When starting my fieldwork at Longview, a residential senior retirement community, I was unsure of what to expect. I filled out a list of the types of volunteering activities that interested me and began to visit every Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon.
On Tuesdays I would join the adult day community in the mornings to discuss the news, people’s recent trips, and holidays or upcoming events. If I saw an interesting article in the news I would bring it in and share it with the people there. At 11:00 am the group would go to exercise class, I joined them to help residents that struggled with mobility and followed along with the movements of the class. On occasion I would run the Tea and Coffee Time. Taking place on the garden level, I would brought a cart of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to serve to the residents. After everyone sat down we would then discuss different things such as: where everyone was from, or different topics in the news. During this time, I was able to really get to know many of the residents and hear about all of the amazing experiences they had and the places they traveled.
On Thursdays I would go on trips to different stores in the Ithaca area. Residents of Longview signed up to go to the store of the week and I would take this list, call the residents to remind them, check off the individuals that showed up, help residents on the bus, assist residents at the store, and make sure everyone got back on the bus at the right time with their purchases in hand. When residents were unable to find things I searched with them until them were satisfied. At times residents would become confused while in the store. For example one woman decided she wanted to return something and became upset because she wasn’t sure how to and thought the employees were taking advantage of her. I assured her that everything was fine and assisted her in returning her items.
During my one-on-one visits I was able to really connect with residents of Longview and hear their stories as well as their concerns. I visited one woman almost every time I went to Longview and we spent our time sitting in her room, eating in the dinner area, walking around the floor, or walking in the garden. She had vision problems so I also read her letters, help her organize and find things in her room. Through our time together we both learned about each other’s families, interests, and experiences we had and built a really strong connection.