On Wednesday, students crammed into CUB L45 for a reflection session put on by the WSU Center for Civic Engagement entitled, “Eld*er*ly noun ‘A person or persons in later life’ What's YOUR Definition?”
Senior accounting majors Matthew McCullough and Arielle Aguado directed the discussion.
“This is the student resource center. We deal with community service and civil engagement. We have students come in throughout the semester for potential community service opportunities,” McCullough said.
Aguado explained the purpose of the group reflections and their impact on the WSU community.
“We are basically advocates for getting involved in the community. We use student passions to find a project that they would like to get involved in and increase awareness of issues,” Aguado said.
Steve Bell, the senior coordinator at the Pullman Senior Center, was present on the panel to discuss the elderly that he works with and the purpose of senior centers.
“We come up with lots of fun ideas to entertain them and to have fun, for them to socialize and learn things. The challenge for us is to come up with what I call 'cutting edge' activities, where we are challenging them to try new things,” Bell said.
There is a common misconception amongst the general public that seniors cannot learn new things such as the latest technology.
“Even if you are 85 years old you can still learn new things. Last week we had Sinto Senior Center from Spokane drive down and we had a Wii bowling tournament. It’s a little more high tech than what most people would expect of seniors. Hearing one of my members come back from a holiday with their family beating one of their grand kids at Wii Bowling is great,” Bell said.
Tosha Emerson, the activity director of Whitman Senior living, was also present on the panel and explained the differences between senior centers and assisted living.
“In assisted living they live in the center. It is a huge transition for them,"Emerson said."What I will have new staff members do is write down the things that are most important to them. For most of us it would probably be our cars, our homes, our pets and families. When they come to assisted living, it is a huge transition for them because they are essentially giving up so many things."
Emerson also discussed her least favorite misconception about the elderly.
“Seniors do not move into assisted living to die. That is one of the biggest myths I like to debunk. They move in to live,” Emerson said.
There was a very large participatory element to the reflection. Students were asked to participate in multiple activities such as sharing memories of the elderly people in our lives. They recounted fond memories such as family trips and traditions, struggles, humorous anecdotes, keepsakes and especially their elderly relatives’ baking skills.
The reflection ended with a jeopardy-like trivia game to guide discussion. Teams could choose to answer questions from categories such as “the challenges of aging,” “demographics of seniors” and “living situations of the elderly.”
The group was educated about the common misconceptions and struggles that the elderly face every day. Problems such as outliving retirement savings, losing spouses, depression and housework are problems prevalent in the elderly community.
The presentation not only highlighted the importance of volunteering to care for the elderly but also the importance of facilities such as the Pullman Senior Center and Whitman Senior Living.
“I think its great to have facilities like this because it builds a community of people who are there for similar reasons like needing help doing things. Its also a great way for people who want to get involved in helping to do so,” said Cody Richardson, a junior history and political science major.
According to Bell and Emerson, the benefits of working with the elderly are many.
“They have a lot to offer. They can tell you stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat. They can teach you things that maybe you didn’t think you could learn,” Bell finished.
For more information on volunteering with the CCE and their community partners, visit http://cce.wsu.edu/communitypartners.