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To educate the next generation of senior living leaders, Waltonwood Cary Parkway (a premier senior living community in Cary) has implemented an internship program. As more baby boomers retire each day, it is important to identify and educate students to ensure enough younger people go into the field. This summer, two students are learning about community operations and the ins and outs of the senior living industry. Theresa Boozer-Turner, 38, a student studying health management at the University of Mount Olive, is passionate about working with seniors living with dementia. Eduardo Correa, 20, is studying psychology at Western Carolina University and works closely with the life enrichment department at Waltonwood Cary Parkway.

Boozer-Turner spends about three days at the community per week. Her grandmother’s dementia diagnosis inspired her to work in senior living. Boozer-Turner began taking night classes in order to learn more about the disease and its various stages. Her grandmother’s diagnosis had a huge impact on her family, and it encouraged Boozer-Turner to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). She worked at a senior living community where she gained experience in the field, but she wanted to do more to make a difference. As a result, she decided to go back to school to learn about senior living community operations. Her goal is to become the executive director of an assisted living and memory care community. During her internship, she works closely with Executive Director Richard Mabe attending staff meetings, helping with activities and interacting with residents on a daily basis.

“When I help those living with dementia, it warms my heart,” said Boozer-Turner. “Seeing a strong, independent woman going through those changes was hard, so I want to support other families facing this transition by enlightening them and showing them that there is still so much love to give. I want to help people understand the disease and give them the resources to assist their loved one in living the best life possible after a diagnosis. There are so many people affected by this disease, and I hope with better education more people can understand it. The hands-on experience I receive at Waltonwood Cary Parkway is life changing. I hope to one day lead a community similar to this one and make an impact on the lives of seniors.”

Fellow intern Correa spends five days a week at the community in the life enrichment department. The psychology major looked for a volunteer project when he returned home for the summer and decided to work with seniors. Correa enjoys making a difference in the world around him, and he spends time with adults who have disabilities at school. Working with the life enrichment department, he interacts daily with the residents by passing out flyers and calendars and volunteers during activities such as painting or baking.

“This internship has given me a new perspective on senior living,” said Correa. “There are so many inaccurate stereotypes of senior living, but I understand it better now. The residents are independent, enjoy daily activities, have outings and freely do what they want. This is a fantastic opportunity for me, and I am thrilled to spend my summer at the community. The residents are supportive and appreciate me. The internship made me more responsible and gives me a glimpse of what my future could look like. I’m thankful for this opportunity and look forward to spending the rest of my summer helping seniors here.”

“Theresa and Eduardo are wonderful, eager-to-learn interns who have bright futures ahead of them,” said Richard Mabe, executive director. “We want them to learn as much as they can about community operations and the industry overall. We are dedicated to educating the next generation because a lot of them don’t understand what senior living entails, and our industry already has a shortage of qualified team members. We are excited to have two interns this summer and can’t wait to grow our program and give other students the opportunity to learn about this field.”

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