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‘I want to make a difference in their lives’

Applied Human Sciences student Valérie Villeneuve learns support for seniors is a two-way street
June 6, 2016
By Elisabeth Faure

Valerie 2_cropped_header

A Concordia student says she’s landed her dream job, working with older adults in their homes through the Aid for Seniors program in Pointe-Claire.

Valérie Villeneuve, an undergrad in the Department of Applied Human Sciences (AHSC), was feeling unfulfilled at her pharmacy job two years ago. That’s when a classmate told her about Aid for Seniors, who just happened to be hiring.

“I applied right away,” says Villeneuve. “I immediately knew that this was the kind of job I wanted — helping people and making a difference in my community.”

Applied Human Sciences student Valérie Villeneuve Applied Human Sciences student Valérie Villeneuve says her courses at Concordia have made her more self-aware and a better listener.

‘A breath of fresh air’

Villeneuve gets to help seniors with a variety of daily chores. Her work tasks include light house cleaning, gardening, shoveling in the winter, putting out the recycling bin and washing windows. Additionally, Villeneuve organizes activities for the seniors at a day centre and numerous social events throughout the year.

She praises the program’s ability to create connections between young workers and their older clients. “The intergenerational component of this program is what makes the experience so rich,” she says.

Denise Vandenbemden is one of the clients Valérie works with. “The Aid for Seniors program is ideal for aging people who want to live independently as long as possible,” she says. “Valerie is a breath of fresh air, bubbly, spontaneous, always in a good mood, and a hard worker. I am very grateful to her.”

At this point, Villeneuve says it doesn’t even feel like a job anymore. “My clients are literally an extension of my own family and I treat them as such. As I clean, we talk about life, success, failures, worries, and we share stories. I constantly learn something new from them, and they learn from me too!”

Villeneuve is quick to credit her experience in AHSC’s Human Relations program for her success in the job. “My studies in Applied Human Sciences have helped me become a better listener and definitely raised my level of self-awareness,” she says.

“After having taken key classes such as interpersonal communication, lifespan and development, diversity, working in task groups, leadership in small groups, older adulthood, human systems intervention and community development, I feel even more confident in the work that I do.”

Strong bonds and relationship advice

Villeneuve says her studies have also enhanced her ability to empathize with her clients, who deal with a variety of age-related issues, from lack of digital know-how to decreased mobility.

Cleaning is a challenge for Vandenbemden, whose  joints and vertebrae are affected by arthritis. “But five month ago Valérie came to my rescue,” she says. "I couldn’t be happier.”

Villeneuve says the toolkit she developed as a student in human relations has definitely come in handy. “It’s in great part why I feel that I have succeeded in forming such deep bonds with my clients.”

Those bonds extend beyond the professional. Villeneuve recalls one particular time she experienced a bad breakup and one of her clients noticed she seemed sad.

“She started to tell me about a similar experience she had had in her youth and how she understood what I was going through,” says Villeneuve. “I felt a lot better after having opened up to her because she gave me excellent advice. Looking back, this moment made me realize that even if there is a huge gap between our ages, the emotions we feel are timeless.”

‘Nothing to lose, and so much to gain’

The Aid for Seniors program has proved such a success that the town of Pointe-Claire recently won an award for social development from the Union des Municipalités de Québec.

“We were given the chance to present the program to a jury as well as mayors and counsellors from other cities in the province,” says Villeneuve. “I found myself being able to speak about community development and the realities of aging, thanks to classes I have taken this past year at Concordia. It took my comprehension to a whole new level.”

Villeneuve says the experience supporting older adults has changed her life. “I discovered that I loved working with seniors thanks to this exceptional program. I am genuinely interested in the well-being of the people I work with, and want to make a difference in their lives. Furthermore, I want to make a career out of it.”

Entering her last year of study, Villeneuve says she’s enjoying “every second” of her time at Concordia. Her message to anyone interested in Applied Human Sciences, or working with seniors?

“Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain!”


Learn more about Concordia’s Human Relations Program in Applied Human Sciences.

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