Friends of the Elderly connects old and young
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 13:02
USU Students are making time to befriend elderly people in nursing homes.
For some, the friendships can be a little addicting
“That’s what gets people ensnared,” said Michael Long, director of USU’s Friends of the Elderly club.
“They go once and make a connection with one of the residents and keep coming after that.”
Long is a junior majoring in bio-veterinary science. He got involved with the club last year after hearing about it at Day on the Quad. Friends of the Elderly meets twice each week, visiting Williamsburg Retirement Community and Carl Inoway Senior Housing.
The residents’ alluring backgrounds and interesting stories are always entertaining, Long said.
“One stole a plane in Russia, one was a model in Hollywood and one was a race car pit chief,” he said. “They have amazing stories and love to tell them. The best thing about it is the personalities of the residents.”
The students aren’t aware of what effects their efforts have, he said.
“A lot of people don’t realize the service and help that visiting them is to the residents,” Long said. “A lot of them don’t get visitors or have activities to do. They are very alone. One of the main functions of the club is to help end the loneliness aspect.”
Long said living in seclusion is unfortunately normality for the residents and making a change to their daily lives is important.
“They are kind of shut away in this box where they don’t get to interact with many people,” Long said. “We try to break up the monotony and try to make the golden years a little more golden.”
For Williamsburg Retirement Community resident Boyd Leishman, the amity is appreciated.
“I like the friendship,” he said. “I like being able to talk to them and have friends come visit me each week.”
Leishman, a Wellsville native, has been at Williamsburg for three years.
“We like to chat,” he said. “They like to talk to us about our past way back and we like to hear about theirs’ also.”
LaVon Anthony, originally from Idaho, is also a resident at Williamsburg and has been there eight years. She said the students are persistent and said Long has come directly to her room to see if she was there.
“Some students will even go knock on the doors to our rooms if they know the person they want to see is home,” she said. “Mike has done that many times to me. They are all very thoughtful about that.”
Anthony said the weekly visitation from the students is a necessity and said she especially enjoys getting the hugs each week from the young men.
“I keep going each week because actually, we need something like that,” she said. “I enjoy it because I think it’s good to be interacting with younger people. One of the greatest things that can happen for people here is to have young people come and associate with us. “
“It’s one of the more fun ways to get involved at the university,” Long said. “To a lot of people, it doesn’t feel like service. You are having fun and playing games with the residents.”
Friends of the Elderly is a non-profit organization run by the service center and gets funding through the university.
“Before winter break we had about 45 regular volunteers, but after coming back from the back we are down to about 25,” Long said. “It’s cold, and a lot of people aren’t braving the storms. Hopefully when the weather warms up, more will start coming.”
The consistent number of students serving each week allows Friends of the Elderly to make visits to two elderly homes.
“We were only going to one retirement home at the end of last year and had to expand our options when more people started coming, but we are really excited about it,” Long said.
Relationships developed with the residents keep the student volunteers interested, Long said.
“I’ve gotten to know the residents from going every week,” he said. “I usually kind of stick to hanging out and talking with the same residents each time because of how close I’ve gotten with them.”
Long said students do not need to contact him beforehand and can just show up at the proper place and time.
“I just encourage you to come whenever you want,” Long said. It’s nice to just get out and meet some new people and have a lot of fun. It’s important for student’s health to get involved in some way. College life is stressful, and if you can find an outlet it would help a lot. Service is one of the best outlets there is.”