A Friendship that Bridges the Generations

When 23-year-old St. Mary’s University student Danielle (Dani) Dykema heard that United Active Living’s Fish Creek community was looking for a live-in student-in-residence, she put her name forward.

She had lived with her grandparents and volunteered with older adults in the past and thought that her experience would be a nice fit. She was pleasantly surprised when United invited her to spend the semester with them. She moved into one of the suites in August and will stay until May.

The student-in-residence program is unique in that it invites university students from United’s partners – Mount Royal University and St. Mary’s University – to live and learn alongside the older adults in United’s two communities. The first year of the program, United found that lasting connections are developed between the students and the residents. Dani is finding that is certainly the case with her experience at Fish Creek.

Dani counts June and Eric Selgensen as good friends
Dani counts June and Eric Selgensen as good friends

“I was a little nervous when I came here. I wasn’t sure that I’d fit in. I’m so much younger than the residents, but many have welcomed me as a member of the family,” said Dani. “One couple, Eric and June Selgensen, invited me to join their family for Thanksgiving dinner! That was so amazing that they would do that. When I came here, I thought I would be helping the residents, but they’ve been more helpful to me!”

Dani is earning a BA in English, and has applied for a second degree in the Bachelor of Education program. While taking classes five days a week she also volunteers with youth and hosts a program twice a month for residents, called Music with Dani.

“I’ve been playing piano since I was five and its a real pleasure to play for my friends,” said Dani.

“Living here 24-hours-a-day gives me an opportunity to be part of the community and get to know each of the residents and their families,” said Dani. “I often hear amazing stories from the children about how their parents are flourishing.”

Even in the short time Dani has been at Fish Creek, she has seen a marked change in residents when they first arrive.

Dani with new friends Vivian Thomas, Barb Cook and Nina Robinson
Dani with new friends Vivian Thomas, Barb Cook and Nina Robinson

“When people leave their homes, some are a little nervous about coming to a new community. But they do really well here making new friends, plus all of the activities and programs. The art programs are really interesting. Some residents who have never picked up a paint brush before have discovered they have a real talent.”

Dani agrees that older adults thinking of moving should make the decision early rather than waiting until they need to make a decision. “Some think that they will lose their independence but really, their choices increase, and there are so many programs and events to get involved in.

“These are lovely people. I really don’t want to leave in May. But one thing’s for certain. I’ll come back often to visit. After all, how can I leave my friends?”

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

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