USC is home to the newest chapter of Dialogue Society, a student-led organization focused on promoting meaningful dialogues about healthy, purposeful and mindful living and inspiring personal development. Joining forces with existing chapters at UCLA and UCI, the USC chapter focuses on student outreach to older adults, including those living in senior communities.
Since the chapter’s formation in 2021, the organization has held a variety of events relating to physical, mental, and social wellness. Fall 2021 was the first fully active semester, during which the organization held online events as well as Dialogue Society’s first in-person events since the beginning of the pandemic. Successful collaboration with the UCLA chapter resulted in two scam-prevention workshops for seniors at Belmont Senior Living in Westwood and EngAGE at Piedmont Senior Apartments in North Hollywood.
“As technology becomes increasingly present in our lives, it is important to be aware of potential cybersecurity risks, so we educated the seniors about safe technology practices and gave them a chance to ask questions and share any past experiences they had with scams,” said USC chapter fundraising chair Sanjana Paye, major in quantitative biology and minor in science, health and aging.
Dialogue Society at USC has also held Storytelling Sessions. These workshops ask students and seniors to write short stories and share their stories with each other. The workshops have included prompts such as, “What advice would you tell your 16-year-old self?,” “Recall memories with a childhood friend,” and “Tell a story regarding your favorite song.”
“Seniors and students alike enjoy connecting and learning in this way with each other,” said Dialogue Society member Rachael Geary, graduate student in visual anthropology.
Sharing stories with each other in an intimate setting allowed students and seniors to listen deeply to one another’s experiences, creating a space for stories of the past to live in the present. As seniors and students are relearning how to navigate in a world with COVID-19, being able to connect with seniors in this event, even virtually, creates a sense of calmness and community that many feel is needed now, said member Misa Belser.
Dialogue Society at USC started a new series of events in the 2022 Spring Semester, beginning with a workshop in collaboration with ORBIT, a student organization in the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Science in Gerontology student Jessica Kim, the chapter’s outreach director, connected Dialogue Society to ORBIT. The collaboration focused on older adult oral health and was hosted by Ivy Park at Culver City on March 19. In this event, participants were educated on how to maintain good oral health and hygiene. Ninety oral hygiene instruction (OHI) kits were gifted to all residents and caregivers at the center. The event was partly funded by the Graduate Student Government at USC, and OHI kits were sponsored by Oral-B and Crest.
Dialogue Society also collaborated with USC Advocates for Healthy Aging (AHA), a student volunteer organization aiming to enrich the lives of older adults in retirement communities, in organizing the Sticker Sale and Donation Drive at the Trojan Farmers Market.
“All PAWS/LA sticker revenue and donations were directly given back to PAWS/LA to help low-income seniors, veterans, and people disabled by illness keep and care for their pets,” said Secretary and Marketing Chair Keran Chen, major in Human Development and Aging. During a second collaboration with AHA, volunteers worked with the LA Food Bank to assemble food packages for low-income seniors of Los Angeles County.
The organization intends to hold new and varied events in the future. Upcoming events include an older adult nutrition workshop, another oral health workshop in collaboration with ORBIT, and events in partnership with USC’s National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dialogue Society at USC encourages members to take the lead on events and pursue directions that are of personal interest to them, while keeping in mind the needs and interests of their senior communities. Students of any major who are interested in volunteering can find more information at dialoguesociety.us.
— Release courtesy of Dialogue Society at USC