California – Los Angeles: Senior Smiles
Vanessa Milan is going into her fourth year at UCLA as a Psychobiology major with the goal of becoming a pharmacist in the future. She is currently the Co-Director for Pilipinos for Community Health (PCH) at UCLA’s Senior Smiles outreach program. This summer, she has continued her service by volunteering with Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles. This partner organization of PCH is a nonprofit that pairs young volunteers with senior citizens who would benefit from companionship and who may be suffering from age-related disabilities such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, hearing, visual, and mobility impairments.
Vanessa chose to volunteer with this organization because she is passionate about helping seniors who have dementia. She hopes that by visiting frequently and giving them company, she can alleviate some of the symptoms related to dementia and provide a generally positive atmosphere in the senior home. Vanessa is able to visit Senior Smiles’ senior home once a week and talk to at least two seniors per visit. Her conversations with the seniors generally consist of small talk ranging from discussing weekend plans to looking at magazine pictures together. For some seniors that do not have a severe case of dementia, Vanessa is able to have continued conversations with them and listen to their stories. Vanessa’s favorite part of volunteering with Senior Smiles is developing intimacy with the seniors and strengthening relationships every time she visits.
Regarding the impact of this service experience, Vanessa shared:
“This service has impacted me in a way that allowed me to see the kinds of challenges faced by seniors due to old age and dementia. Seeing the challenges has made me more inclined to help the seniors cope with their conditions by bringing smiles to their faces and brightening up their day with my time, company, and consistency.”
Want to get involved? The best way for UCLA students to get involved in volunteering with Senior Smiles is by joining the campus organization, Pilipinos for Community Health (PCH) at UCLA. By joining the organization, you can sign up for weekly sites held by Vanessa and her co-director. If you are not a member of PCH, you can still email the organization at email@example.com if you are interested in attending the site upon completion of a mandatory orientation session. Non-students interested in this cause or similar causes can find volunteer opportunities by searching the UCLA Volunteer Center’s Volunteer Opportunity Database using #health and #seniors.