Students volunteer at retirement home, create long-lasting relationships with residents

Abby Bamburg, Entertainment Editor

A home-like atmosphere.
A place where students can interact with people from a completely different time period than what they’re used to.
Seniors Katherine Brimble, Jarin Braithwait, Brenna Cook and Hannah O’Neil volunteer at Sunrise Assisted Living retirement home.
Braithwait said they started going there to help out during their freshman year.
“We just wanted to get involved somehow in the community,” she said. “We also really like old people.”
To become a volunteer at this retirement home, the girls took health tests and completed documentation.
“Our residents are precious, so we want to know the most about our volunteers as possible for all the right reasons,” activities director Kathy Ogden said. “[The volunteers] need to feel comfortable, welcome and appreciated.”
Ogden said they document the volunteer hours for community service.
“Those hours that they gain from serving seniors here might come up in college, or after, too,” she said. “Volunteerism is really so important these days.”
Brimble said they used to volunteer at a different retirement home but liked Sunrise Assisted Living better because of the atmosphere.
“They were going to make us get a lot of shots and tests, so we just found [Sunrise Assisted Living] and loved it,” she said.
Braithwait said they continue to volunteer mainly because they have made friends with many of the retirees.
“They are always happy to see us,” she said. “You become close with a lot of the residents. They are practically our grandmas and grandpas.”
Ogden said the girls and the residents play thinking games to bring up memories from the retirees’ pasts.
“A card will say, ‘beach,’ and the conversation that comes out of that: ‘Well, what beach?’ ‘What happened on that beach?’ ‘Did you meet someone and fall in love there?’” she said. “Sometimes the best types of interactions are the spontaneous ones that our volunteers come up with.”
Braithwait and Brimble said their favorite part is getting to interact, talk and do activities with the residents. Activities include painting each others’ nails, playing board games, watching sports on television and singing karaoke.
“We like getting to hear their stories,” Braithwait said. “We like to hear what they were like when they were our age. They get so excited when we come.”
Ogden said the volunteers have changed the residents’ lives for the better.
“Their faces just light up when they see the young people,” she said. “They’re interested in what they’re doing, what paths the girls are taking and what their plans are for the future. I think it’s wonderful when the students can listen and learn from the members of the greatest generation. History repeats itself, so there is so much to learn.”
Because of their difference in age, Ogden said the relationships the volunteers create with the residents is essential to their lives.
“It’s about creating pleasant moments and being in the moment,” she said. “Sometimes, there are memory issues that prevent the elders from remembering what happened a week ago or two weeks ago, but if you can create a good moment — right here, right now — you carry that with you on some level.”
Braithwait said volunteering at the home is rewarding.
“It is a good way to give back and get to know some really great people,” she said.
Ogden said she thinks the younger, the better, to experience intergenerational relationships.
“A lot of people are not fortunate enough to have grandparents, and there’s an opportunity here for our residents to fill that place,” she said.