A Passion so Pure it’s Contagious

Celebrating the Students who bring vibrancy to Village Life

Within minutes of beginning to interview Karen Poveda for a potential co-op placement at the Village of Glendale Crossing, Amy Harbin knew the kinesiology student was destined to work with seniors.   

Exercise class with coop student
Kinesiology co-op student Karen Poveda (left) has
impacted many residents in three villages with
her passion and enthusiasm.

“When asked why she was interested in the co-op position she told us that she had always had big dreams for those living in long-term care or retirement homes and had plans to open her own home where residents’ quality of life came first and their dreams could be met,” Amy recalls. “She saw our job posting and realized we already existed and she was beyond excited. Her passion is so pure and it’s extremely contagious.”

Amy, who is now the Program for Active Living Coordinator with the Schlegel Villages support office, was reflecting on her time with Karen during Co-Op week, presented March 20-24 by the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education. Karen and the enthusiasm she offered Glendale Crossing, followed by Erin Meadows and now University Gates, is an example of the co-op placement concept at its finest.

“She makes a huge impact at the villages she’s in and I'm sure there are multiple people at different locations that could speak to her impact,” Amy says. At University Gates, where Karen is part way through her final eight-month placement as a University of Waterloo kinesiology major, she’s a champion of the Move More initiative and a driving force behind much of the efforts residents there are making to improve their physical strength and mobility.

Karen admits that a career working alongside older adults isn’t typically considered by many of her fellow kinesiology students, but there is great satisfaction to be found in the work. She not only has the opportunity to apply some of the theories she’s learned in the classroom but she has also discovered the importance of relationships and the impact they can have on an individual’s success.

“I just love working with (residents) because they just have such a perspective on life,” Karen says, a perspective that is so unlike the young athletes and community members she worked with in her first placement at a sports facility. Karen now gets as much out of the relationships she’s developed with the residents as she hopes they do, if not more.

“They’re just such a delight; I think that society doesn’t really cherish just how amazing our elders are in terms of their life experience,” Karen adds. “In my opinion, the least you can do is just give back to them for all they have given throughout their lifetime. They just brighten my day.”

Unfortunately, there are many people who perpetuate the stereotypical view of aging and long-term care, so Karen is steadily correcting these misunderstandings and explaining how she sees life differently. She, and the many other co-op students and young volunteers who are so important in Village life, have an important role to play in reshaping attitudes towards aging and Karen is says she’s happy to take that challenge on.

As for the future, once she finishes university Karen says she’d be interested in exploring other countries to better understand how different cultures approach aging. There is much to learn in the changing landscape, she says.

Of course, there is also much a person like Karen has to offer.