for older adults through program development and implementation.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

I grew up in a big family, my mom is one of eight children and my dad is one of seven. I’m one of three children. Family has always been extremely important to me. They’ve helped me reach my goals and have been true motivators throughout my life. They played a fundamental part in discovering my love for the science of aging.

Growing up, I had a very close relationship with my grandmother, and as I got older, I volunteered with older adults. Through that experience, I realized that I had a magnetic connection with them. I was (and still am) extremely interested in how we, as a society, can connect with the aging population, understand their experiences, and see what we can learn from them. In my young adult life, I recognized that many people don’t have someone to care for them the way my grandmother did, so I wanted to focus my career on helping people age the way they want to, both in comfort and love. These interests stuck with me over the years, and I discovered in my undergraduate program that the field of gerontology was the perfect fit for me and my goals.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

I would tell my younger self not to be afraid to take risks. Growing up in a big family, you sometimes feel like you have to stick to the path laid out by other family members. It can be stressful taking a leap into the unknown, but great things can come from taking risks. For instance, I took a risk moving to San Francisco for my master’s in gerontology, and ultimately leaving my career in senior living to join a startup. It’s important to follow your gut, it can often lead to great opportunities and learning experiences.

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?

I’m grateful for my mom. Her support and guidance growing up provided a wonderful foundation for me. She has always encouraged me to live life fully. She instilled traditional values in me and my siblings, and shared insightful lessons based on what her parents instilled in her. I took a different path than some of my family members, so there was a learning curve for her when I branched out into my career. Regardless, she supported me, and recognized that my passions stemmed from a deep-rooted connection to my familial elders. She continues to cheer me on as I’ve focused on growing Seniorly and has been there throughout my life’s journey.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

At Seniorly, we’ve developed a mobile app for our partner agents, creating a better ecosystem by connecting partners with families that need assistance quickly. Family is at the forefront of everything we’re working on at Seniorly. We’re continuously finding ways to use technology to make the senior living search experience better for all. The goal is to provide families with an easy and accessible way to discover resources.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?

Stress arises from worrying about something. When you’re working hard to accomplish a goal, for example, there’s pressure about whether you’ll succeed, as well as how or when the goal will be met. This feeling of worry or nervousness requires more effort to overcome.

In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?

Throughout our lives, we encounter an overwhelming abundance of choices. Deciding between right and wrong, finances, the portrayal of oneself on social media, career paths, relationships, the list goes on and on and we try to balance all of it. Chronic stress can arise from focusing on achieving perfection, but life isn’t perfect and it’s important to take a step back to come to that realization. So many of us are constantly stressed because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Over time, stress can become difficult to surmount and we try to conquer it on our own.

What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?

Immense stress can set off a domino effect in our bodies that impacts both our mental and physical health. Our bodies react to stress in many different ways. Chronic health conditions like heart problems, trouble sleeping, weight gain, issues with memory and focus, for example, can develop when we go through stressful seasons. It is also possible to encounter mental distress, depression, and even potential suicidal ideation.

Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?

This often depends on the level of stress. Sometimes, a little bit of stress can be a positive thing. It can push us to accomplish our goals and also act as a motivator for achievements. When going through a stressful time, it’s common to look back and reflect on the learnings from that experience, sometimes with gratitude. When we have the right tools to manage and cope with stress, we can grow from the season and come out of it a better person.

Let’s now focus more on the stress of caring for elderly or aging parents. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate a few reasons why caring for our aging parents can be so stressful?

One reason this can be stressful is that we feel responsible for someone’s life. We want to ensure this person we care for is safe, healthy, and happy, and sometimes we don’t realize there are many factors when caring for our elderly or aging parents that are out of our control. Rapid health deterioration, financial restrictions, time constraints and resource availability can all impact our ability to provide quality care.

Take the sandwich generation, for example. This is a group of unpaid caregivers that are often working and actively taking care of their parents, their children, and themselves. It’s a delicate and difficult balance with a lot of responsibility. Even professional caregivers can’t predict everyone’s needs. We have to be able to adjust to older adults’ needs as they evolve over time, and as a result, shifting our own.

Financial stress is also a major pain point for caregivers. It’s difficult to know what the financial commitment will be, especially as care needs change. In many cases, people don’t plan for caregiving, we don’t know what the future holds for our parents until the time arrives. Government organizations like the National Family Caregiver Support Program provide grants to help fund medications, care services, and other daily necessities. There are also disease-specific organizations that offer financial assistance to those who qualify.

Can you share with our readers your “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce Stress When Caring For Your Elderly Or Aging Parents”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Know your financial roadmap. It’s important to know your own needs, as well as those of the person you’re caring for. There are times when caregivers are paying out of their own pocket for their parents.

Know your parents’ wishes. Caregiving is a lot easier from a legal standpoint when your parents’ wishes are clearly defined in advance. For example, when a will is established or a power of attorney has been selected, the pathway to caregiving is a bit more seamless, and takes the guesswork out of it.

Ask for help. Leveraging a support system to lean on, and distributing tasks to family members can help reduce stress. It’s important to acknowledge when things are out of your area of expertise and when to consult a doctor/professional on a subject matter.

Don’t forget to focus on yourself. As a caregiver, if you don’t prioritize your self care, it’s more mentally and physically taxing to care for anyone else. Make sure to allocate time for your needs. This could be taking time to work out, hiring in-home care, ordering food instead of cooking, etc.

Reach out to resources. There are many organizations and products geared toward helping caregivers. Support groups are available, there are also apps designed for managing schedules, finances, etc. to keep families on the same page, and other technology and grants are all great resources.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

I personally love reading about the blue zones, a term coined by Dan Buettner. These are referred to as the areas on earth with lower rates of chronic diseases and longer lifespans. I enjoy learning about how people live and what sparks their individual happiness and longevity.

I’m also a fan of the podcast “Wiser Than Me” hosted by actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It’s a weekly podcast where Julia talks to older women about how to live a full and meaningful life. She has interviewed Jane Fonda, Carol Burnett, Amy Tan, Fran Lebowitz, and more.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It would be influential to start a movement centered around older adults visiting schools to discuss history and share their personal experiences. This “history club” could combine historical facts and a personal memoir around how older adults experienced that period of time. A model like this is not only intergenerational, it provides purpose for retirees, builds empathy for kids, and is educational while also being fun.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Visit to learn more about our work, and find me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.