During the period of February thru May, we had a group of 6 students from USF who volunteered their time by observing and participating in the Always Active program. They also supported the team administratively in multiple projects. Their main goal set by their professor, was to engage with older adults in the community to promote and highlight the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition in later adulthood.
Here is what they shared from their experience:
“I have really enjoyed working at Always Active. I don’t spend a lot of time around older adults, so volunteering there really opened my eyes to their struggles but also the things they enjoy doing. I always loved coming into the community center and seeing all of the older adults talking with each other, having a good time and especially loved seeing them engage so consistently with an exercise program.”
“My perception of older adults has changed quite a bit since I have started at Always Active, I have more sympathy towards them and more patience with them when I see them. I was the type of person that would get annoyed at an older adult when they were moving slow or when I got stuck behind them in line at the grocery store but that has changed. With my time working with them I have learned that they just need to be treated with patience. We do not know what they might be going through or if their bodies are moving as fast as they can.”
“My experience with Always Active was a positive, eye-opening learning experience. I learned a lot about physical activity in older adults. I was able to apply the theories I learned in class to real life. I saw how exercise classes were tailored to the needs of older adults, and I saw the impact of socialization on adherence. I also learned about the different resources offered in the San Francisco community. Prior to working with Always Active, I did not know about the abundance of non-profit programs offered to marginalized communities or just any community in need. Before working with Always Active, I had very little interaction experience with healthy older adults. In the hospital, I usually work with sick, middle aged adults or older adults. Seeing older adults in a different environment where they are social, talkative, and healthy greatly changed my perception of older adults. Even though we are taught that sickness is not a normal sign of aging in our nursing classes, it is very easy to forget when all I see are sick older adults in acute care. After seeing this population, I re-evaluated my biases and realized that older adults are not how they are stereotypically portrayed in movies. Some are lively. Others are quiet. They are their own person.”