URI Student Rooms with Nursing Home Resident

Mar 18, 2013

A University of Rhode Island pharmacy student has just completed an unusual experiment. Twenty-four year old Emily Anastasia spent a week living in a retirement center, South Bay Retirement Living in South Kingstown,  where her roommate was a 92 year old woman.

Anastasia says she suffered some withdrawal from not having access to the internet.  But she says all the activities kept her from being bored.  And she says she learned that nursing homes are not to be feared. "When you come in you expect that first night to be so scary when they close the door and turn off the lights and then you’re in it. You’re there. I mean there was a little bit of that like laying in bed in the dark with the clock ticking by and you just think to yourself ‘oh my Gosh what am I doing here?’ But you know you fall asleep like you would at home and you wake up in the morning surrounded by great people who are happy to have you."

Anastasia says the experience taught her that elderly people face challenges but are tougher than most people think and that she’ll be a better druggist because of the experience.

The experiment was inspired by a documentary she saw about a high school student who spent a summer living in a nursing home. "It’s been great. All the residents are amazing. They’re so friendly and they’re all so happy to have me here. You know everyone thought I was going to be bored or lonely but that really hasn’t been the case at all. Dottie taught me how to knit and I’m on my third hat now."

92 year old Dottie Cusack, who is surprisingly spry for her years, says she loved having the company. "I like her (Anastasia). I appreciate her because I feel like she’s a grandchild staying with me. And I just love having her. And we just hit it off so well. It’s great."

Anastasia says living in a retirement center will serve her well in her pharmacy career. "Really just understanding what they go through day to day, the challenges they have. But also how capable they are. There’s a lot they CAN do and people often underestimate what they can do."

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