By Misa Belser, Sanjana Paye, and Rachael Geary
Dialogue Society’s senior outreach program aims to enrich the lives of the student population as well as the 65+ community. The organization holds a variety of events relating to physical, mental, and social wellness. With the addition of the new USC chapter to the UCLA and UCI chapters, Dialogue Society moves forward by the motto of “Dialogue. Discover. Develop.” Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the new chapter has made incredible progress. Dialogue Society at USC co-founder and president Saba Doustmohammadi reports that the new USC chapter is now officially recognized by the USC Office for Health Promotion Strategy as a Well-Being Champion. Joining the university-wide USC Well-Being Collective as a recognized student organization, Dialogue Society at USC upholds the common agenda of strengthening a culture driven by student wellbeing.
The USC Chapter was officially registered in February 2021 with the help of several Master of Public Health (MPH) students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in the department of Population and Public Health Sciences. Dr. Roksana Karim, an Associate Professor of Clinical Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, is the faculty advisor of Dialogue Society at USC. Official recruitment began during the 2021-2022 school year. Currently, the executive board at USC consists of co-founder and president Saba Doustmohammadi, vice president Misa Belser, fundraising chair Sanjana Paye, outreach director Jessica Kim, social chair Erica Chen, associate coordinator Lexi Jiao, and secretary and marketing chair Keran Chen. Doustmohammadi is an MPH student with a concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Keck School of Medicine in the department of Population and Public Health Sciences. Jiao, Paye, E. Chen, and K. Chen are all students in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Jiao is studying for her Master in Aging Services Management, E. Chen is studying for her Master of Science in Gerontology, and K. Chen is studying for her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Aging. Paye is an undergraduate student with a minor in Science, Health, and Aging.
To this date, the chapter has held eight general meetings and nine events, including several collaborations. Fall 2021 was the first fully active semester during which the organization held online events, as well as Dialogue Society’s first in-person events since the beginning of the pandemic. Successful collaboration with the UCLA chapter resulted in two scam prevention workshops for seniors at Belmont Senior Living in Westwood and EngAGE in Piedmont. Fundraising chair Sanjana Paye, who attended one of the events said, “As technology becomes increasingly present in our lives, it is important to be aware of potential cybersecurity risks, so we educated the seniors about safe technology practices and gave them a chance to ask questions and share any past experiences they had with scams.”
Additionally, Dialogue Society at USC held two fascinating astronomy workshops in which Dina Doustmohammadi presented a wide range of astronomy topics including the solar system and black holes. “Both scam prevention and astronomy workshops were well-received by the seniors who were engaged and found the topics to be both relevant and interesting,” Paye added.
Dialogue Society at USC has also held Storytelling Sessions. These workshops ask for students and seniors to write short stories and share their stories with each other. The workshops have included prompts such as, “What advice would you tell your 16-year-old self?,” “Recall memories with a childhood friend,” and, “Tell a story regarding your favorite song.” “Seniors and students alike enjoy connecting and learning in this way with each other,” member Rachael Geary said. The first event was held on November 19, 2021 and the second event was held on March 5, 2022. Sharing stories with each other in an intimate setting allowed students and seniors to listen deeply to one another’s experiences, creating a space for stories of the past to live in the present. As seniors and students are relearning how to navigate in a world with COVID-19, being able to connect with seniors in this event, even virtually, creates a sense of calmness and community that many feel is needed now. Seniors were willing and eager to share their stories with attendees. Vice president Misa Belser said, “The event was very popular. Our participants wish to have more Storytelling Sessions in the future, and we plan to repeat this event soon.”
Dialogue Society at USC started a new series of events in the 2022 Spring Semester beginning with a workshop in collaboration with ORBIT, a student organization in the USC Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry. Outreach director and dental student Jessica Kim connected Dialogue Society to ORBIT. The collaboration focused on older adult oral health and was hosted by Ivy Park at Culver City on March 19. In this event, participants were educated on how to maintain good oral health and hygiene. Ninety Oral Hygiene Instruction (OHI) kits were gifted to all senior residents and caregivers at the center. The event was partly funded by the Graduate Student Government at USC and OHI kits were sponsored by Oral-B and Crest. Dialogue Society at USC also plans to host an event focused on older adult nutrition in which a dietician shares their insight.
On April 13, Dialogue Society also collaborated with USC Advocates for Healthy Aging (AHA), a student volunteer organization aiming to enrich the lives of older adults at a retirement community, in organizing the Sticker Sale and Donation Drive at the Trojan Farmers Market. Secretary and marketing chair Keran Chen said, “All PAWS/LA sticker revenue and donations were directly given back to PAWS/LA to help low-income seniors, veterans, and people disabled by illness keep and care for their pets.” A second collaboration with AHA was held on April 29, in which volunteers worked with the LA Food Bank to assemble food packages for low-income seniors of LA County.
The organization intends to hold new and varied events in the future. Dialogue Society at USC encourages members to take the lead on events and pursue directions that are of personal interest to them while keeping in mind the needs and interests of their senior communities. To learn more about Dialogue Society at USC activities, please visit the website dialoguesociety.us or follow the Instagram handle @dialogue_soc. Dialogue Society at USC looks forward to connecting with you.