Vol 5. Issue 15 / May 2, 2005

Visits Brighten Seniors' Day

By Mika Ono

There's a new opportunity to make a difference in someone's life for Scripps Research Institute employees. The Senior Visits Program, run through the employee volunteer organization ScrippsAssists, debuted earlier this year.

"Our target group is seniors with few family members or friends to visit them," says Jenny Hsu, a research assistant in the Ulevitch lab who initiated the program. "The seniors really enjoy having someone to talk with. And it's an easy and meaningful experience for volunteers."

Each volunteer is assigned two seniors to visit on the day of the outing. First, volunteers check in with Hsu on the La Jolla campus and pick up a gift bag to bring to their seniors. Then, volunteers travel independently to their assigned facility—one of four assisted living or skilled nursing homes in the area—and spend about an hour one-on-one with each individual.

"It's very informal," says Hsu, "just like visiting a grandparent. You can talk about anything or even play cards in silence. And, if you let me know in advance, you are welcome to bring your children or your spouse."

The first two rounds of visits, in February and March, elicited positive feedback from both seniors and volunteers.

Hsu was inspired to start the program after returning from the Bay Area, where she participated in post-baccalaureate studies. In her spare time, she volunteered with Little Brothers, an organization that arranges visits with independent seniors. Hsu was impressed by how much the seniors appreciated the visits.

Upon her return to San Diego, she wanted to continue this experience, but looked in vain for a similar organization to work with. Undeterred, she decided to start her own program.

"Putting together the senior visits has involved a lot of coordination," she admits, "and I'm still fine-tuning some aspects of it—like the best time of day for the seniors to have company. But, overall it's going well. In March, we provided visits for 60 seniors. I'm encouraging everyone who can to come out and volunteer. Volunteers are the heart of the program!"

The next round of senior visits are scheduled for Saturday, May 7 to coincide with Mother's Day weekend. Bi-lingual volunteers are especially needed. For more information, contact Hsu at jennyhsu@scripps.edu or x4-9171.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



"[Visiting with seniors] is an easy and meaningful experience for volunteers" says Jenny Hsu. Photo by Kevin Fung.