How A Kid’s Summer Job In San Diego Brought Joy To Alzheimer’s Patients
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Photo by Katie Schoolov
Kids heading back to school this week are probably telling their friends about what they did over their summer break. Many probably took vacations or camping trips. But one San Diego boy will have a unique story to tell — his summer volunteering with seniors.
Every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, 9-year-old Tate Phillips, who lives in La Jolla, spent time singing, dancing and making music with seniors at Jewish Family Service’s Balboa Avenue Older Adult Center.
“Someone plays music, and people dance, and we have entertainers," said Phillips. "It’s really fun, and I just feel like I’m making a difference. I think it helps them interact with people, and get active.”
The center's special program offers exercise, games, live entertainment and a hot kosher lunch to area seniors Monday through Thursday for four hours. About 80 percent of the participants have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The program costs $27 and is open to all seniors, regardless of age, religion, or health conditions.
74-year-old Anita Berger has Alzheimer's, and has been coming to the center since January 2016.
“He makes everybody feel loved and wanted. He gets up and dances with everybody, and calls everybody by name,” she said. "It just makes me feel young again. I love the music, I love the comradery, and kids like Tate. For us old folks, is just such a refreshing thing. He has is just a real loving little boy. He loves everybody, and everybody loves him.
Phillips' mother, Lara Diamond Phillips, says these are the only friends her son wanted to see all summer.
“In fact, I don’t think the child has had one play date. His friends have been here at the senior center,” she said.
Phillips’ grandfather, Ronnie Diamond, founded the Older Adult Center 17 years ago. He brought his grandson for a visit one day, and the boy was hooked.
His mom said she had planned tennis and reading camps for the summer until her son set her straight.
“And I could see, it was like fire in his eyes. Like, ‘You don’t understand. This is what I want to do. This is all I want to do,’” she said. "I think he brought so much sunshine here, but I think it’s been a gift for our family as well, to watch how much joy it’s brought him, as a parent, it’s been mind-blowing for me."
Saying goodbye to Tate Phillips at the end of summer was bittersweet for Aviva Saad, who is the program coordinator at the center.
“I have hopes that this world is going to be a super better place because of you. Because of you. And we love you.”
But Phillips said he will be coming back — on days that his school lets out early.
“I like to do it because it makes me feel happy inside. It makes me feel like I’m doing something good,” he said.
Kids heading back to school this week are probably telling their friends about what they did over their summer break. Many probably took vacations or camping trips. But one San Diego boy will have a unique story to tell — his summer volunteering with Alzheimer's and dementia patients.
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