I was asked to celebrate the Seventh Day of Chanukah at a senior community several weeks ago.
The Activities Director called me to find out what time I would get there to set up. I also relayed to her what I thought would be fun and very participative for the crowd. I wanted to ask questions which might lead to fun discussion for example: What Jewish Symbol is their favorite; which one warms their hearts the most? What smells do you remember growing up and or in your own homes during the Jewish Holidays? What sounds do your remember growing up and in your own homes during the Jewish Holidays? The Activities Director said that it may not be a good idea because usually the crowd is not very participative, that the seniors prefer a very musical program. I told her I have plenty of music they will enjoy and not to worry because I work at other senior communities and know how to get people to talk.
Upon getting their, the Activities Director asked if it would be OK to give the seniors instruments. I said, “Go for it!”
The program was wonderful! We had a beautiful Chanukah candle lighting, great discussion about Jewish symbols, then sang a couple of songs. We discussed holiday smells, and they asked me what smells I remembered. I spoke about my grandma’s sugar cookies and how till today, our sons remember the smell as well. We sang more songs, then spoke about Holiday sounds which took us into traditions we had in our homes that will carry on “l’dor vador,” from generation to generation. We joked about my husband being the main cook, at which the crowd asked what traditions am I giving our grandchildren. I told them my chicken soup and latkes. We joked, we sang, they accompanied me with instruments, clapping and foot tapping, and we talked. It was a wonderful 45 minutes. A gig that still has me on a high.
The Activities Director, who stayed the whole time, told me that she was thrilled with how the seniors participated with me.
We have to respect seniors. They have done so much for our world. They were our doctors, nurses, teachers, musicians, mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc. Seniors are people too who should be treated as such. I know it is hard; I know it can be down right difficult. I have learned to overlook a lot of the negativity. We have to try to understand their present lives. Some of the residents lost so much upon moving to their present communities. We have to talk into account their physical limitations, their present mental limitations. I talk to them, joke with them, tell them what is going on with me. When I find out they are ill, I call them, with permission, visit and become part of their lives. They certainly are part of mine.
Remember, seniors are people too.