THE BLOG
12/06/2012 09:20 am ET | Updated Feb 05, 2013

A Human Experience: Volunteering for the Elderly

I volunteer with my mother at Aegis Assisted Living to help other volunteers and employees in their work with providing activities for the seniors at the home. Aegis is a community of the volunteers and employees who strive to make the assisted living home more fun for the seniors who have a residence there by organizing events and new schedules every day. None of the activities are ever forced upon the seniors, but many of the seniors enjoy participating in activities such as bingo and balloon volleyball. The volunteers who lead games like bingo often come at least once a week, for about three hours. Seniors can use their "Aegis Tokens" that they earn through games to buy items at a little fair that comes once a month, with things that the seniors normally wouldn't be able to go out and buy on their own, which motivates them to be involved in as many fun games as possible.

My mother and I started volunteering at Aegis through the National Charity League. We are part of the Acalanes Chapter, in the sophomore class along with over 50 other girls and their moms. Right away, we knew we wanted to spend our volunteering hours at the assisted living home. I have friends whose grandparents live at Aegis, and they told me that they love it there. I also enjoy working with the elderly, so I knew that this would be a fun opportunity to get more experience in case I ever needed it in the future. Volunteers at Aegis are always able to interact with the residents, whether it is through helping them with bingo cards or giving hints on a crossword puzzle.

The nurses and activity directors at Aegis have always been committed to providing an environment specialized for each individual's needs. All residents are made comfortable with specified activities such as movie nights, musicians and dance entertainment, and worship services, along with monthly outings. In terms of assisted living homes, Aegis is one of the most caring places I have ever had the privilege to volunteer.

The best part about volunteering is the joy of the seniors I interact with. During the daily exercise with an instructor, a group of seniors exert grip control with a tennis ball. My mother and I often walk in to observe this last part. As soon as Harriet sees our faces, she gives a toothy smile. "Alright, your turn, Harriet," the instructor usually says as he places the ball bucket in front of her. To practice coordination, the seniors have to throw the ball back into the bucket from a few feet away. Of course, Harriet gets it in on the first try, easy. The other seniors clap for her, smiles spread across their faces.

Exercises aren't something that the seniors feel like they are obligated to do. It's something that each person wants to do because they are with their friends, enjoying challenging activities. Even with Marge, whose average before getting the ball in the bucket is 15, she still has a blast trying, with all the other seniors cheering her on: "Go Marge! You've got it this time!"

On Marge's 10th or 11th time, she would smile at my mom and me, so I'd give her a thumbs-up for good luck. She tries again, because she knows that all of the other residents, the activity director Kay and the volunteers are still rooting for her.

Aegis isn't just an assisted living home, it's a little community comprised of residents, workers, nurses, family members and volunteers. I love going with my mom, seeing lovely seniors like Marge and Harriet and the man who knows every answer to every crossword puzzle within seconds. Seeing them smile when I dive on the floor to save the balloon in volleyball or when they get a bingo is the greatest feeling in the world.

Every time I visit and work at Aegis, I have a great time. I have so much respect for these men and women, these people who are so much more worldly and wise than me. If I could consolidate all these seniors' experiences of their lengthy time on earth, I would be so rich, intellectually and emotionally. Volunteering to be around these sagacious elders is a very human experience that not many other people are able to have, and one that I am grateful for.