Aggies Helping Elders

Lauren Simcic is one of several Honors Students who participated in the pilot of a new capstone called Undergraduate Service Scholars. To learn more about capstones, please visit https://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/Capstone.shtml.

By Lauren Simcic – On the Texas A&M campus, young adults predominate. Sometimes I forget that the world is not made up of people between the ages of 18 and 22. The “college bubble” could accidentally cause well meaning Aggies to ignore populations younger or older than themselves.

This semester, I founded a service organization called Adopt a Senior. Four volunteers and I regularly visited an assisted living facility and spent one-on-one quality time with the residents there. During that time period, I learned how to coordinate a group of volunteers, and we accomplished something really impactful.

First impressions
I am no stranger to the nursing home environment. My grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s Disease, lived in one briefly before moving in with my mother and me. I gathered from her experience that elderly residents are constantly bored, and their medical problems are ignored by staff.

Photo of the author with her grandmother
The author, Lauren Simcic (front, center) at age 10 with her grandmother (left).

Sadly, at the assisted living facility where Adopt a Senior is taking place, my assumption proved partially true. All around the building, seniors sit in chairs, staring without talking to anyone. The seniors have difficulty navigating in wheelchairs. Sometimes, when a person gets stuck, I give him or her a push. If I were handicapped and had little help moving around I would feel very trapped.

Getting to know each other
I was matched with Lois, a very cheerful woman whose husband, sister, and best friend passed away recently. We have both lost loved ones–for me it was my father and two grandparents–and our shared pain helped us to bond. I knew to listen quietly rather than say, “It’s going to be okay.”

Lois has given me an interesting perspective on living in a nursing home. When I ask her about the food, activities, etc., she always responds that they are “good enough.” At first, I was upset because I felt that Lois and the other residents deserved more. I still feel that way, but I am realizing that Lois’ commitment to being content regardless of her situation is quite admirable.

Christmas party
The Adopt a Senior team ended the semester with a crafting party. Half of us hosted bingo, and the rest taught five seniors to make wrapping paper Christmas trees. Things went better than I had ever expected! I think the program was properly tailored to participants’ energy levels and interests. It was great to the residents talking to one another, since socialization seems so rare at this facility. My only regret is that no one brought a camera!

Looking ahead
My hope for the coming semester is to retain the volunteers who have come together and to attract new ones. I can tell that Adopt a Senior is making a difference in individual lives. It would be wonderful to have enough people involved to influence a whole nursing home–maybe even expand to a second facility.
In the months ahead I want to continue visiting Lois, put on more programs, and get some snapshots of our good times!

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