Club Corner: Senior Smiles

Sloane Shabelman, staff writer

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Juniors Sam Maguire and Anya Gupta had expected little participation for the first meeting of their new club at 7:30 on a Friday morning, but their message prevailed. Together, Maguire and Gupta envisioned a club that looked toward those of the past to forge new relationships for the future: Senior Smiles. In this club, members would come to create connections and bonds with those they may not have otherwise considered.

Co-founded by Maguire and Gupta, Senior Smiles is a club created with the intention of branching off from bigger service clubs to focus solely on working with senior citizens at nursing homes.

“Instead of just visiting [senior citizens], playing games and leaving, we work to develop relationships with the people at the elderly home,” Maguire said. “It’s also a unique opportunity to not only help your community but express creativity within the club.”

Gupta believes senior citizens have very unique and interesting experiences to share and that students can learn a lot from them.

“Our main mission is to bridge the gap between seniors in our community and students because we feel that there’s not a huge connection,” Gupta said. “It’s sad to say but I feel like people forget about senior [citizens] and we wanted to create a relationship to really tie the community, both old and young, together.”

Inspired by visits to her grandma who lived in a senior center, Maguire wanted to share the experience of interacting with the elderly alongside her peers. She feels proud to have been able to get her peers involved in such a moving experience they may not have had otherwise.

“I’ve always liked working with elderly people because I feel like they have so much wisdom, and to hear about what they have to say is so impactful,” Maguire said. “It might just seem like a couple of hours out of your day on Saturday but to them, it’s such a [meaningful] relationship that’s forming and I think that’s so cool.”

Danya Cottrell, English teacher and sponsor of Senior Smiles, was inspired by personal experiences with her grandfather, she explained. During her visits with him, she loves being able to talk with him and watching his excitement when hearing about her life. While she sees her grandfather as often as she can, Cottrell realizes there is a lot of time he spends alone, which is one reason she thinks this club will be so impactful.

“I think the purpose or the ultimate goal [of the club] is to bring a smile to senior citizens and to bring happiness and companionship,” Cottrell explained. “A lot of people in nursing homes are widowed or have lost their loved ones, so it’s just a way to spread happiness and make new friends.”