Friday, 3.30pm was most arguably the best day of the week. I looked forward to 3.30pm when the bell would ring. I rushed out of the main entrance ready to let go of all the schoolwork and stress. While most kids were rushing to get home to play video games, hang out with friends or grab some food, I looked forward to spending some time with the seniors at the nursing home near my school.
My friend and I would walk to the facility, greet the staff and meet up with our seniors from the grade above who were already there to set up. I was a sophomore at the time and this was my first experience working at a senior home. I had always wanted to work with the elderly population and give back to my community but until then I wasn’t sure how.
As we continued to chatter, my friends brought out bingo boards and plush animals for the seniors. I was very excited as this meant we got to play with the seniors and help them concentrate on their game.
“Don’t be afraid. Go say hi and introduce yourself,” my friend said.
I took a nervous gulp but I approached an elderly lady with a big smile on my face and said, “Hi! My name is Stefanie. How was your day?”
She smiled and responded, “My day went well”.
I was worried that the seniors would not be able to hear me or maybe they just wouldn’t be in the mood to speak. I didn’t let my nervousness get the best of me, I stood by her side ready to assist or help her with anything she needed. We had a small conversation and I asked her about her favorite show, flowers, and things she enjoyed. As she chose her bingo board, I grabbed some bingo chips for her.
The game started, and my friend began to call out numbers. “16, 8, 24, 87, 99”. The elderly lady I sat with took a moment to pick up her chips and I helped by pointing out the number she should place it on. Every now and then she would slip up and make a mistake and laugh. I laughed with her and told her it was okay and that she was very close to scoring a bingo.
Finally, the moment had come. “Bingo!” I yelled, when she had filled the whole row. My friend gave her a stuffed animal and all the other seniors cheered and smiled. Seeing her enjoying herself and having fun really warmed my heart and I was so much happier being there than I would have been at home watching Netflix. It was a great experience that made me learn a lot about interacting with others and having a good time, age and seniority aside.
Hearing that some of their families don’t visit or spend time with them, saddened but motivated me to take an hour out of my day to make someone else’s. I continue to do everything I can to help at the home so I can see their precious smiles and laughter.
Another Friday came and went and it was very special. Galantine’s day! Valentine’s Day for the Gals! This time, my friends and I gave out balloons and cards to the seniors. They smiled and thanked us. Just seeing the faces of high schoolers coming to visit seemed to light up their day! This even goes to show that even young people, who can be self-absorbed at times, really do admire and care about the elderly community.
Even when the GlamourGals organization went remote, the #MyDearFriend campaign continued. My school and the GlamourGals organisation hosted relaxing Zoom card-writing sessions. We wrote to our elderly friends around the world to remind them that they were loved and cared for even if we couldn’t see them in person. I enjoyed making cards and being able to illustrate my creative thoughts and designs for the seniors. I hope it brings a little sunshine into their day.
We must remain strong, and stand up for our community during tough times – help out in anyway we can. Writing just a few thoughtful words can brighten up someone’s day. I think it’s important to take the initiative and show them that we acknowledge them as members of the community.
I cannot wait for the day I can go back into the senior center and greet the seniors for another game of bingo! I’m looking forward to arts and crafts and giving them a little glam makeover or painting their nails! All of it is worth it, just to see the smile on their faces as they are reminded that they are not alone.
Stefanie Brijmohan is a 16 year old junior in high school who enjoys writing creative stories during her free time. Using her creativity helps her reflect on the choices and decisions she’s made in her life and keep that memory alive forever, documenting it on paper.
Photo by Claudia van Zyl on Unsplash