The Adopt-a-Grandparent program provides BYU-Idaho students with the opportunity to serve and visit assisted living homes in the Rexburg area for an hour and a half every Saturday morning.
Students meet at the Hyrum Manwaring Student Center roundabout at 10 a.m. After loading up in a 12-seat passenger van or their own vehicles, the students are transported to an assisted living home in Rexburg, Rigby or St. Anthony.
“A lot of times we forget about these people in assisted living homes, and how they are just put there and forgotten about,” said Colin Johns, the program manager and a sophomore studying psychology. “These people still need human contact. They need new experiences. It is a good way of helping them have fulfillment and meaning in their lives at a time when a lot of them don’t.”
Walking down halls and knocking on doors, pairs of students spend time with residents in need of a visitor. These visits include chats about childhood, card games and puzzle sessions.
“It is so cool to see the look on their face when they are describing their childhood experiences,” Johns said. “You get to experience part of it with them.”
Dan Mahler, the activities adviser overseeing the program, said his favorite part is that students have the opportunity to learn and connect with an older generation.
“I think the benefits of the program are for both the students and those we visit,” Mahler said. “Students get the opportunity to serve those they visit and connect with them. The students are also a blessing in the lives of those they visit. The tenants of the assisted living homes get to see new faces outside of their normal routines, and that is refreshing for them.”
Emilee Prologo, a freshman studying early childhood/special education, attended her first Adopt-a-Grandparent visit on Saturday, Oct. 19. Prologo said she will definitely come back, especially after the resident she visited with said she would love to visit with her again.
“I really liked hearing all of her stories and knowing that we could share our stories with her, so she had a better day and week,” Prologo said.
Johns has plans to expand the program. He hopes that eventually they will have enough volunteers to visit each assisted living home every Saturday. If he has enough managers and volunteers, Johns would like to put together scrapbooks for the residents of the homes they visit.
He would like to resurrect their family history sessions and is currently planning a senior citizen dance on campus.
“We overall try to see the needs of the retirement community here in Rexburg and surrounding areas, and we try to meet those needs,” Johns said. “Most of the people in assisted living homes don’t get many visitors. We try to meet that through our weekly outings of visiting them, meeting them and helping them feel warmth.”
Students can visit the event Facebook page for more dates and information. To ride in the provided van, students must sign a waiver, but no other paperwork is required to volunteer. The program is organized by I-Serve and Student Support.