Seniors Helping Seniors Scholarship 2018 – 3rd Place Winner – Rachel Dovsky
May 2, 2018
The most important lesson I have learned from the senior that I work with is that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to work hard each day to pursue the long term goals we create for ourselves. Sometimes, life can feel overwhelming and scary, but we possess the strength to push through and become stronger people for having tackled adversity.
I learned this from my wonderful friend and mentor, Jean Detsky, a woman in her 90s who has accomplished so much in her life. My family met Jean when I was five years old at a religious event. We all became fast friends. I have vivid memories of going to her house as a little girl to sit and talk for a while, sing songs for her, or share a meal. Our relationship has steadily grown stronger through the years and now she even calls me her “adoptive grand-daughter.”
I don’t feel like I am doing Jean a favor by visiting her. Rather, our relationship is mutually beneficial and supportive. As much as she loves to hear about all of the exciting occurrences in my life, I enjoy hearing her stories about her youth and the wisdom she offers me.
Jean’s favorite place is the beach, but with her decreased mobility, it can be challenging for her to walk on the sand. I wanted to figure out a solution and was delighted to learn that my local beach provides special wheelchairs with large wheels that can be pushed on the sand. I enjoy bringing Jean to the beach and pushing her in this amazing wheel chair so that she can take in the sea air and relax in the sun. This gave her newfound mobility in the place she loves most.
Jean moved into a nursing home nearly 10 years ago, where I go to visit her now. My first time going there, I was so happy to find a beautiful grand piano located in the lobby of the building. Now each time I go, I bring piano and vocal pieces of music to play for her and the other residents. This experience has given me so much confidence. I love to make people happy by doing something that brings me so much joy.
I can see smiles light up the faces of these elderly people as I sit down to sing and play a piece of music that they recognize.
Volunteering to play music at this nursing home gave me the confidence to perform at other nursing homes. I often travel to other local facilities to share my music with the residents. In addition, after several years of volunteering to sing, I have even been hired in several places to give an entire concert! I know that my relationship with Jean is the igniting force that made this all possible. Every time that I come to sing, she sits in the audience so proudly.
I spent a year after high school living in Israel. I learned at a gap year program that specialized in biblical studies and music training. While I was there, I met a social worker who specializes in helping the elderly. She connected me with The Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, a group that creates monthly social events for Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem. I volunteered to perform for the members of this group on several occasions. I put together a program of music from classic Broadway show tunes to operatic arias. I realized that my friends in my gap year program would also benefit greatly from this experience, so I invited several of my musical friends to come along. We took turns singing solos and group numbers, some accompanied by guitar and some with piano. Our music brought so much happiness to these people who endured grief beyond imagination. It was a very fulfilling experience for all of us and motivated us to continue to share our music with these appreciative senior citizens. I am so grateful to possess skills that allow me to connect with people in an authentic, meaningful way.
I realize now that age truly is just a number. Every person at every age possesses great value and knowledge. We can learn something from every person that we encounter. It is important to understand this and treat people with the respect they deserve. Certainly, the seniors in our communities deserve all the respect we can offer.
In my opinion, the best way to show respect to seniors is to spend time with them and truly listen to what they have to say. If you do not live near your grandparents, set up specific times to call them throughout the week. If you are lucky enough to live near them, make regular visits a part of your normal schedule. There are seniors in every community who aren’t lucky enough to have family close by. I believe these are the people we should make the greatest effort to visit. Ask local nursing homes if they are in need of volunteers or find organizations that can connect you with local senior citizens. It may sound daunting, but it isn’t as hard as you think. The seniors you meet will be so appreciative that you made the time to see them and you will learn so much from them.
Congratulations to our three winners:
- 1st place: $3,500 – Awarded to Madeline Row. Madeline is studying nursing at Point Loma Nazarene University.
- 2nd place: $2,000 – Ana Danko. Ana is studying Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
- 3rd place: $1,000 – Rachel Dovsky. Rachel is studying at Mira Costa College.
These deserving students were chosen from more than 400 entries. It was a difficult choice, as we are impressed by the volunteer work being done by so many of you. Thank you for dedicating your time to helping America’s seniors. Visit our Scholarship page for further details or if you are interested in learning more about our Seniors for Seniors Scholarship.