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Students pursue volunteer opportunities at elderly homes

While many students are preoccupied with homework, sports and spending time with friends, sophomore Lindsey Papuc is surrounded by a crowd of senior citizens, leading bingo and arts and crafts while volunteering at the Aegis Living of Corte Madera.

Papuc is one of a few students who find the time to volunteer at homes for the elderly and build relationships with the members living there.

She said that volunteering at Aegis this past spring was very rewarding. Her favorite part was seeing how kind and funny the elderly were in their interactions.

“It was just a sense of self-satisfaction because you’re helping so many people, and even though I was just helping them with bingo, they were all so interested in having those things every week that they could rely on and to help them remember things,” Papuc said.

Senior Emily Johnson volunteers weekly at Aldersly Retirement Living in San Rafael, playing piano for the residents, many of whom suffer from dementia.

“My favorite part is that even though a lot of them can’t say how much they love listening to the music, you can tell they’re always scooting their wheelchairs closer to the piano,” Johnson said. “And if I’ll play a song that they recognize, you can see a smile on their face.”

Participating in arts and crafts, an elderly resident engages in activities that are led by student volunteers such as Lindsey Papuc at Aegis Living in Corte Madera.
Participating in arts and crafts, an elderly resident engages in activities that are led by student volunteers such as Lindsey Papuc at Aegis Living in Corte Madera.

The seniors at Aegis are completely open to meeting fresh faces, so they love when new volunteers come in, according to Papuc.

“They really like meeting new people and kind of changing it up a little bit, and when they see someone new that they haven’t seen before, it gives them something else to talk about,” Papuc said.

Johnson volunteers through a program called Love is the Answer (LITA), which pairs volunteers 18 and older with a specific elderly person to visit once a week. Johnson is not 18, so she volunteers at Aldersly by playing piano on Sundays.

The Redwoods in Mill Valley is another assisted senior living facility, whose goal is to provide a vibrant, healthy environment for people to age in, according to Noreen McKeon, the Director of Programs and Volunteers.

McKeon said that they welcome both long-term and short-term student volunteers and place them in whichever area they are best suited to.

“Dining service is a biggie, because lots just want those community service hours, so they’re in the dining room usually at dinner pouring water and coffee. For the volunteers who want more involvement, we have them working in our Cyber Senior program,” McKeon said.

The Cyber Senior program is specific to the Redwoods, and allows students to become “teachers” of technology to a senior who they are assigned to.

The students teach seniors how to use smartphones and iPads, which allows for both parties to develop a more in-depth relationship, according to McKeon.

“[The seniors] love having high school age kids around. This is a population that’s very active in their aging, and part of that is they are lifelong learners. They love knowing what the younger generations are up to,” McKeon said.

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Alexandra Lee, Author