Mason Students Bring Gift of Gab to Seniors on Day of Service

If you didn’t know better, you would think the gathering Friday at the Sunrise Senior Living facility was one of old friends. The visit by about 40 Mason students, mostly from the Center for Advancement of Well-Being’s Mindful Living LLC, was part of the annual Mason Nation 9/11 Day of Service. The day marks the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks by giving back to the community and is part of an even larger well-being initiative.

Mason Students Bring Gift of Gab to Seniors on Day of Service

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By Damian Cristodero

If you didn’t know better, you would think the gathering Friday at the Sunrise Senior Living facility was one of old friends.

Actually, it was a gathering of new friends, as about 40 George Mason University students—most from the Center for Advancement of Well-Being’s Mindful Living LLC—gabbed it up with residents who gathered to hear the students play music and, when it got right down to it, be companions, at least for a while.

“I’m having a ball,” Sunrise resident Katherine Haums said between laughs as she talked with four George Mason students sitting at her feet.

The visit by the students was part of the annual Mason Nation 9/11 Day of Service, which marks the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks by giving back to the community. That is part of an even larger well-being initiative by the university for its students, faculty and staff.

“I hope this broadens [the students’] perspective about what it looks like to be an engaged citizen across the lifespan, and we all have something to contribute,” said Brandice Valentino, director of programs at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being.

Mason’s contributions at Sunrise were both obvious and subtle.

Residents applauded enthusiastically for the music while sophomore Logan Murray sat quietly with resident Virlinda Snyder and played Scrabble.

Valentino simply held the hand of a wheelchair-bound gentleman.

“It’s definitely important to give back to the community,” said Murray, a creative writing major. “It’s one way you really do get this altruistic feeling of joy. Sometimes we forget how valuable doing little things like this is.”

“People didn’t really know what to expect,” said junior Jesse Muzzy, who is majoring in environmental and sustainability studies and is the resident advisor for the Mindful Living Living Learning Community. “You have people talking and conversing and learning so much about each other. I think it will have a lasting impact on the students.”

Taking it all in was Sunrise resident and Robinson Professor Harold Morowitz, 87, a biophysicist who was the first director of Mason’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, which seeks to expand understanding of the brain and intelligence.

“It’s people interacting with people,” said Morowitz, who leads a weekly memoir class at Sunrise to help residents stay engaged. “It’s good for people. The important thing you have to avoid is people isolating within themselves and thinking only about themselves. Activity that keeps people mentally awake is important.”

Given the decibel level from the conversations, no one was falling asleep.

Write to Damian Cristodero at dcristod@gmu.edu