By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Toward the end of the school year, the residents at The Highlands Gracious Retirement Living had begun to familiarize themselves with a new and energetic presence. They had someone to help with technology, oversee activities and even encourage physical activity with a lot of laughter.
Anjali Arigela, who will begin her junior year at Westborough High School (WHS) this fall, has become a sought-after volunteer at The Highlands, where she visits twice weekly for several hours each day. She works closely with Mary Darling, the activities director of the facility, and is enjoying her time spent there immensely.
“I love learning new things and I thought this volunteer opportunity would lend itself to me being exposed to many different types of people,” Anjali said. “There are so many different personalities here and I have learned to be a better listener. I also tend to be very bubbly and now I know that, at times, I need to tone down my enthusiasm.”
While this experience is helping Anjali build character, she is doing so much for the residents who come in contact with her. She really loves technology and has helped many seniors learn how to use their Smartphones. There is also a computer room with two desktops and Anjali is quite versed in how to make them more user-friendly. She calls for Bingo on Fridays as well.
According to Anjali, one activity that has become quite popular on Fitness Friday is a yoga class. The room seems to be quite full with residents eager to participate.
“It started with Laughter Yoga,” she explained. “While the residents seem to take their fitness very seriously, this is one activity where the constant movement is accompanied with laughter, spreading throughout the room. The laughter gives off endorphins and when you laugh for around 20 minutes you also get a workout in your abs and more.”
Anjali also helped organize a Spring Fling, which was a dance similar to a prom. Many people attended this exciting event. There was a party-like atmosphere with sing-a-long entertainment, trivia and other activities.
Anjali comes to The Highlands Wednesdays and Fridays after school. She was away in India with her family for part of the summer but has resumed her volunteering since her return. She loves school and also helps raise money for schools in underprivileged countries with “Pencils of Promise.”
She has formed relationships with residents who look forward to her weekly visits.
“On my 16th birthday, I was given a surprise party by Mary and many of the residents. They baked a cake and the room was decorated with balloons. I was truly overjoyed that everyone cared so much!” Anjali said.
After an application process, she was selected to be a member of “Peer Mediation” at WHS, a club led by teacher Judy Pepetti.
Anjali sings for a church choir and is planning on incorporating her love of singing to have a “sing-a-long” at The Highlands. Darling said she is pleased with Anjali’s enthusiasm and has already approved this twice-monthly activity to be incorporated into the programming.
“Anjali is an extraordinary volunteer,” Darling noted. “She doesn’t ever say ‘no’ to anything. She really goes above and beyond and the residents just love her because she is so helpful and she is such a friendly face. Out of the many volunteers here, I see such great qualities in her. We really missed her while she was away and we are so happy to have her back.”
Anjali resides in Westborough with her parents and brother. She was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and moved to India at the age of 3. She and her family have lived in Westborough since 2004.