The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 16th

YES brings student companionship and support to the elderly

<p>Two residents of Green Crescent Nursing Home make crafts together.</p>
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Two residents of Green Crescent Nursing Home make crafts together.

For senior Priyansh Patel, taking care of elderly relatives was simply a fundamental part of being in a family, a value he grew up with in an Indian culture. That’s why when he saw the Youth for Elderly Service booth at Fall Fest, he immediately took the chance to get involved.

“There’s a great importance to the elderly or anyone that’s older than you in Indian culture,” Patel said. “You have to respect and foster them like they fostered you growing up. Those values were instilled in me in an early part of my life.”

Co-chairperson Patel said YES began about four years ago under the Campus Y. Members volunteer at a Carrboro nursing home, Crescent Green Assisted Living Communities, where they provide companionship and build relationships with residents weekly and at larger-scale monthly events.

Sophomore and marketing coordinator, Lorena Dujmusic, said it is important for college students to volunteer with the elderly. According to a University of California, San Francisco study, 18 percent of seniors live alone and 43 percent of seniors feel lonely on a regular basis.

“In college, we’re isolated,” Dujmusic said. “We only really see people around our age and that’s who you interact with on a daily basis. (By volunteering) you interact with community, and elderly have such great stories to share.”

Many of the monthly activities are centered around the holidays. Recently, the committee celebrated Halloween with the residents by bringing in art supplies so they could create pumpkins and spiders.

But for Patel, the highlight of his visits are the weekly bingo nights on Thursdays. During bingo, students have more opportunities to talk to elders one-on-one and learn more about their personalities.

“You definitely see them in a more competitive light and see more of their younger selves,” Patel said. 

Dujmusic became involved with YES during the second semester of her first year.

“I’ve always loved working with kids, and I got to college and figured I'd give something else a try,” Dujmusic said. “I like volunteering with kids, but I wanted to try with a different group of people.”

Patel said there are currently about seven students that volunteer regularly. Students can form bonds with the elderly residents at Crescent Green during visits.

“They have a friendly relationship,” Dujmusic said. “One of the residents raps. Usually he has one of our volunteers start rapping with him.”

YES also attempts to raise awareness for diseases like Alzheimer’s that affect elderly people. The committee is currently trying to get doctors from geriatric facilities to speak to the group and other students who are interested.

“A lot of people don’t know how to deal with disorders and diseases like Alzheimer’s,” Patel said. “Most people after a certain age get symptoms of dementia, so it’s important to learn how to deal with it and nurture and foster it.”

The committee meets every other Monday in room 207 at the Campus Y at 5:15 p.m. The next meeting will be on Nov. 13, and interested students can still get involved.

“People focus on kids because it’s the start of life, but life is a full circle,” junior and co-chairperson Autumn Pettus said. “With the elderly, it’s tossing them aside and saying, 'OK life is over.' They have goals and dreams, too. It’s not the end of everything.”

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