Fun For All Ages

Now that I feel like I have caught my breath after National Assisted Living Week, I want to share something that I have known about for quite some time.  As a matter of a fact, I benefitted from it as a child myself.  See…as a little girl, my Mom would take me with her to work.  My Mom has always been a pro at styling hair and in my younger years, this was her profession.  As a beautician, she would do hair for her regular customers, but she also did hair at the local nursing home and assisted living.  Now in my single digit years, my trade was singing and tap dancing.  This proved to be quite the asset to my mom with her scissors, perm rods and hairspray.  She would always plan for me and some of my other performing arts sisters to put on a show for the older folks.  I loved every opportunity to perform (and to talk) so I was game.  Little did I know then, but these residents were as happy to see me as I was to see them.  I remember the performances of course.  But I also remember eating gingerbread cookies, looking at pictures and having a captive audience to whatever I wanted to talk about.  I also remember the stories.  At almost 42 years of age, I still remember Hazel.  Mrs. Hazel was my friend.  She always wanted me to sing and tap dance for her.  Mrs. Hazel didn’t have grandchildren of her own and it was her delight to have our little visits.  But it was something I enjoyed very much as well.  I think it was this type of friendship in my formative years that led me to where I am today.  I may not be tap dancing anymore…well, come to think of it…maybe I do.  I am an Assisted Living Administrator, so technically I sing and tap dance for seniors on a regular basis.  Just to whatever tune they are requesting I suppose. 😉 But it is a joy.  A joy that started a very long time ago for me.  I witnessed the most beautiful visits this past week from a class of preschoolers with our residents at the Gardens.  It was wide open, head back laughing FUN!  Literally fun for all ages.  The new rage is intergenerational involvement.  But the concept is not new at all.  Studies have shown that these type of interactions prove beneficial for both sets of people…young and old.  Below are the benefits for seniors and children according to legacyproject.org.

Senior Benefits:

  • Active, involved older adults with close intergenerational connections consistently report much less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction. They tend to be happier with their present life and more hopeful for the future.
  • Young and old can fulfill the role of student and teacher for each other, and it’s not always the older person who does the teaching. Children like to feel needed, and they can teach elders lots of things – like how to find some pretty cool stuff on the Internet! Children can also help older people, particularly those facing health challenges or other losses, see the world anew again, through a child’s eyes.

Benefits for Children

  • In general, children develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills (including an ability to withstand peer pressure), and can even have better grades in school.
  • Through sharing in an older adult’s interests, skills, and hobbies, children are introduced to new activities and ideas. Through their life experience, older adults can often bring with them a tremendous amount of patience. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes children pick up from elders tend to stick with them through life more than those picked up from other sources.

 

As a product of this type of intergenerational impact, I can tell you that you are missing out if don’t find your own Mrs. Hazel.  I also now see this type of influence through the eyes of my residents and for them as well, it is a beautiful thing.  Thank you to those precious children that shared bubbles and ice cream with your new friends at the Gardens last week.  We look forward to seeing you again real soon!

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*Photograph from my personal archives circa the early 80s.  I’m the brunette in the front.  No, I’m not a natural blonde. 😉

 

 

 

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Family is Forever

The past two weeks we have been collecting pictures of our residents to do a game of “Guess Who” as a part of our National Assisted Living Week celebrations.  It has been such a joy for families and residents to share their pictures from “way back when”.  It has caused me to pause and reflect on life.  When our residents think of themselves, they may picture that younger self that served in the Army or was a homemaker or helped on the farm.  Their children may envision the Mom or Dad that helped shape their childhood and their memories of growing up.  To the staff at the communities that these folks live in now, we may see them differently.  But it is always wise to stop, look back and remember.  As we all age we may see ourselves in many different lights.  We grow and become many things to many people.  So have our residents.  As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week and the beauty that comes from this environment, I want us all to remember that each of us has a history and we impact so many different people.  The theme of National Assisted Living Week is Family is Forever.  I know for me over the last 8 times that I have celebrated this week that it has seen many different faces and many different memories.  I have helped crown many different Kings and Queens of the Gardens.  But I think that what I realize today that each year…my family has grown.  Sometimes it can be hard to let people into your life with the understanding that they may not be able to stay for long.  But as Garth Brooks once sang, “I could have missed the pain, but then I could have missed the dance.”  Thank you assisted living for what you have meant to me and my family.  I know my family has grown forever and my heart is much more full as a result.

