Agnes and Tom

For the residents of nursing homes, the days are long and usually uneventful. Sitting in a wheelchair in the hallway watching food trays, staff and occasional visitors stream by is about as exciting as it gets on a typical day.

The “Friends Across the Ages” program, in conjunction with the activities director at a local care facility, has helped to alleviate some of the boredom for the patients. They have brought hymn nights, games, crafts and birthday celebrations to the residents.

In addition to group activities, volunteers are paired with residents who are deemed to be in need of companionship. Weekly visits are made to chat, sing, pray, read or in the case of some Alzheimer’s patients, just sit and hold hands. As friendships blossom, visits become more frequent with gifts and special days remembered.

A mentoring program has been established to aid new volunteers eager to have an elderly friend, but apprehensive about their ability to relate to a sometimes less than communicative patient. Mentors are those who have found success in participating in the “Friends Across the Ages” program. They accompany the new volunteer until a bond has been established and conversation flows freely. Continued support and guidance is given through phone calls and personal contact.

Volunteers often find that their new found friends give much in return. In my case, my friend has led me to explore the Holy Bible. On my fourth visit, she asked, “Did you bring a Bible?” Not being accustomed to carrying a Bible with me, I responded, “No I didn’t. Would you like me to bring one when I visit you next time?” Our visits have turned into a time to share Bible stories and read scripture. You see, my friend is legally blind and can no longer read for herself. Her knowledge of the Bible far exceeds mine. Her enthusiasm has led me to spend time each evening searching for parables and reading we might share.

An added bonus to making regular visits to any care facility is that you soon find yourself calling other residents by name and giving and enthusiastic, “Hi there! How are you today?” as you make your way through the hallways. Simple gestures like helping wheelchair bound patients return to their room or wheeling them outside to enjoy a breath of fresh air is rewarded with a shy “Thank you” or warm smile.

If you feel that a visit to a nursing home is not of great importance, remember the words of Mother Teresa: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”