WALLINGFORD — Trivia night, lunch dates and board games were just a few of the invitations Quinnipiac University students received from residents Wednesday as they moved in to Masonicare’s Ashlar Village.
The two students, part of the Student-in-Residence program, will live with Masonicare residents for a year. First year graduate students Michelle Zubko and Julia Kowal both study occupational therapy.
“I’m excited,” Zubko said. “This is my passion. I love the connection”
Zubko, who worked in the dining service of an assisted-living home, found she wasn’t able to connect with the residents because of the time constraints of her job. The opportunity to live in a community will allow her time to form friendships.
“This experience is all about it being just unique and genuine,” Zubko said. “Just kind of making that natural connection and joining this awesome family and community.”
Kowal joined the Old Friends and New Club at the university and attended several events at Masonicare. After visits during her junior and senior years, Kowal said she fell in love with the facility and the residents.
“I’m super excited to work in the memory care community,” she said. “Both of my grandparents had dementia and I just think it would be incredible to work with that population and bring them some happiness.”
Masonicare resident Eileen Grehl has taken to her new neighbors.
“They’re really lovely. They came yesterday and I adopted them right away,” Grehl said.
Marissa Dominello, Masonicare recreation manager and program coordinator, said the program only allows two students to participate each year.
“It’s never really been about numbers but rather the personalities that are shining through and realizing who is going to be a true fit in our community and create genuine relationships,” Dominello said.
Dominello feels the program allows students to see that the older generation is “full of wisdom and vitality and life.” Residents discover that the younger generation are responsible, dedicated and passionate.
“I’m so honored. I feel like it’s such a privilege to be here,” Kowal said. “I’m excited to see how I can help the residents and maybe make their day a little brighter.”