An Ambitious Student Gains Life Experience at Aspen Lake

Bharthi Krishnan is the picture of open-minded ambition. She left her family in India to study two majors at the University of Waterloo – Psychology and Health Sciences – and in November of 2023 as she shares her perspective as a co-op student at The Village of Aspen Lake in Windsor, she’s been away from home for two years.

Bharthi is surrounded by residents in a during an exercise program.On this, her second co-op placement, she’s supporting residents as part of the Program for Active Living, and soaking up all the knowledge she can from the team members and residents in the Village. This is her first experience in a long-term care setting, she says, but she was drawn to the idea of supporting older adults for a couple of reasons.

“The job description was very interesting, because I’m using my co-op placements to explore all of my options for the future,” Bharthi explains, but there was something more personal involved as well. “I love my grandparents and I miss them,” she says, “so this was a good connection.”

In Bharthi’s role, she follows the lead of Program for Active Living Coordinator Caitlyn Douglas and Ryanne Stieler, Director of the Program for Active Living. She supports residents in different exercise programs and helps with physical assessments, audits and falls prevention, all of which have practical application in her health sciences field of study.

Some of the less tangible things she’s learning come directly from the residents, and she’s grateful for every lesson.

“First thing first, is patience,” Bharthi says when asked what she’s learned that she can apply in her future endeavours. People may have hearing challenges, she says, or different other physical limitations, so it’s important that you meet each person where they are in each moment as you begin to work with them.

As well as learning from the residents, she also finds inspiration in their stories.

“They motivate us, coming regularly to do their exercises and showing that anything is possible,” Bharthi says, “and that's one of the main things that I have seen.”

Not only is Bharthi extremely far away from her family back in India, but the temporary move from Waterloo to Windsor was also a major transition. It was made easier, however, by the community she was welcomed into at Aspen Lake.

“Everybody loves me,” Bharthi says. “I know that. Whenever I tend to sit here, residents tend to talk to me about their life stories. We can talk to them and tell them that we are here for them, because a lot of times, people are missing family, and you are their family.”

It’s a common refrain among team members who work within Aspen Lake and other Schlegel Villages – the sense of family connections fostered within the community.

It’s a community that Bharthi says she’ll be sad to leave when her placement ends, but an opportunity she was glad came before her. She suggests students focused on health sciences or any discipline that requires human connection consider placement opportunities in a long-term care setting.

“I would tell them to apply for this and have an exposure in this field because this would actually increase their opportunities in life in general,” Bharthi says. “There are a wide range of age groups so you can actually learn from all of their experience.”