With Children’s Day and the Parents' Day drawing near, May is the month to rejoice in the meaning of family and look back upon the relationships that we have been neglecting at ordinary times. However, these days are not always anticipated by every one with delight, particularly not by the elderly who are living alone, apart from the family.
Not only this number increasing, what is worse, according to a study conducted by Jo Yong-su of the LG Economic Research Institute, 46.2 percent of families aged over 65 live below the poverty line, as defined by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Two student clubs, Oh!Suji and Angels’ Choir, are working to address some of these problems.
Members of Oh!Suji, a club in the Department of Nursing Science, make regular calls on the elderly at the Ewha Community Welfare Center and at Bongduk Church, bringing needles for acupuncture. Like their name Suji, which means fingers in Chinese characters, they perform acupuncture on the palm by finding the part which matches a part of the body that is in pain.
Students practice regularly by participating in training sessions held every Monday. Like workers at any clinic, the students keep records of all treatments and other information about their patients on detailed charts.
Oh!Suji members say the treatments have no side effects, and they are gratified the most when they actually see senior citizens who have restored their health. But they feel sorry for those who return home without receiving any treatments due to lack of time.
“Since it takes an average of two hours to treat one senior, we get to talk a lot. They especially like to talk about their sons and daughters who are their pride and joy,” says Kim Se-eun (Nursing Science, 2), the president of Oh!Suji. The members also recollect memories of their own grandparents as they spend time with the seniors.
“Fulfilling our duty” is how Kim defines her reason for volunteering for the elderly. “Unlike volunteering in high school, volunteering as a university student does not act as a plus factor in either grading or on a college application. We are simply carrying out our duty to the elderly, who deserve respect and protection from society,” said Kim.
On the other hand, students of Angels’ Choir soothe the lonely hearts of the elderly with their voices. As a volunteer chorus club founded in 2005, currently 50 students from universities in the metropolitan area fulfill their duties as angels. Their weekly meetings are held every Saturday, and they spend the first week of each month visiting eight seniors in their 70s to their 90s, connected to them by the
Members of Angel’s Choir organize different themes for their monthly visits. In February the members delivered rice-cake soup to greet the New Year’s Day and Samgyetang on the canicular day. Last month, some of the members planned a spring house cleaning.
As their visits continue, members say their relationships with the elderly become intimate like those of a grandparent and a grandchild. They are astonished by the cordial hospitality offered by the elderly, every time they visit. “They clean up the house before we come, even disinfecting all the tableware, presuming it may be dirty or smell unpleasantly to us,” says Suh Soo-jung (Economics, 2), a member of Angels’ Choir. Some members even skip meals on purpose so they can eat more heartily and show appreciation for the meals that the elderly have prepared with all sorts of delicacies.
However, it is not always cream and sugar to the members when they experience poor living conditions firsthand. Once, members visiting an elderly friend were shocked to find maggots appearing continuously from nowhere. “We were astounded when we found out they were coming from the hole in the ceiling where carcasses of rats had been brought by stray cats,” says Choi Koh-eun (Mathematics, 4) the president of Angels’ Choir.
Some projects by students and faculty from other universities which share the goals of these two clubs include a project at
Choi says, “People may hold the biased view that the elderly living alone are not very clean or neglect them since they are old, but it would be our minds that would be unclean if we didn’t help them. They are just like our own grandparents, but are in need of support.”