Blaize Shiebler is a third-year student at Ohio State University. She started volunteering with Conversations to Remember in December 2020, and continues to participate in weekly calls as a senior volunteer today.
Blaize got her start with Conversations to Remember because she was looking for an opportunity to volunteer that was also COVID-friendly. “I actually got referred from a friend in one of my student organizations here at Ohio State,” Blaize said.
Over the past year, Blaize has taken part in 5 weekly calls with different seniors. She said another volunteer, Sydney, has been in all of them with her. Despite the physical distance between them, the result of volunteering on the same Conversations to Remember calls fostered a close friendship between the two.
Thus far, her favorite memory from volunteering with Conversations to Remember was on a call with Sydney and a senior citizen who “was like a grandma to us.” Blaize said this senior loved to chat, gossip and get to know what was going on in her and Sydney’s lives. She even gave them fashion advice. “One of my favorite calls was right before me and Sydney had like, a formal kind of date that we both happened to have at the same time,” Blaize said, “we had a bunch of options for dresses and stuff, so the whole call, we were just talking about what dress we should wear and what we should do with our hair and makeup.”
Blaize formed a close relationship with this resident, saying that their interactions felt akin to how family interacts. But it wasn’t always so straightforward. As Blaize said, “the first call was a little uncomfortable.” Adapting to the video call model can take some time, as volunteers need to learn to share experiences without always getting an enthusiastic response. However, learning to share details about yourself can lead to relationships forming more quickly, such as what happened with Sydney and Blaize, and their resident.
Blaize says the biggest impact she has noticed Conversations to Remember having on senior citizens is that volunteers are “a very stable presence in their life.” Despite distance barriers, student volunteers are able to make a positive difference in seniors’ lives. Blaize said, “I think just being a consistent presence in someone’s life kind of has untold impacts.”
Blaize encourages other students to consider volunteering as well, even if they’re unsure about their ability to hold conversations with seniors. She said, “even if you’re a little unsure about yourself or you’re not the most outspoken person, it’s a skill, so you can learn it, and it’s completely worth it.”
“I’ve been here a year,” Blaize said, “and there’s not a single day that I regret signing up.”