This morning I went up to the nursing home for a visit with my grandma. I got there in the middle of a program called “news and views,” where a recreation aide took the local daily newspaper and went through it with the residents. This is a nice idea, since some of the old folks have poor vision and can’t read the small print in the papers, and some of the them lack the mental capacity for reading at all, but still enjoy the interaction.
Maybe she did the real news before I got there, or maybe the aides intentionally focus on the lighter stuff. There was not one mention of war or politics. The aide read the Dear Abby column, and asked around the circle to see if anyone had any advice of their own to give. She read the horoscopes, asking each person when their birthday is, so she could read them their personal prophesy. Some residents clearly follow astrology and gave their sign instead of their birth date, while others were too confused to remember their own birthdays. I was pleased that Grammy answered August 29th with no hesitation; memory is not her greatest strength these days.
When I arrive in the middle of a program, I usually just sit down next to Grammy and hold her hand, or scratch her back. She is on a floor where the vast majority of residents are wheelchair bound, and trying to squeeze her out through the maze of chairs seems likely to disrupt the program for everyone. As a result, I’ve seen a number of different recreational activities administered by a number of different aides.
There is a wide range in the quality of these programs, as in all things. Although the “news” was entirely fluffy in nature, this activity seemed to me of higher caliber than some of the others I’ve seen. The level of interaction and participation is what delineates the good programs from the bad. I’ve sat through some of them where the aide just read out lists of words in a monotone, and I wasn’t the only one bored. So I guess what I liked about today’s activity was the way it was done: the recreational aide made such an effort. She didn’t know everyone’s names (this is a large facility) but she spoke in a loud clear voice, smiled a lot, and got everyone to play along.