By: Michelle Remold
Something I always notice when visiting a nursing home is the number of young people visiting. While I know nursing home aren’t exactly the first place young people think of spending time, I know from experience that they can be one of the most rewarding places to spend time.
Connecting generations is important. It is how stories are passed down and memories are shared. Without such connections, many memories and stories are forgotten. Schools have “foster grandparent” programs where older adults go into the schools and read with kids or help them with homework. I think something like this would be great in nursing homes. I remember thinking in high school how fun it would be to have a “foster grandparent,” I would visit weekly in the nursing home. Growing up, I remember how excited the residents on my grandpa’s Alzheimer’s unit would be when we came up to visit. I don’t think I ever saw any other kids there visiting. I always found it a little sad and would try to stop and talk with as many residents as I could. There are school groups that need to find ways to volunteer and need to log their hours. How great would it be if one day a month they visited nursing homes and those with Alzheimer’s and dementia? They could meet in a common area, play BINGO, cards, or just talk. I have many memories from visiting nursing homes.
Another thing I think more nursing homes should take part in is a pen pal program. While interning at the Faribault Area Senior Center, I was able to visit a facility on the day the seniors met their first grade pen pals. Seeing the excitement on everyone’s faces was great. They exchanged their last letter, gifts, and some even exchanged addresses so they could continue writing to each other. When I went to college, I made it a point to write to my great-grandma. She lived in an assisted living at the time and couldn’t see very well. She would have an aid read her the letters and they would write me back for her. I later found out, after she passed away, that she would look forward to the letters and that they made her feel included; my great-uncle kept thanking me for writing to her. For me, writing letters is easy. I just write about what is going on, though part of it is just knowing that someone was thinking about you. If young people don’t feel comfortable going to nursing homes, I think that this is a great alternative to connecting generations.
It may be a short visit or a quick note, but these things are important when it comes to connecting generations. When I look back, I cherish the notes I received from my grandparents, the stories shared by them and those I have visited, and seeing the smiles on their faces when I would stop to talk with them. My brother and I went back to visit the gentleman who was my grandma’s neighbor while she was in rehab, he loved it. My brother would bring him treats, helped him set up his Wii and would play board games with him and the other residents. These little things meant a lot to them and my brother still talks about his visits at the nursing home with this gentleman. As I end this blog and think about why it is important to connect generations, I will end with a quote. “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but a matter of moments.” –Author Unknown
Michelle graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology: Social Sciences and a minor in Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Aging Studies and Nursing Home Administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.