To a nursing home resident who rarely receives visitors, a simple chat, a small gift, and a heartfelt smile can mean the world.
Andrea Cook and her sons, Dalton and Charlie, have seen firsthand how their mere presence can lift a senior’s spirits. Since 2015, they have participated in Adopt a Grandparent Day — an annual effort to recognize the value and honor the lives of the elderly in the local community.
Cook grew up helping at a local nursing home, so when she heard about Adopt a Grandparent Day, she was excited to get involved.
“I have always looked for volunteer opportunities we can take on as a family, and this one fits perfectly,” says the former Long Beach resident. “I think the residents really enjoy being around children, and my boys have learned
that although some people may have some issues that prevent them from communicating well or moving around easily, you can still find a way to show them love and kindness.”
Studies show that due to isolation and lack of social interaction, roughly 20 percent of nursing home residents have major depression and 30 percent have significant depressive symptoms. Kathy Rogers, co-owner and vice president
of Marston Rogers Group, recognized the epidemic of loneliness among the elderly when her mother spent 30 days in a nursing home after a fall. When her husband, Lee, came to visit, he took the time to talk and joke with residents who were sitting in the hallway. The couple noticed how much the interaction cheered them.
“When we were looking for a way for our business to give back to our community that aligned with our heart and values, we decided we wanted to do something for the residents of local nursing homes,” Rogers has said, “and Adopt a Grandparent Day was born.”
Cook and her boys have participated each year except in 2017 when they had the flu. The first time, they volunteered with members of their Sunday school class from First Baptist Church Long Beach at Chapman Oaks, now called Senior Oaks.
“We had lots of volunteers, so we’re able to give each resident an abundance of attention, which they loved!” she recalls.
Together, they decorated a “Happy Grandparents’ Day” banner for the residents. Volunteers helped each resident paint his or her hand and make a handprint on the banner, along with their name and anything else they chose to draw or paint.
“Interacting together over decorating the banner was a great way to get everyone involved and communicating,” Cook says. “It also gave the children who volunteered an opportunity to help the residents and opened communication between them.
“The main thing we learned was that the residents just wanted love and attention and to feel special.”
The program fostered a relationship between Cook’s family and one special senior, which continues today. Although her family has since relocated to Alabama, Cook says she will always cherish the experience of celebrating and caring for the community’s elderly, who often do not have any close family or friends to visit them.
“We know that they are deserving of love and can teach us so very much, so we want to do what we can to show them they are still important and worthy of love — and maybe learn a thing or two as well from someone with much more experience with life than we have,” she says. “My hope is that each senior adult feels loved, important, and special while we are there one day a year and that maybe that feeling can last until the next year.”