Aging mentally and physically can become difficult to see and do, but through the help of others together they create smiles and memorable moments.
NDSU student organization Gerontology club has grown and impacts the elderly within the community, by educating and providing volunteering moments for students.
The president and vice president of the Gerontology club were able to answer questions about the goals of the organization. Anna Montgomery, President of Gerontology club, is a fifth-year student majoring in Behavioral Statistics and Psychology. Rachel Westphal, Vice President, is a Senior majoring in Psychology.
“Our club is primarily educating people in the needs of helping the elderly people in our community and then reaching out to those in our community who need help,” Montgomery explained.
The Gerontology Club works with nursing homes and trying to become more involved in the Alzheimer’s Association and other types of organizations that correlate to bring more information and awareness.
“The majority of our club are nursing students, we did start it from a psych perspective – because we are going to be pairing it with the Gerontology minor – we have HDFS, Nursing, Psych, and we do have a Social Work major as well,” Westphal shared.
Gerontology is a relatively new club, for this is its second semester being a club. Danielle Freitage majored in Gerontology Psychology and graduated Spring 2017, but not before creating the club. “She had this absolute love for old people and helping the elderly and she just was really empowered by that – made us all want – to chip in and help,” Montgomery shared.
Montgomery and Westphal were a part of the creating process. “We (Westphal and Freitag) could get into really great talks about mental health – as aging progressed, and it just became something that I realized effects most people’s lives, so even if we don’t think it does, and I really like the volunteering aspect of it because I just like to do things more hands on,” Westphal said.
The creator of the club truly influenced the current president and vice president for, “She (Freitag) talked me into being a nurse assistant, and through that job I realized that there’s a great need for help – in that field; in working with the elderly,” Montgomery said.
Why do people join the club?
“A lot of people are joining the club for volunteer experience and especially with people who are going into nursing and different areas that are working with the elderly it’s a good way to open up that line of communication and get hands-on experience working with the elderly that they might do in their future,” Montgomery explained.
“It also helps create a focus for the people, when they’re going through school a lot of people say ‘oh I want to work with children’ and they don’t really consider elderly so when they come and they hang out with us and do the fun things we do they kind of see that it’s not the stereotypical grumpy old person,” Westphal added.
The club has multiple different events, but most of the events are primarily focused on volunteering. They also have meetings, where they talk about different careers and different programs that they could become involved with.
The club also has an event coming up where they will be making Thanksgiving crafts with the Alzheimer’s unit in a local nursing home.
They also have an “Adopt-A-Grandparent-Program” where people pick an elderly person to visit once a week with, which requires dedication to that person.
A memorable moment for the president and vice president was the fall event last year, of pumpkin painting with people in a nursing home. Everyone picked one elderly person to paint a pumpkin with. “It was – a lot of fun because it made the people really smile and it made them happy to have all these people there and spending time with them – and they all kept their pumpkins in their rooms,” Montgomery shared.
This club can change student’s perspectives and make them see a whole new side of things. “I think a lot of people haven’t really stepped foot and especially in different Alzheimer units, people our age don’t always get to see how it progresses in different people and it can really change their view on the elderly and also see how fun they can be and open up,” Montgomery explained.
Through this club they have met memorable people, like a man who recently passed away was a World War II veteran, “he made me smile all the time,” Montgomery smiled.
Although the club is very new it has grown rapidly in its short time, beginning with 20-30 people and now having around 60 members.
The Gerontology brings a new perspective and educational basis for those interested in the elderly and mental aging. It makes a difference for those visited in the nursing homes, “The majority of people are very happy – they talk way more when a bunch of people are there to see them,” Montgomery shared.