Doctoral student brings mindfulness to residents in Fargo

Once a month during the school year, Yufang Tu volunteers to bring mindfulness to the residents at Good Samaritan Society in Fargo. A doctoral student in human development at North Dakota State University, Yufang is focused on healthy aging in older people, particularly aging of the mind.

“I'm really interested to see if we could prevent cognitive decline as people age. … When you practice mindfulness meditation regularly, many parts in your brain are activated,” Yufang says. “That's very helpful to improve emotion regulation and help stress relief, and also help improve memory.”

For each of her workshops, Yufang teaches residents about mindfulness, as well as self-massage and breathing exercises called Qigong.

Enriching residents’ lives

Irene Connelly is 90 years old, and she enjoys attending Yufang’s workshops.

“I can feel, you know, the different parts of the ear and how they affect you,” Irene says. “It feels good.”

There’s a regular cohort of residents who show up whenever Yufang is around. It’s not their typical routine, but some residents enjoy trying something new, while others may just enjoy the quiet.

“Some of them, they fell asleep, which I think that's good because they relax,” Yufang says. “Then afterwards, I will lead them on some like body movement exercises.”

Kimberly Baril is the activities supervisor at Good Samaritan Society – Fargo. She says she was intrigued by Yufang’s pitch for her volunteer workshop and has been even more impressed after watching how the residents respond to their instructor.

“Her smile is contagious,” Kimberly says. “She's got a laugh that you can hear from miles away. And anytime you're walking by one of those sessions, you're going hear them laughing together, you're going to see their smiles and it's just a joy being with her and the residents. It's just a lot of fun.”

During the summer, Yufang heads back to her native Taiwan to be with family. But when fall rolls back around, she’ll pick up right where she left off.

“I love it here and I love the residents here. I love Kim here. They are just fantastic people,” says Yufang.

“We love her,” Kimberly says. “And I just know how much these classes mean to the residents.”

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