Name: Emma Thibodeau
From: Dansville, New York
School: High School
Some people aren’t able to care for themselves anymore. Some no longer have families to care for them. Some people can only transport themselves with a wheelchair. Some are more fortunate, but still need assistance. Some people don’t have the privilege to sleep in their own bed at night. Some can’t even find happiness in their hobbies. Some people can no longer remember their own children. Some only want a light in the darkness. A friend.
Reaching old age is unavoidable, and usually unwelcome. Reaching old age is the point in life where you know you’ve completed your cycle. Often, it means that your physical and mental state is declining. A majority of elderly people require lots of attention and love from their family and friends. But what if they no longer have a family that is loving, or friends that they can talk to? This is where volunteers help. I regularly volunteer at a center for nursing and rehabilitation. My main priority is to make sure the elderly feel comfortable, secure, and not alone. A lot of young people don’t realize how astounding the elderly are. They’re wise souls, with knowledge, experiences and stories. Many still have a great sense of humor! I’ve been volunteering for about half a year now, and I try to go as much as I can. The amount of hours varies, some weeks I don’t go at all, but some weeks I reach up to fifteen hours!
I find it challenging when I see people being unkind to elders. Sometimes, people don’t seem to understand that without this generation, we wouldn’t have the society we have today. Many of the men are veterans, and a lot of the women helped as nurses in wars such as World War II. Often it seems that people are unkind because the elderly don’t have as much power as the younger generations do, or because their physical/mental capabilities often limit them greatly. Sometimes, if the elder has developed mental illness it is seen as “crazy”- as mental illness is often portrayed in all ages. I try to stop this, because the elderly have given so much to us, it’s our turn to give back to them. As a volunteer, I try to let them know that they have a friend. In particular, I care for a man named Rob. He is one of the funniest people I know, loves baseball, and served in the military. Unfortunately, he is developing memory problems and is wheelchair-bound. I love him regardless.
The reason I love to volunteer is because I enjoy making people happy. I do this by teaching them a new card game, reading to them, taking them outside for a stroll or just having a chat. I especially try to tend to the ones who don’t have families who visit very often. My goal by doing this is to give just a few people a smile. I’ve learned a lot as a volunteer. I’ve learned that no matter the age, people are people. If a person is older, it makes no difference. I’ve learned that the elderly are often the most kind. They love young people- they love a taste of youth. If I could give one message to the world it would be to not judge a book by it’s cover. I know, cliché. But some of the most worn-out and frail books have the most wonderful stories within them.
I am an aspiring forensic psychologist, and I’d love to land a job in the FBI. This is another area where I am able to help people. I could help protect the country from terrorists and potentially dangerous people. This is what I want in life- to help. Whether it be giving the elderly a chance to speak when nobody else would listen, or profile a serial killer enabling us to catch him, I just want to help the world.
The term “forward looking”, to me, means progress. Progress in what? That’s up to the circumstances. My activities are “forward looking” because I’m trying to erase the stigma that elderly people are always weak, grumpy, or “crazy”. In the grand scheme of things, my work is nothing. I’m just a young girl trying to make changes in a huge world, but if more people agree with me on this, we could all make a change.
In my opinion, the world is too judgmental. Whether it’s LGBT+, the elderly, or something as simple as what a person’s favorite film is- we’re always too quick to judge. “A person is a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss. I’m sure everybody has heard that quote before, but not everybody has applied it to their lives. A person is a person, no matter how small. No matter what they look like. No matter what they identify as. No matter what gender they are. No matter what age they are. A person is a person. I’d like to see the world change their ways, and not be so quick to judge.
“Caring for our seniors is perhaps the greatest responsibility we have. Those who walked before us have given so much and made possible the life we all enjoy.” -John Hoeven