Community / News / May 6, 2010

Reaching out to the aging community

Knox’s volunteer center offers dozens of opportunities for students to reach out to the larger Galesburg community relating to children, teenagers and citizens with special needs. Up until last fall, one major demographic was missing: senior citizens.

Somewhere between her Honors Project in biochemistry, participation in choir and additional classes, senior Sarah Kurian found time to fill this niche. Last summer, Kurian was attending a church conference and discussing the intricacies of health care when she decided to provide a forum for filling the gap between students and seniors.

“I was realizing how lonely senior citizens are in America,” Kurian said. “I thought I could change that, for at least some.”

Beginning in the fall, Kurian worked with Director of the Volunteer Center Kathleen Ridlon and reached out to the different senior centers. She formed a partnership with the Mary Allen West Towers where she takes students for different collaborative events, including “game night” and writing activities.

Game night, Kurian said, is the most popular event because it fosters a relaxed environment where students and seniors can relate to each other.

“A lot of Knox students have adopted the seniors as grandparents,” said Kurian.

The seniors have also made the trip to the Oak Room in order to have lunch with their favorite Knox students. Usually, a small group of between four and seven students visits with the ten to 20 seniors, but the students who do visit often change from one term to the next.

“[The seniors] look forward to the events. They ask about us,” said Kurian. “They’re really warm and friendly. They make it easy to be part of their community.”

During this past year, Kurian and another student formed a special bond with one of the regular senior event attendants. When this woman fell ill, the two students visited her in the hospital. The woman, Kurian said, was very touched by their visit.

“It is easy to make a difference in somebody else’s life,” said Kurian. “It’s in their eyes and their laugh. It’s what matters in life. It helps keep you going.”

Some of the senior citizens, Kurian said, do not have family in the area and welcome the social events she arranges.

“For most of the year, no one comes to visit them but in December their schedule is jam packed,” said Kurian. Before this year, she volunteered with different nursing homes as well as sang Christmas carols for the holidays. Now, she spreads good spirits year round.

“[We do this] to reach out to the senior citizens and connect them with the Knox community,” said Kurian.

Apparently, her efforts are succeeding. Since the group began meeting, Kurian has encouraged the seniors to attend Knox cultural events on campus. The seniors have begun paying closer attention to the Knox sports teams on their own.

Like all Knox students, Kurian has been busy with school and extra curricular activities, but she still finds time to spend with the seniors.

“It’s not really that you have to do that much,” said Kurian. “It’s not that you have to affect tens of thousands of people. You just have to affect one and that’s enough.”

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday at 4: Gardening event at Mary Allen West Towers

Friday, May 28: Cookout

For more information about the group, contact Sarah at

Laura Miller

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