 

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A True Merry Maker

For most centenarians, long life is a precious gift and not a burden. At 103 years old, Sue Clark remembers most everything from her life – names of old friends, growing up IMG_0676on a farm in Giles County, Tennessee, details of her husband’s transfer to Redstone Arsenal, receiving a teaching degree from Martin College, enjoying a good golf game, and memories of watching her students grow. The Limestone Manor resident and retired kindergarten teacher has remained happy and healthy by staying busy (and motivating others to join the fun). She recently celebrated her birthday on March 3 with neighbors, friends, family and the mayor!

IMG_0675 copyListening to Sue Clark share fun memories was fascinating. After moving to Athens, Mrs. Clark started a home kindergarten in 1963 that helped mold and shape many a student.  She created the foundation for students to use their imaginations and grow their intellect. With a twinkle in her eye, she talked about her 20 year career in teaching and the various activities she did to make learning fun.  Her stories included everything from building a playhouse in the backyard to train-rides, to “Hobo Hikes” and eating a sack lunch in an open field. It was obvious that she loved children and motivating them was her biggest reward. You could tell that Mrs. Clark was having fun too!

Another thing that she enjoyed was music and being involved in church. Mrs. Clark was part of a singing group, The Merry Makers.  After closing her kindergarten, she told a friend…”I have all of these band instruments left over from teaching, what can we do with them?”  They organized a group that performed around town. The Merry Makers and their entertainment is what originally brought her to Limestone Manor Assisted Living, where Mrs. Clark now resides.

IMG_0680Sue Clark first visited the senior community singing and spreading cheer to everyone.  As a resident, she now enjoys the varied activities and especially the music that Limestone Manor has to offer.  But truth be told she still loves to tell stories.  These she now shares with the other residents, staff, family, friends and many visitors at the Manor.  Her walls beautifully display a lifetime of memories.  But the true beauty of the trip down memory lane…comes straight from the source.

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Letters to Santa

Have you written your letter to Santa Claus?  What about the children in your life?  For my first blog post of December I was asked to share a special letter written by one of my sweet residents.  In it, she captures the essence of Christmas and offers a glimpse back into days gone by.  So grab a cup of hot cocoa and settle into an easy chair and enjoy this precious letter to Saint Nick!  This may just become another one of my holiday traditions.

Dear Santa,

Who are you? Why do you always show up at Christmas celebrations?  We don’t see much of you any other time.

As a child, I saw you as the maker of every kind of wonderful toy in the world.  Creations from baby dolls and teddy bears, to roller skates, scooters, bicycles and balls of every shape and size.

You kept a complete list on every child reminding you of our every deed, both good and bad.  Nothing could make me angry faster than those “smart aleck” kids who claimed you did not exist.

At our house we started a “wish list” early… teaching us not to expect instant gratification, which in some instances allowed us to change our minds!  When the winter nights were getting longer we found ourselves glancing out the window if we saw any movement or strange light.  We knew it was Santa watching us, making sure we were doing as we should.

We got many gifts, but there were always a few things we didn’t find in our stocking or under the tree. This made us wonder if it was because of something we had done wrong, or if you simply ran out before you got to our house.

It took years and a family of my own for me to realize who you really are and why you were created.

The cookies and milk which have kept you “rotund” all these years taught us to show appreciation to those who gave to us.  As children we set them out just before bedtime as our thank you for what we were expecting to receive.  Parents were able to help us develop our imaginations and enjoy “make believe”. They could show surprise and help us enjoy some of the new toys and games.

Most of us, through the little birthday parties we would attend, soon realized that we bring gifts so that other kids will bring gifts to our party, if we bring one to theirs.  That’s the way the big world works.

Jesus’s birthday is so much different.  Jesus’s birth taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive!

In man’s way of trying to figure out how to accomplish this idea of giving, someone came up with a jolly, round fellow dressed in a red suit trimmed in white fur.  He has been given several names including St. Nicholas, Father Christmas and finally Santa Claus. This is the name we have given the “Christmas Spirit”.  It’s much more exciting than just calling it a gift from an unknown source.

WE all get the joy when we finally recognize who Santa is and God gets all the glory!  I like to think that the idea of Santa always giving gifts without the expectation of a gift in return…is in a small way the essence of Jesus.  Isn’t that why we celebrate Christmas…to give God the glory!  This is my point of view as a great-grandmother looking up from my rocking chair.

Thank you for sharing your love and our joy!

Marguerite Klages

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