Let’s Go! Off to the nursing home!

There are many elderly residents in old-age homes who would love a friendly visit. Your children will learn to stretch their comfort zones and come home feeling good about their new friendships.

Before you set out to visit your new senior friends, set up your trip to be a success:

1.Call the nursing home ahead of your visit to check if they have specific visiting hours and/or policies.

2. If your children have never visited an old-age home, you’ll want to speak with them beforehand about what they might see. Stress to them that most elderly people love children and will be happy to see them, but there may be some who are not well or who don’t know what’s going on. Discuss what that might look like.

3. When you get there, ask a nurse which residents might appreciate visitors, or try to scout them out yourself. A disgruntled or non-alert resident can be frightening for a young child.

4. Once you’ve found residents to visit, make the introductions, something like, “Hi, this is my daughter Esther, she’d like to say hello.”

Sometimes it helps to come prepared with a gift or an interactive activity. Here are some ideas:

1. Give something: Homemade cards or pictures are always welcome. You can also make tissue paper flowers and scent them with perfume. (Elderly people can access long-forgotten memories through their senses.)

2. Show something: A young child can show off a toy or doll, while an older child may want to share a talent.

3. Sing or play music: If your children are too shy to sing, bring a CD player. The children can jump, clap or hold hands, even dance with the residents.

4. Do an interactive activity: A ring-toss, music shakers, a balloon to hit back and forth… anything easy and interactive works well.

5. Chat together: This may not come naturally to your children, but you can prepare questions with them beforehand. (“Where did you grow up?” and “What kind of work did you do?” are two good ones.) Older children can ask for a formal interview. When they get home, they can write it up to present to the interviewee the next time they visit.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 625)