Aging Studies Program Graduates

Shelby Smith’s college and career journey has taken her far from her childhood home in Petaluma, California, but her dream of working in the activities department of an elder care facility has been with her all along that journey. A May 2013 graduate of the Ithaca College aging studies program, Shelby recently landed her “dream job” as an activities aide at Hudson Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 200-bed skilled nursing facility located in the heart of Albany’s Capital District.

This background informed her fieldwork while at IC in the aging studies program.

“I was always interested in the activities side” of working in an elder care facility, Shelby said, reflecting on her high school volunteer experience at an assisted living facility, where she primarily assisted the activities department. Her Ithaca College aging studies classes and fieldwork only served to reinforce that interest.

Shelby is now one of six staff members in the activities department at Hudson Park, who often work together in a “team effort” to help transport the facilities’ residents to activities and then help them participate in the events.

“It’s all about the residents,” Shelby said, when asked why she decided on this particular field as her career choice. “It’s so rewarding to be able to brighten their day. Activities are often the only thing they have [to look forward to]” she added, and when they participate, “I love to watch their faces light up.”

Her long-term goal is to become an activities director. She expects to follow in the same career path as her current supervisor, who she called “a great mentor”.

“She worked as an aide for one to two years, and then she took classes to become certified [for her current position],” Shelby said.

Shelby credits her IC experience with giving her the knowledge and the tools to be effective in her new career.

“One of the things that helped me most was learning about the different disease processes, such as in Alzheimer’s and dementia,” she said. Courses such as The Biology of Aging and Memory Loss and Aging helped her to understand the biological changes that affect behavior.

“What I learned at IC has given me more patience and understanding, as well as the skill to employ certain tactics, such as redirecting residents to help them focus” on the activity at hand, Shelby added.

She also feels that her fieldwork and service experiences in aging studies helped her to “experiment with a lot of different [aging services],” and she encourages current students to explore local opportunities at the county Office for the Aging and in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. 

“Make the most of your time [at IC],” she said, “and connect with the faculty and staff in the department, make the most of their connections” with area aging service providers. And thanks to Shelby having followed her own advice, she is well on her way in her new career in aging services.

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