University students ensure senior citizens are not alone for holidays

By Kate Szyszka

Area senior citizens are getting the chance to have their own social network, much like Facebook without the computers, as well as a friendly face to share the holidays with.

Students enrolled in Civic Engagement in Active Living, AHS 399, partnered with Provena Covenant Medical Center’s program Senior Support Services to insure that local senior citizens would not spend the holiday season alone.

Senior Support Services, formerly known as Faith in Action, is a service offered by Provena to senior citizens to help aid in daily needs. The organization is composed of volunteers who drive senior citizens to run errands, take care of their homes and encourage social interactions with the community, said Lana Sample, senior programs coordinator at Provena.

The student group organized a Thanksgiving feast for senior citizens at the conference room at Provena. The event included games aimed at stimulating citizens’ minds and allowing them to meet other people their age who live in the area, said Jake Shinder, sophomore in LAS.

“They really seemed to enjoy it,” Shinder said. “They were really overwhelmed.”

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The turnout for the event was roughly 15 to 20 people. Many were transported by volunteers for Senior Support Services.

The most important aspect of the event was having the attendees meet other people in the area, said Valarie McConville, sophomore in AHS.

“It was very successful, and everyone seemed to have a great time,” McConville said. “They all filled out evaluation sheets at the end and almost all the scores were perfect.”

The AHS students didn’t stop at the dinner in creating social opportunities for the senior citizens.

“We made kind of Facebook-type information sheets for them,” Shinder said. “They listed their interests and contact information like phone numbers so that they could meet up again.”

Many of the participants do not have much other interaction with people in the community.

“The focus of the project was social wellness,” Shinder said. “The idea was to get people together so they can have one other friend in the community to talk to.”

The senior citizens showed that they were very happy to have this opportunity to interact with others.

“Our favorite quote of the night was this one man who said, ‘I live by myself so I was really excited to come and meet new people,'” Shinder said. “That showed that this went really well.”