On our Day of Service to kick off the school year, I led a team of students to Neville Place, an assisted living facility. I had mixed feelings about spending the day with people who could no longer live on their own.
The fourteen of us worked in small groups. In the morning, four of us worked with a
group of ten seniors. We had a basket of pictures of historical events. We asked
the group to tell us memories that the pictures evoked. Our team made collages of the pictures and
wrote the memories around each picture.
One woman who was blind didn’t say anything, although she was paying attention. Another couldn’t speak, but wrote her thoughts in a notebook she carries with her. The gentlemen were a bit less talkative. Three women spoke quite eloquently of their memories of World War II, Martin Luther King, and Frank Sinatra. Others talked of flappers and freedom for women, of Rosa Parks and Jackie Kennedy, of the boy scouts and the Boston Red Sox. It was fun.
In the afternoon, three of us went to the Alzheimer’s, unit where we helped the residents make necklaces or work on other art projects. The hardest moment for me came when a woman had to be reminded by a staff member that she has grandchildren. “I do?” she said. And then she continued drawing.
The happiest moment for me came when Sadie who wouldn’t interact at all suddenly burst into song when we played “You Are My Sunshine” on the electronic keyboard. Her singing was so happy. I’ll never forget the look on her face.
I had worried that I would find this experience depressing. Instead, I found it uplifting. Their life may look sad from the outside, but the residents of Neville Place are not sad. From where they sit, life is pretty good.