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Milo and More: Volunteering, Social Bonds, and Pet Therapy at The Hickman Senior Living Community blog thumbnail

Milo and More: Volunteering, Social Bonds, and Pet Therapy at The Hickman Senior Living Community

August 16, 2023

Many of us look forward to retirement, a life milestone that signals relaxation, freedom to travel, and more time spent with loved ones. Yet, this career conclusion also entails finding a new sense of purpose. While there are many ways to find meaning, volunteering is one of the best ways for older adults.

Volunteerism presents a wealth of benefits to well-being regardless of age. Still, for seniors, it paves the way for aging in a meaningful and satisfying course connecting with others. Volunteering satisfies the human need for social contact while at the same time lowering the risk of depression, anxiety, and a host of other ailments. One study found a correlation between longevity in seniors aged 70 and over and the time spent with friends or participating in social activities. In essence, volunteering gives context to our lives through connections to others.

At The Hickman, a personal care home in West Chester, opportunities abound for both engaging in service and being the recipient of service, strengthening bonds with one another.

Helping Hands Initiative

The Helping Hands group, comprised of resident volunteers, takes pride in enhancing their community by watering the potted plants on porches, making crafts for an annual holiday bazaar, and arranging fresh flowers for our dining tables. Wherever there is a need, Helping Hands is there to pitch in.

Montessori Inspired Lifestyle®

Residents in memory care have a sense of ownership of their community—and their care—because of The Hickman’s recent implementation of the Montessori Inspired Lifestyle program. Some residents welcome newcomers to their community; others are involved in activity planning or using their talents to serve their peers. One resident, Donna, sets up a weekly shop called “Donna’s Nails,” where she offers manicures while socializing with friends.

Pet Therapy

Pet visits are a longstanding tradition at The Hickman, with countless pets bringing joy to residents’ faces over the years. One of these cherished companions is a dog named Milo, and to meet him is to love him. Milo quickly became a fan favorite! Milo’s humans, Jen and Grant Jones, noticed his remarkably gentle demeanor when interacting with their older relatives and his calming, therapeutic effect. Jen said, “We noticed how great he was with our grandparents, and we thought, “We could really do something with this!” Inspired by his interactions, they trained and certified Milo as a therapy dog.

Milo knows his schedule: as soon as his trademark bowtie comes out, he’s waiting by the door to visit his senior friends at The Hickman. Milo has a keen awareness of those who need a little extra love on any given day, stopping a bit longer to offer comfort to those who need it and performing tricks to the delight of all who watch. Jen describes their greatest joy in bringing Milo to The Hickman as seeing how he affects the residents, sparking memories and brightening their day. “We love him at home, and we love seeing how others love him, too! We didn’t expect to personally get as much out of bringing Milo to The Hickman, but it’s been really great for us, too. We’ve formed bonds, and it’s been a really awesome experience meeting new people and hearing their stories.”

In the golden years of retirement, finding purpose and connection becomes paramount. The Hickman exemplifies how community engagement, be it through resident-led initiatives or the heartwarming visits of a therapy dog like Milo, can profoundly impact the lives of seniors. Volunteering and service provide a sense of purpose and foster deep connections, enriching the lives of both the giver and the recipient. As we reflect on the importance of staying engaged and connected, let’s remember that every act of service, no matter how small, contributes to a richer, more fulfilling life journey. At The Hickman, the spirit of community and service thrives, reminding us of the boundless possibilities of giving back.