My daughter and her eight children decided to do a service project at their local nursing home. The kids weren’t sure what they could do there, but their mother told them that they could entertain the residents just by being themselves.
They gathered residents at the large windows overlooking the lawn. Then all the kids went outside where the residents could see them from the windows. It was a snowy day, so the kids built a snowman while the residents watched. Then they made snow angels. And of course, when you have a group of kids together on a snowy day, someone is going to throw that first snowball! So they had a snowball fight while the residents cheered them on!
The residents clapped and laughed so much that the administrator came down the hall to see what all the fun was about. She told the family that she had never seen residents laughing so much and enjoying themselves like they did on that snowy day watching those wonderful kids put on an outdoor show in the middle of winter.
She wrote them a thank-you note a week later and said, “You are welcome back anytime – especially when it snows.”
The nursing home is a mission field in which the whole family can participate. One of the greatest treasures in a nursing home is the presence of children. Residents usually love having them coming to visit. Most children, once they are acquainted with the environment and with a few residents, will love the opportunity to visit. They also learn to give, to interact with people of different ages, and to respect seniors.
Tips on Children and Youth in Nursing Home Ministry
- You may want to introduce nursing home outreach through special school or social projects.
- Youth and children can be great helpers for gathering residents, distributing songbooks and finding pages during the service. They also make great friends.
- Group gatherings allow young (and old) people to exercise their faith and develop their natural and spiritual gifts.
- Having the youth visit once or twice before they have their group activity can help them be more comfortable with the nursing home environment. This will make it easier for them to focus more on the resident needs.
- Allow time to ask the youth/children questions or for them to ask questions and share experiences after their first few visits.
- If you decide to have the youth/children share in special group presentations, encourage them to speak loudly, slowly and clearly so that residents can understand. The use of a sound system will greatly enhance the quality of sharing.
- Some youth or children may need a lot of encouragement along with basic instructions before and after the visits. If there is still resistance after three or four visits, it may be best to look for other areas of outreach. Again, allow children an opportunity to share any concerns. Some may have had grandparents who were nursing home residents and died in the nursing home. They may be experiencing the need to talk about this.
- Regardless of the quality of the group program, residents will greatly appreciate having young visitors!
One-to-one visits with younger people can involve storytelling, picture drawing, singing, photo sharing, reminiscing or comparing life as a child between now and 60 or 70 years ago.