Local elderly care facilities are finding great success pairing up the young and old.
Studies suggest that elderly residents living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities often feel isolated and excluded from the rest of society. As such, helping nursing-home residents develop connections with their surrounding community can have remarkable benefits. Individuals with impaired memory or cognitive limitations can still enjoy a visit in the moment, even if they don’t remember it the next day.
While a single visit to a nursing home can be a rewarding experience for both the visitor and the resident, an ongoing visitation program develops trust and understanding among all parties. This is essential for a meaningful connection.
Poydras Home and Louise S. McGehee School
Last August, Poydras Home’s nursing care facility on Magazine Street in New Orleans embarked on a program with seventh-grade students from the Louise S. McGehee School. The students made monthly visits to Poydras Home throughout the academic year. Initially, 44 students toured the facility and were trained on how to successfully communicate with residents, as well as how to work with people with hearing loss and cognitive impairments. According to Brammell, the students also had the chance to use the accessories of aging, like wheelchairs, for themselves in order to gain a better understanding of the physical challenges seniors face.
“We approached the McGehee school about developing a relationship with our residents, because we thought that since some of our residents are separated from their family by distance and location, it is important for them to interact with younger people,” says Jennifer Brammell, Poydras Home marketing coordinator. “This has proven to be beneficial for both the girls and the residents. The girls have been respectful and patient, and the residents have so much fun with them and are so happy to see them. Bonding has definitely bloomed.”
Smaller groups of students have since conducted subsequent visits to the facility, enacting a curriculum that includes a math-theme day and global game day, which they planned and carried out themselves. The McGehee students also introduced the residents to new technology like touch-screen tablet usage.
“The girls learn how to interact with people and become more open to those who are different than themselves,” says Erin Toomey, marketing director for the Louise S. McGehee school, regarding the school’s partnership with Poydras Home. Photo courtesy of Poydras Home
“When the girls are introducing technology to the residents, the apps are appropriate for our community’s abilities and have been preselected for our residents to explore with the help of the students,” Brammell adds. “Curriculum planned for the future will include art projects, gardening and outdoor, nature-based programs.
According to Erin Toomey, McGehee’s marketing director, service is an integral part of a girl’s education at the school. Students, beginning when they enter as pre-kindergartners, learn the importance of giving back and helping those in the community.
“For 16 years, girls in the seventh grade have participated in an intergenerational service program that partners them with residents at nearby retirement communities,” she says. “Our recent partnership with Poydras Home has students visiting their buddies monthly, armed with original games and activities that will mentally stimulate and share what the girls are learning in their classes. The benefits of this partnership to our students are immeasurable, as the project emphasizes many of the skills we know our girls need to be successful adults contributing to society in a meaningful way.”
“The girls learn how to interact with people and become more open to those who are different than themselves. Also, they learn how to adapt to their buddies’ (residents’) needs and required accommodations, as their buddies are often six times their own age,” Toomey adds. “In working with the Poydras Home residents, as well as alongside their peers, the students have learned to be empathetic, resilient, and collaborative team players.”
Lambeth House and Ben Franklin High School
Lambeth House, located on Broadway Street in New Orleans, is developing a program with Ben Franklin High School to create and execute an oral history project.
“In this program, audio interviews are conducted by students in an attempt to capture and record highlights of the resident’s life and their family history. It’s an audio biography that the resident can then share with their family and friends,” says Jere’ Hales, chief operating officer for Lambeth House. “We are extremely excited to provide this opportunity for our residents to tell their own story while bridging the generational gap at the same time. So far, about 20 percent of our assisted-living residents have volunteered for this project and are ecstatic about the opportunity.
“We also work with other high schools to satisfy service hour requirements,” Hales adds. “These intergenerational efforts are paying off enormously for both our residents and the students. Not only do the residents find it fun, but is allows an opportunity for each to share talent and wisdom.”
Lambeth House is also committed to offering educational opportunities to its residents. As such, the facility has recently partnered with Apple to provide tutorials and in-service activities to residents with Apple products. Four instructors will provide assistance to residents who want to learn more about how to use their iPhones, iPads and other technology.
Trace Senior Community and Local Covington Schools
At the Trace Senior Community in Covington, residents participate in many activities with various community groups. During Carnival, the band, dance team and cheerleaders from Franklinton High School march to the facility and perform in the parking lot for the residents.
“The residents absolutely love any activities that involve kids,” says Richard Totorico, executive director of Trace Senior Community. “These activities bridge the age gap and bring the community to them so they can be active participants. To further bridge the generational gap, we also have the students from The Little Red School House, the 8-to-10 -year-olds, come out to our facility to trick-or-treat with the residents.”
Community partnerships and artistic outlets are enhancing the lives of those in elderly care facilities throughout Southeast Louisiana.
Trace has also built a meaningful relationship with first responders on the Northshore, who often come over to have milk and cookies with the residents and talk about safety. The emergency personnel have also come to the facility to watch movies.
“We have a strong relationship with the local firefighters and law enforcement and are so grateful for their service,” Totorico says. “After a particularly bad storm, the firefighters came by to see if we needed help and cleared tree branches off the property for us.”
Additionally, the Trace hosts four large events — an annual crawfish boil, fall festival, Mardi Gras ball and luau — throughout the year for residents and the community to enjoy.
Peristyle Residences and Community Programs
With six locations throughout the New Orleans area, Peristyle Residences offers several community programs in partnership with the Archdiocese of New Orleans, LSU School of Nursing and the Akula Foundation.
“It is so important to for our residents to interact with the various facets of the community around them,” says Jason Hemel, principal at Peristyle Residences. “Since we have so many Catholic residents who can’t get out to Mass and opt to watch on TV, we decided that it was important to have a deacon come on-site and bring communion weekly. Also, the residents look forward to the weekly visits from the nursing students, whom they have formed strong, personal relationships with.”
The Akula Foundation sends a counselor to assist residents with memory issues through Reminiscence Therapy. The counselor talks about a different topic each month to engage residents in remembering different parts of their lives. For example, the residents could be asked if they remember Canal Street, and they might start discussing shopping and restaurants they have visited in the past.
“To further immerse our residents in activities outside of their daily routine, we have a musician come to the facilities twice a month to perform,” Hemel says. “He plays the guitar, sings his own songs and takes requests. On the weeks he doesn’t visit, we have a musical therapist on-site that works one-on-one with residents. She even goes to the rooms of the residents that aren’t mobile.
Peristyle Residences has a local artist visit weekly to help residents with different projects. Photo courtesy of Peristyle Residences
“We also have a graduate from Loyola who was an art major come weekly to work on different projects with the residents,” he adds. “They have planted herbs, read stories and painted. Most properties cater to people with memory deficiencies by offering a wide array of activities from groups and people from outside the home. It makes the activities more interesting to the residents. We really count on those outside people to come to us.”
With the rapidly aging population today, intergenerational activities can benefit people of all ages. These types of programs may especially help younger people see that the elderly are still viable and a valuable part of the community.
“There is a misconception that the elderly in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities do nothing but just sit around,” Brammell said. “There is a lot of hope in this age group and a lot of things for them to learn and participate in, and partnering with community groups helps to dispel the negative ideas and brings the two ages closer together.”