Community service has been a fundamental value of the Grinnell College community since its founding. One of the opportunities available to students interested in serving their community is working with senior citizens in the town of Grinnell.

The city of Grinnell has long been a place for those seeking relief from their many years of work and earned the nickname “Saints’ Rest” from the number of clergymen who retired in the community. Because senior citizens exist in every facet of the community and are an integral part of it, the opportunities to work with them are quite diverse.

“Senior citizens are vital to our community,” said Susan Sanning, Community Service Coordinator.

Students can work alongside senior citizens, who are some of the most active volunteers in our community. Many students work with senior members of the community, for instance, by volunteering at Drake Library, local farms, the zoo or Community Meal (sponsored by the Social Justice Action Group).

Other students work directly with senior citizens by volunteering at Mayflower Community, St. Francis Manor, Windsor Manor or Grinnell Health Care Center, or by adopting a grandparent. Students’ volunteer work can also benefit senior citizens indirectly by helping to write grants or find resources for programs that help senior citizens.

Photo by Mekdes Kebede

Of course, because of seniors’ active volunteerism, almost any service work will incorporate opportunities to learn from and work with Grinnell’s senior population.

“You can find intergenerational work volunteering in any of your passions,” Sanning said.

Many students feel more integrated into the community though services such as adopting a grandparent. Sara Galenbeck ’13 adopted a grandma, Madelin Shell, at St. Francis Manor during her first year at Grinnell. They spend half an hour a week doing crafts, playing bingo, or chatting. Galenbeck enjoys her time spent with Madelin. “It’s nice to know that someone’s happy to see me,” Galenbeck said.

Such volunteering in the community is a mutually beneficial partnership. By working and spending time with senior citizens, students not only give back to their communities but the people they work with impart knowledge upon them as well. For example, students working with a knitting group in town are learning to knit while spending time with people outside of their age bracket. Through developing powerful relationships such as these, students are able to break down stereotypes of youth, age and culture as they gain experience working outside of their demographic.

“I challenge you not to think of what you’re giving, but to think about what we’re becoming together,” Sanning said.

Sanning believes that we should view serving the senior citizens in our community as service with rather than for senior citizens. “We need to figure how to use our differences to create a better world, with the wisdom of age and the energy of youth,” Sanning said.

Contact Susan Sanning [sannings] or visit http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/communityservice/volunteer  for more information on how to get involved in the Grinnell community.