Homemade baked goods are a no-go. Candies are often frowned upon. In person visits? Don’t even try it. In this season of COVID it can be hard to think of ways to spread some holiday cheer to nursing homes. But there is one easy activity you might not have considered that could make a big difference and all it takes is a cell phone video and a little creativity.
“Recordings of kids putting on a play or singing is great for residents,” says Carman Settle, activities coordinator at Asheville, North Carolina’s The Laurels on Summit Ridge assisted living home. The Laurels got lucky this spring when the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the country and the nursing home was accepted for a grant to purchase iPads for residents. Using these devices the staff has been able to connect residents with family via Zoom and FacetTime, as well as share video recordings. The songs and plays of children have especially been a hit, and Settle says it really doesn’t take much to put something together to share with a local nursing facility.
To begin with, don’t worry, because residents don’t expect your children to produce a Broadway-worthy show. A medley of songs or a short — consider attention span here — play, perhaps a reenactment of “The Night Before Christmas” or an abbreviated take on “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” would be great.
And because time is of the essence with at least Thanksgiving just days away, sending in an old clip is just as welcome. Now is a great time to dig through your digital archives for a past video that might be worth sharing with nursing home residents. For instance, as a kid I was in a traveling singing group. Our biggest season was the lead up to Christmas when we’d perform at retirement and assisted living facilities throughout Central Washington. Not surprisingly, good ol’ camcorders were a hot item and present at every performance. With a little digital magic, I'm sure I could easily take an old file and turn it into a shareable one for nursing homes to use.
But if that seems like too much work, just line your kids up in the living room and have them read a holiday book or sing a few carols. It's really the thought that counts and even if your little darling is off key, the sweet sentiment will shine through.
While Settle says many assisted living facilities are also open to performances held outside residents’ windows, as the season turns colder, those just won’t be safe for the elderly in their care. Shifting efforts to virtual options is a much more viable and safe choice right now and one the whole family can get in on. So tune up the keyboard, form a mini choir, and tape your family belting your heart out. Our highest risk population would love to hear a joyful noise this year, even if you can’t sing it to them in person.