"Christmas is a warm and cozy time of year," read the message in the card that also included a picture of its designer, Sarah Robinson, 9.
But unlike most Christmas well wishes, Sarah's personal card wasn't impersonally deposited in a mailbox. Sarah and several dozen of her classmates at Ensign Elementary School visited the Care West Center-Salt Lake and Hillside Villa this week, taking their cards, boxes of candy canes and holiday songs to the elderly patients.During the holidays, nursing homes have a steady stream of carolers. But Ensign fourth-grade teachers Tamara Jensen and Tamara Lowry wanted to make their visit a little different - they wanted the children to sit down and talk to the patients.
So, they had the children design their own cards to give as presents, knowing they would be conversation starters. They also had lessons on the elderly, which included a talk by Dr. Hal Cole on the effects of aging. And they engaged in role playing about how to approach a patient and initiate conversation.
"For 9- and 10-year-olds, this could be quite a scary experience," said Jensen as her students excitedly delivered their cards following a concert.
The patients, whose average age is 80, loved it. Many sang along with the children. "Aren't they cute?" one woman said to no one in particular as she received specially designed cards from the children.
Care West recreational therapist Donna Matthew said the yule concert was a great way for the young and elderly to become better acquainted. "This is a super opportunity for the kids to get to learn about the elderly, but it also lets our patients know someone cares. Christmas is really lonely for many of them."