Youth Experiences Aging Services Through Volunteerism

Anisha Chopra walks into Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio. She strolls confidently toward Frosty’s Life Enrichment Center. There, she waves at some of the residents, giving them a sweet smile. It’s another day of volunteering.

Anisha Chopra volunteer and Parkvue resident
Anisha Chopra and her Opening Minds through Art partner, Parkvue Community

Anisha is getting her first taste of the aging services profession through her volunteer work. “I love seeing how happy the residents are when they see me,” Anisha said. “They know that I’m there for them. It puts a smile on their faces, and that feels really good.”

Anisha, a freshman at Sandusky High School, started volunteering at Parkvue at the end of sixth grade. She spent that summer visiting residents and helping with life-enrichment programming. At the time, Anisha was very much an introvert. You’d never know that if you met Anisha today.

“I used to be really shy. As soon as I came here, I changed,” Anisha said.

“Anisha was mature as an 11-year-old, and even I was surprised by the way she came out of her shell to communicate with the residents,” her mother, Charu, added. “Volunteering at Parkvue has been a true blessing for her. It has helped her grow in so many ways.”

In her second summer of volunteering, Anisha, who loves to draw and paint, became a one-on-one volunteer for Opening Minds through Art. OMA is an award-winning, evidence-based, intergenerational art-making program for people living with Alzheimer’s and related conditions. It is a failure-free program designed to provide
opportunities for creative self-expression and social engagement for those with dementia.

The program is an excellent way to build a relationship with a resident living in UCH’s memory care neighborhoods.

Anisha said she saw a remarkable change in the demeanor of the resident whom she was paired with.

“At first, he didn’t want to come down (to the life enrichment center),” Anisha said. “On some days, he was really grumpy. But he would always leave each OMA session smiling.”

Following that experience, Anisha chose Alzheimer’s as the topic of her eighth-grade science fair project. She researched the condition and said her experience with OMA made it more personal. Separately, Anisha, who reported 120 hours of community service in just one year, received the national President’s Volunteer Service Award.

In addition to volunteering at Parkvue, Anisha serves on her high school’s bloodmobile committee and student council. She also participates in band, orchestra, the Great Lakes Visual and Performing Arts Academy, Model United Nations, tennis and competitive dance.

No wonder everyone’s smiling!