We recently bid a bittersweet farewell to our two summer co-op students, Clara Tang and Olivia Dong. Bitter because we're sad to see them go, as both had a huge impact during their short time at RCRG. Sweet because they're returning to school, hopefully with a few new skills and a broader perspective that will come in handy as they pursue their studies.
Clara already wrote about her experience at RCRG, so now it's Olivia's turn.
Seemingly seconds after she arrived, Olivia became an indispensable member of our Seniors Community Support Services department. She spent much of her summer coordinating rides for local seniors, ensuring there was a volunteer driver who could take them to a medical appointment or community activity.
When not doing that, Olivia was supporting our grocery shopping service, taking orders from seniors over the phone, and sometimes even doing the shopping herself.
The age gap between Olivia and the clients she helped was often five decades or more. That she was able to put herself in their shoes and empathize with their challenges speaks to Olivia's maturity. She didn't just serve seniors; she found a way to relate to them.
This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work as a Seniors Community Support Services Program Assistant at RCRG, through UBC Arts Co-op.
I am a BA student studying Psychology, and this position was perfect for applying theories I have learned to real life. There is so much more I will take away from RCRG beyond just transferable skills.
By far, the best thing about working here is the people. I was instantly welcomed by the entire team, especially the Seniors Department. From my first day I felt valued and respected, even though I was just a summer student.
I think as students, and even as adults, we are so caught up in our own lives that we forget to think about other populations. The Senior population is one that is overlooked, but large, and growing; I had no idea there were over 30,000 seniors in Richmond!
This summer I got the chance to step outside of my own world and focus on helping people with real and urgent issues such as chronic medical conditions, immobility, and poor mental health. I learned that there is so much I take for granted as a young person, and that there are many challenges when it comes to aging.
Keeping a healthy mind and body comes with its challenges as you get older, and RCRG tries to target this with grocery shopping services, volunteer friendly visiting to improve mental health, and volunteer drivers to help get those who cannot drive to medical appointments.
One thing I took away from my time here which relates to my field is the importance of mental health, for all ages. Mental health can be an issue for seniors because they are often dealing with loss – loss of mobility, loss of a loved one, loss of independence.
Anyone who provides support for a senior needs to be cared for as well, and I really enjoyed being part of the Relax, Recharge, Reset Caregiver Workshop Series this summer. RCRG provided fun, stress-relieving workshops – on topics like knitting, meditation, and even yoga – to help caregivers unwind and meet other caregivers in the community. Attending these workshops and meeting the people involved showed me the reality of aging and the importance of having support.
Through client interaction, I have learned that it is important to treat people, especially seniors, with the utmost care and respect as you never know what they may be going through. That being said, many seniors that I worked with this summer had a positive outlook on life, no matter what they were facing.
Clients were extremely grateful for rides to crucial medical appointments, or to receive their grocery order exactly how they wanted it. Making a difference in their daily lives was an extremely rewarding experience and I am so grateful for this opportunity!
Photo Caption: Clara Tang and Olivia Dong (right) at RCRG's Annual General Meeting, on June 19.