Every month we pick an outstanding member of our Seniors for Seniors team to be our Employee of the Month.
We chose James Watzke as our October Employee of the Month because of his gregarious personality and great care to our clients.
Here is what James had to share about being a Senior Companion at Seniors for Seniors:
1. How did you hear about Seniors for Seniors and why did you decide to join the company?
I learned of Seniors for Seniors through a close friend, who has a friend who is/was a companion. My friend knew I am a gerontologist and that I was looking for a way, in retirement, to reconnect with older adults. As I learned about the Seniors for Seniors companionship program, I was confident it would be an ideal part-time gig for me.
2. What is your favourite companion/caregiver experience or story?
I have many, many favourite companion/caregiver experiences, so picking one is very difficult. Here is a story from this Halloween (above photo). As I entered my client’s unit at the Veteran’s Centre, he was sitting 20 to 30 feet away in his wheelchair and he saw my Halloween-themed sweatshirt. As I approached he extended his arms and yelled, “hi dear, I’ll take a hug!" During that hug he gave me a kiss on my neck and whispered, “you’re a good guy."
3. How has Seniors for Seniors benefited your clients?
I've thought a lot about Seniors for Seniors and how and why the model works so well for the seniors. I would summarize those benefits in three primary ways:
1. The Senior Companions provide “baggage-free” companionship. Seniors and their loved ones have complicated histories. I have no such history. Thus I can develop the companionship from a clean slate, with a simple agenda - how can I make my client’s day just a little bit better?
2. Many older adults (regardless of their life, family and caregiver scenario) experience some loneliness. Senior companionship, in a modest way, can reduce such loneliness, which we know can have positive effects on health.
3. Senior companionship can be valuable for the senior’s family members/loved ones. In my own case, I make an effort to get to know the caregiver(s) and/or family members of each of my clients. I want them to know that while their loved one is in my presence, they do not have to worry. It is well documented how stressful the caregiver role can be. Caregivers/family members are also an invaluable resource regarding interests, work lives, etc. that make up my client’s life, this is all information I can use to be a better companion.
4. How has being a Senior Companion enriched your life?
For decades, as an academic gerontologist, I was around thousands of seniors. Those relationships were primarily as research participants or patients. Now, thanks to my Seniors for Seniors role, I can spend hours at a time with each older adult, and that allows us to have a real companionship. That nuance, without a doubt, has facilitated a life chapter for me with the most amount of HAPPINESS. Just ask my own family and friends - they will confirm that as a fact!
Want to know more about being a Senior Companion? You can visit our employment page here.