I don’t know what it is but I’ve always been fascinated with old people. I could be PC and say I love the elderly, senior citizens, or the wise, but when I say old people you know what I mean.
I remember my first time going to a Nursing Home. One of the youth groups I was a part of growing up was invited to sing Christmas carols for the residents. I remember being hesitant at first because I always thought of nursing homes as a hospital for old people and since hospitals freaked me out I was leery. When we went to sing and I saw the faces of all the seniors and how excited they were to have us, I instantly fell in love. They were so gracious and thanked us for spending time with them. That moment fueled my passion to work with the elderly.
In college, it seemed like all the rage was to be a part of Habitat for Humanity or to be a tutor. While I tried those things, I never got the same satisfaction as what came from that experience I had at the nursing home.
During the middle of my sophomore year in college, I had an epiphany. One night I stayed up researching programs that provided services to the elderly and became determined to start my own organization. I came across a program called Adopt-A-Grandparent and corresponded with the founder who was based in Atlanta for advice on starting my own program. That December, I along with another young lady and a couple of friends started the first collegiate chapter at Florida A&M University. Our mission was to provide companionship the the elderly through weekly visits each and every Saturday from 10-12 and included arts & crafts, playing games, pampering parties, even hosting a pageant.
The first interest meeting was a little sparse but I was enthusiastic about undertaking this project and that enthusiasm spread among those who came. Over the next two years we had over 200 students from FAMU & Florida State to serve as volunteers and went from going to one nursing home to having so many volunteers we divided them up and provided service to 3 senior living facilities in Tallahassee. Since then I’ve continued my work with seniors and it never fails to be a rewarding experience.
Time for my plug…Currently, I work with IONA Senior Services delivering meals one weekend a month to seniors, many of whom live independently, in Washington, DC. I’ve been doing it for nearly 3 years now and it continues to be a highlight in my life. If you’re in DC and looking to give back, I would highly recommend volunteering with IONA. They are always in need of assistance from weekend meal delivery, to assisting with their art and fitness programs, or even going on trips with the adult day care. If you’re elsewhere you can volunteer with your local Meals on Wheels, they’re everywhere. You never know who you’ll meet, one of those old people might change your life.