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Student Profile: Caralyn Randa

September 29, 2020

Caralyn Randa’s wealth of knowledge and skills obtained through her academic and professional experience has made her an excellent and fitting MA candidate in Simon Fraser University’s Department of Gerontology. As a new MA student, her knowledge and skills align with the field of Gerontology, as well as her passion and demonstrated commitment to providing elder care through innovate and create ways so that older adults can live healthy and holistic lives regardless of their health status. 

We had the opportunity to ask Caralyn some questions about her past academic and work experience, as well as learn more about her passion and what she hopes to achieve through her graduate studies.  

Briefly tell us about your academic and professional history.

I am currently an art therapist in Vancouver and work full-time as Art Program Coordinator throughout Providence Health Care facilities. Due to single-site restrictions, I am stationed at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital’s Extended Care Unit for the duration of COVID-19. I graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Early Learning in October 2015.  After SFU, I completed training at Vancouver Art Therapy Institute in November 2017 and tailored my art therapy practice for older adults in long-term care. 

What makes you passionate about Gerontology and why is the field important to society?

Gerontology is an emergent field as healthcare services anticipate an influx of aging baby boomers requiring more, and increasingly complex medical and long-term care services. People are living longer, and degenerative memory diseases are getting diagnosed earlier with increased awareness and more advanced screening. It's up to us to innovate and create opportunities for older adults to live purposeful, connected and fulfilling lives regardless of their health status.

How does your academic and professional background influence your perspective with Gerontology?

With almost ten years of experience interacting with older adults in long-term care, I firmly believe in the importance of a holistic approach to eldercare. Respect, compassion and empathy can be fostered through genuine connections between staff and residents, and I am so lucky to see this through artmaking. As an allied health professional, I have the luxury of spending focused, intentional quality time with residents that is not on a monitored deadline like many care staff who are overloaded with task-oriented duties that leave little room for meaningful moments with residents.  A paradigm shift to holistic, person-centered eldercare is a necessary evolution. 

What are you most excited about in embarking on your MA in Gerontology?

I am a firm believer in life-long learning, and am the most excited to apply what I learn through creating heartfelt and engaging educational material. One of my long-term goals is to help instill some of my enthusiasm for older adults living with dementia to others through teaching. With an MA in Gerontology, it opens opportunities for me to develop my own learning modules or to potentially become an instructor for Coastal Health’s professional education courses.

During these unprecedented times with COVID-19, what gives you inspiration and hope?

I'm so lucky to be able to work full-time in long-term care during the pandemic, especially because we are co-creating art 8am-4pm five days a week. I have learned so many new skills and feel honored to spend so much time building strong bonds with residents that would otherwise be a challenge to maintain when only visiting that site once weekly. It is inspiring to see the strength and resilience of my coworkers, and we are all trying to take care of each other in addition to the residents. Remembering that we are all members of communities of care, be it a work team, new peers through SFU, a friend group, or family has helped me keep hope and renewed my optimism immensely!