September 12 was proclaimed as Senior Service Day: Honoring our Elderly Population in Camden and Columbia, all because of a Camden entrepreneur’s love for senior citizens and her extensive research on how companionship can make a difference in the lives of older adults.
“I thought they [city council] would turn me down,” Kesha Hayes, who organized the event, said. “I believe that seniors are respected, but not celebrated enough. I wanted to spark a greater interest in how important they are to our community.”
The entrepreneur is grateful that they provided her with the proclamation, and when she thinks of it, she thinks of when President Barack Obama proclaimed May 2016 as Older Americans Month. It was when he asked all Americans to celebrate the contributions of older Americans, on not only that day, but throughout the year.
“I think it should be every day. The impact of spending time with a senior will promote positive resident outcomes,” Hayes said. “I get chills when I quote something else President Obama says, ‘One of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens.’” Hayes believes that senior citizens are a diverse group of people with wisdom and should engage with others to pass their uniqueness on.
She explained why she had a desire for Senior Service Day.
“I wanted to provide a service to support and close the gap in the aging population by achieving a goal directly linked to improve the quality of their life,” Hayes said.
Her research provides impactful information:
It is predicted that 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 daily for the next 15-16 years. That is the age that classifies someone as an “older adult.”
While all older adults age differently, in order to keep their minds healthy, social interaction is a necessity. Lack of socialization can lead to sedentary lifestyles, depression, loneliness and isolation.
“When an older adult has lost hope of living, then physical complications arise,” Hayes said.
Hayes is not alone on her journey to help senior citizens. There are about 200 seniors that will participate in Senior Service Day, and about 150 volunteers from both Camden and Columbia who will participate in showing companionship.
Essex Homes (known for building neighborhoods in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw Counties) is a sponsor of Senior Service Day and one of the event’s Co-Chair. Jessica Chase, the senior sales advisor at Essex Homes felt as though the company needed to be integral in Senior Service Day. They have committed to close to 50 plus volunteers for Senior Service Day.
“The company tries to focus on every age group. We’re getting more involved in Kershaw County, because we’re not active enough with seniors or retirees,” Chase said.
Chase actually knows what it is like to be a caregiver. She took care of her father when he got older, her son and his family came to live with her, and she took care of her mother and brother.
“My 94-year-old mother needed a care giver for her dementia. My mother went to Springdale and I saw firsthand what nursing homes and rehabilitation centers do for seniors,” Chase said.
Chase explained how Springdale kept her mother happy, and constantly taught about different topics: proper mobility for seniors and how to keep seniors engaged.
Luke Stemple works for Cantey Foundation Specialists in Camden. He talked about why the Cantey Foundation (they repair foundations of buildings and vented dirt crawl spaces) is a sponsor of Senior Service Day.
“We want to give back to the community by creating life changing experiences to the community, and we look for opportunities that are different and unique,” Stemple said.
He wants seniors to see people that care, listen and learn.
Lauren Campbell, volunteer from the Cantey Foundation is geared up for the day.
“I used to work in nursing homes as an activity assistant,” Campbell said. “I went to play games with seniors and read books with them.”
Campbell says when she volunteers Sept. 12; she will show pictures of her kids to the seniors because she knows stories about youth will excite them.
“As a volunteer, it’s important we are able to bring excitement and joy to our elders,” Campbell said.
Hayes said this is not about her or her nurse’s aide school. This is about service to mankind, her passion to continue to be an advocate for seniors and making sure that “a difference can be made in their lives as seniors have impacted our lives.”
“I don’t have living grandparents, just both of my parents, and I miss the wisdom my grandparents gave me, and that is not easily replaced,” Hayes said. “Because I had loved ones not receiving proper care, or felt hopeless due to being alone in a home, that sparked this.”
Hayes is hoping that this will cause individuals to visit their older loved ones more at home and in healthcare communities, so in return the affect will cause so much engagement that can change the mindset that, although getting older is inevitable, aging is optional.
Hayes said, “If we can constantly show companionship, we change the way older adults think and they become more interested in living than dying.”