Friendship Center Intern Claire Arnold Graduates & Reflects
Community Connect Adult Program members are familiar with Claire Arnold’s graceful, kind presence on their Zoom screens. Claire, Friendship Center’s intern from Westmont College, graduated in May and recently completed her eight-month internship. She’s been an asset to Friendship Center and a credit to Westmont College, and we will all miss her. While she is pursuing new opportunities in Texas, we remain hopeful that someday she’ll be back as she considers a career working with aging adults. Interning at Friendship Center, she points out, has given her a great foundation to do just that. The following gives us a glimpse into Claire’s experience.
Why did you choose to intern with senior citizens?
I’ve always had a passion for care and intentionality in relationships. In the past, that manifested in childcare. But soon after my grandmother’s passing, who lived with Lewy Body Dementia for over a decade, my attention shifted toward our older population. I knew I needed to seek a position where I could serve and learn.
How did you choose Friendship Center for your Internship?
When I visited Friendship Center’s website, I was amazed by the joy and social connection I saw in the photos of our members during in-person activities. I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was a thing!’ Typically, our younger generation does not hear about great resources like day centers, but rather nursing homes that are not painted in a generous light. It was incredible to see a place that honors real people and their lives by celebrating what they’ve done, giving others an opportunity to hear their life stories, building meaningful relationships, and providing their caregivers a break—I had to get involved.
Though I still love working with kids, I now believe my skills are better aligned with aging adults and individuals living with a dementia diagnosis. We can talk about so many different things, whether it be 60s music or corny jokes or childhood memories or even what we had for lunch. We can appreciate our similarities and differences, which we might laugh about or deeply consider. We can share about funny life stories, because we’ve all got them, whether you’re 22 years old or 84.
You’ve done your whole internship via Zoom, which is quite different than working in person. Do any moments stand out?
Our Christmas party this past December was a real joy, even though it was on Zoom. The Zoom call filled up with so many people from Friendship Center. All of us sang “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and even though it was a really choppy rendition of the song (with multiple delays and jumbled words), we were all laughing and singing together. It’s one of my favorite memories with everyone.
There have also been quite profound moments over Zoom. Overall, what I noticed was that even though we’re meeting online, we still have a genuine social connection with each other. And these are not shallow relationships as some might think. By talking about something silly, or discussing something deep, we’re able to participate in social connection regardless of the barriers that COVID-19 has posed. Although there have been countless times when I’ve thought, ‘I really wish this was in person,’ I know Friendship Center has truly made the best of our situation. It has been a uniquely special and powerful experience. That said, I know we will all be very excited to be back in person when that time finally comes.
I’m going to miss everyone at Friendship Center! It has been wonderful to get to know each and every person. I’m so fortunate to have spent the last year here learning and growing with such an exceptional group of people.