Aging Gracefully

Having spent this past term volunteering at Cascade Park Retirement Community has given me a new perspective on the elderly living in a retirement community. The key to running a successful retirement home in which both staff and residents are benefitted mutually takes a great deal of communication on behalf of the staff members. While staff members went about their daily doings with the residents, I was fortunate enough to have some one on one time with a few of the residents. I found that their experiences in life were full of wisdom about growing up and the different stages that go along with maturing.

The day-to-day tasks performed by the 30 staff members are well planned and executed each day. They are highly focused and goal-orientated, each performing specific duties. I noticed the amount of communicating taking place between pharmacists who would triple check dosages of medication for example, or having check-off sheets between each other to make sure they were being as productive as possible. In being so efficient in their specific work, I found that there wasn’t much time for conversation between residents and staff. Human interaction is so vital for our mental health at any age; perhaps if there were more staff members or even volunteers, there would be a lot more conversation flowing. The facility has done a great job in setting a high standard for the code of ethics and policies for their employees, but they should just as equally focus on the family aspect of working at such a place.

During the 8 hours I would spend at the retirement home each week, I would often have the chance to listen to some thought provoking experiences the residents had. They were beautiful in how honest and human they were. Some had a lesson associated with it; others were incredibly funny in their irony. The one common trait all of these stories shared was how vividly they were able to recount specific details. They would create a visual for the listener through the words they spoke. I think that is profound in showing just how valuable human experiences are, and how much of an impact they have on us when we get older.

I’m grateful for this opportunity that was given to me. It was a departure from my usual interactions with people. I don’t typically find myself speaking very much with older individuals. My concerns of not having anything to talk about or being too shy to have a full conversation were put to rest in this environment. This is so because it forced me to get out of my own comfort zone and partake in meaningful conversations with older people. In that sense, I feel I benefitted from having volunteered at the Cascade Park Retirement Community.

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