Camp connects youth and elderly

Youth Visit Monterey, Tn nursing home residents

by Amy Davis (Cookeville Herald-Citizen)

MONTEREY — Google doesn’t have all the answers — especially when it comes to churning butter.

Just ask the residents of Standing Stone Care and Rehabilitation Center in Monterey. They know better about such practical matters from days gone by, and they’re sharing their wisdom with the children who visit them each day as part of a special interactive summer camp aimed at building relationships between the younger and older generations.

“During our first year of camp, we tried to make butter,” said Dawn Huckeby, Standing Stone’s quality of life director. “Our chaplain Googled it and found that if you had fresh milk from a cow that was room temperature, you could churn it, and it would turn into butter.”

Not so, said the resident ladies.

“They kept telling the children the milk had to be sour — that it wasn’t going to make butter because it wasn’t curdled,” she said. “And I told one of the ladies, ‘Yes, it will. The chaplain Googled it.’ But she said, ‘He can Google that milk till it goes back up in the cow, but it’s not going to turn into butter unless it’s curdled.'”

Turns out, she was right.

And the life lessons continue this summer as the second year of Camp Signature is underway, offering a variety of educational and intergenerational activities and games to connect local youths with the elderly residents at the Standing Stone facility.

Camp director Andrew Goodrich said, “We have activities throughout the week. They do crafts, paint, sing, talk… and the residents just love having the kids around because they’re always smiling and laughing.”

The camp, which runs eight weeks, was designed so that nursing home employees could bring their children and grandchildren to work with them during the summer months, benefitting not only them but also the children and elderly residents who learn from each other.

Standing Stone Care and Rehab is one of 13 Signature HealthCARE facilities now offering the camp. The first was held in 2008 at Pickett Care and Rehabilitation Center in Byrdstown.

Huckeby said, “Once it started it just really blossomed. This is the second year we have had the camp, and I’m telling you it has made such a difference in the lives of our residents and in the liveliness of our facility. It’s like daylight and dark.

“And it’s wonderful to watch the children interact with the elders. I remember when I was younger being afraid to go into a nursing home because people are in wheelchairs and may look different to you. But these kids, they don’t see that anymore. They run in, give hugs, sit on laps, tell stories, and can’t wait to get there the next day. It’s just really amazing.”

On a typical day, the children arrive at 6 a.m., have breakfast, watch a movie, go outside for some team sports, and then go back inside for some interaction with the elders. After lunch, they meet up again for more activities.

Maybe they’ll play a game of volleyball, in which residents in their wheelchairs gather on either side of the net and tap colorful balloons with help from the children who eagerly demonstrate the proper technique. Or, they may play kickball, with the children bringing balls to the elders and encouraging them to kick. Other favorites are bowling and Bingo.

“We get to play lots of games with the residents,” said camper Haley Ray, 8. “One day, we all licked a lemon!

And we took funny pictures of what we did.”

Camper Dalton Roberts, 10, enjoys talking with the elders and learning new things about them.

“One of the residents is Dale Crockett, and I learned that he’s related to Davy Crockett,” he said. And he learned that life was different back in the old days.

“Some of them had to bathe in a creek because they had no running water in their house,” Dalton said. “Some of them had no TV, and some of them did, but they had no color TV. And most of the people here had a garden when they were kids.”

Dalton said he feels welcomed by the residents and gives “probably about 10 or 20” hugs per day. “They’ve told us that we’re ‘the sweetest things,'” he said.

Camp director Andrew Goodrich said he enjoys seeing the interaction between the younger and older generations.

“The children have learned a lot of respect for the elderly,” he said. “They’ve learned a lot of patience, too, because with some of the elderly, it’s hard to understand what they are saying, and they tell a lot of stories.

“They’ve also learned about being selfless. A lot of times, we’ll be walking down the halls, and one of the elderly people will need help with something, and the kids will just help them out. They build a relationship with them too. It’s like they become family.”

Resident Kate Ritchie, 80, had plenty of good things to say about the children.

“It’s wonderful to have them pass by and hug your neck and wink at you,” she said. “A lot of them do that. I hate to see them pass by and not touch me.”

She’s impressed with their manners as well. “I like to see that when somebody speaks to them and tells them not to do something, they mind. You can tell they are taught at home,” she said. “They’re wonderful children, every one of them.”

Camp Signature concludes July 22 — but Standing Stone Care and Rehab will hate to see the children go.

Dawn Huckeby said, “It’s so sad when they go back to school because they bring such energy into the facility. They really make a difference.”

Many of the campers are already looking forward to next year.

“It’s going to be fun — just like this one,” Haley Ray said.

But that’s not to say they won’t be back during the school year to visit from time to time. Maybe they’ll need some help with their history lessons.After all, Google doesn’t have all the answers.

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