From senior to señora: Margaret Torgerson’s journey in gerontology

June 06, 2016

By Ian Bryce

After earning a bachelor of arts in psychology and English Margaret Torgerson didn’t expect to pursue a post-baccalaureate in gerontology.

But a volunteer opportunity with Revera Arbutus—a long-term seniors’ care centre—took her on a journey with a few surprises along the way.

“I started volunteering in the restorative care program—assisting seniors with exercises—but I actually ended up learning Spanish,” says Torgerson.

“I was working with a 102-year-old woman from Venezuela and she decided to teach me Spanish during these sessions. She’s the best teacher and quite strict—at the end of a long workday I might be tired but she keeps teaching me words and phrases.”

The same woman also confided her plans on death and dying, which came as a surprise to Torgerson.

To better help her patients, she applied to SFU and won an Old Age Pensioners of BC Scholarship to study gerontology. She was soon learning tools and tactics to help her patients—and herself—cope with issues in aging, senior care and administration, and death and dying.

“When you go to work, you can see issues from the course unfold before you,” she says. 

Torgerson’s dedication has paid off. When she crosses the convocation dais to receive her diploma, she will also receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Award—given to those who maintain high academic standing while significantly contributing to their community.

Torgerson plans to continue her postgraduate education in gerontology and geriatric social work.

“There’s a struggle in senior care between autonomy and safety,” she says. “We need to think about what’s important to the patients as people as well as their medical needs.”