Monday, January 21, 2013

Fresh Ears and Fresh Stories

                Two years ago, we were able to visit my father-in-law on the Fourth of July.  The Assisted Living Home where he stays had a picnic in their parking lot.  It was a great time and I remember realizing that most of the men there had served in the military during World War II.  I felt honored to celebrate the Fourth amongst such great company. 

I think too many times, we forget what interesting lives our elderly relatives have lived.  Maybe it’s because we’ve heard the same story over and over again.  Maybe we need fresh ears.  But, if it’s fresh stories you yearn for, there are volumes in the nursing homes. 

Often times, the residents of nursing homes feel isolated and alone.  Most nursing homes have activities such as Bingo or Birthday parties to try and curb those feelings.  These activities are a great volunteer opportunity for those who enjoy working with the elderly.  Meal times give residents an opportunity to socialize, but many of them need to be transported to the dining room by volunteers. 

Taking some time to let a resident “bend your ear” for a while, is a wonderful volunteer opportunity which enriches the lives of the resident as well as the volunteer.  The resident can tell a story that their family has stopped listening to and the volunteer will gain lasting memories.  It’s a win-win situation.  I’ll never forget the story a resident at a nursing home told me about taking the train to Chicago.  At the time, she was a teacher taking her class on a field trip.  One of her students lost their tooth on the train.  The description the teacher gave me of her “back end up in the air” looking under the seats for her student’s tooth was priceless.  We both laughed until our sides hurt.

In the month of January, please think about those who are sitting in the nursing home alone, waiting for someone to talk to.  If you have a story about your experience volunteering at a nursing home that you would like to share please email me at

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