Preparing for Careers in Service to Older Adults
Many college students may feel that they are too busy to make a volunteer commitment, but perhaps they should reassess. It turns out that giving back can provide emotional and physical health benefits including the reduction of stress.
Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS) is proud to have student volunteers who are themselves preparing for careers caring for older adults. College students often come to CMSS to fulfill their educational requirements while also contributing to the CMSS mission. As volunteers, they take on various roles depending on their interests and areas of focus, but the end result is always the same: education and impact for the volunteers, and meaningful connections for CMSS residents.
Future Gerontologist Completes Senior Capstone at CMSS
Elizabeth Tabet, a senior at Northeastern Illinois University studying psychology and gerontology, is about to embark on an eight-week service learning project at CMSS.
Asked why she chose CMSS, Elizabeth says, “I wanted an opportunity to work with and learn from this great organization through volunteering.”
During her time at CMSS, she will contribute to the Around the World Cruise arts programming. This program brings CMSS residents and staff a sampling of food and entertainment from a different culture each month of 2016.
Elizabeth will also work on a horticulture project and the creation of reminiscence kits for residents, especially those in dementia care and those who are nonverbal. Reminiscence kits contain a variety of objects and images designed to engage older adults in multisensory experiences. They can be tailored to individual residents, incorporating personal interests and family photographs, or made for groups with similar interests, such as those who love to garden.
“Caring for and meeting the needs of older adults is important to me,” Elizabeth says. “I am looking forward to contributing the skills and knowledge I have working with older adults.”
Occupational Therapists Train at CMSS
Wright College’s Occupational Therapy program brings a steady stream of students to CMSS as interns. But sometimes, these internships can turn into something deeper.
After a semester as an intern at CMSS through Wright College, Daniel Eromosele returned as a volunteer. “The employees are very good at helping me achieve my goals in occupational therapy,” Daniel says. “I love working with seniors.”
At CMSS, Daniel works with seniors with disabilities and those with dementia. While his work takes many forms, Daniel consistently offers residents the gift of meaningful conversation.
“I tell them stories about myself and my background in Africa,” Daniel says. “We have Bible study and discuss the Bible. Some of them tell me personal stories. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Mike Herzog, another Wright College student, originally became a CMSS volunteer when applying to Wright’s Occupational Therapy program. Mike became a volunteer in order to fulfill required observational hours but, like Daniel, chose to return to CMSS.
“I missed working with the mature adults,” Mike says. “I really enjoy stories of how people have lived their lives, and this gives me a chance to know someone on a more personal level. For instance, I met a man who made coffins for 35 years, and a woman who was a secretary transcribing letters with a Dictaphone.”
At CMSS, Mike assists the licensed therapist with residents’ rehabilitation programs, performing tasks such as following a resident with a wheelchair while they are walking with the therapist. He makes sure that supplies do not run out, and keeps residents company when the therapist is assisting someone else.
Mike describes the joy it gives him to contribute to residents’ recovery. “The work is really rewarding to me, specifically when working with someone who was unable to stand on their own one day, and after weeks, sometimes months of hard work is walking down the hall with a walker.”
For these and other student volunteers, working with CMSS residents is an important part of giving back to the community. It’s not just the residents who benefit: volunteers value the time they spend at CMSS, whether assisting staff or spending time in conversation with older adults.
If you would like to become a CMSS volunteer, take a look at the available opportunities and find one that fits your skills and interests.