Last week, I volunteered at the Saratoga Retirement Community, a retirement home located in Saratoga, California. It is nestled within the Saratoga foothills on breathtakingly beautiful grounds. Now, my history with senior citizens has been short. I come in contact with them at my work where I am a hostess, and I see my grandmother on occasion. Although I don’t really spend much time with people over 70, I do have a deep respect for them. So when I went to volunteer I was a little nervous. I usually volunteer with my sorority sisters or in groups of people. However, I made it to the front desk. On my way in it became clear that I was definitely the minority in the building when it came to age. Some people who I passed by would return my smile, but others would not. When the latter occurred I didn’t know if I should feel hurt or indifferent. My peers always return my smile.
Once I met with the woman in charge, she led me into the Alzheimer’s division of the Home. This is where I felt like a fish out of water. As I observed her leading them in activities, and helped her get them enthusiastic, I was a little shy and unsure. How do I speak to them? How do I interact with them? Should I say something if they refuse to participate? What topics are good to talk about? All of these questions ran through my head when I was there (although I didn’t let on to how un-confident I was).
By the end of the time, though, I realized that they are just normal people. I shouldn’t be afraid to talk to them or interact with them. I don’t know why I was so unsure of myself just because I was around elderly people. Maybe it was because it is not my norm; I haven’t had much interaction with them. Now it seems so silly to think about. I do have to watch what I talk about since Alzheimer’s patients don’t remember/know much about recent history. I loved helping though. They have good stories to tell and some are still quite witty. When I return, I know I won’t feel as awkward, and I am glad that I got to have that experience.