Halloween has a reputation for being a holiday filled with gore and massive amounts of candy, but it can also be a time for spreading joy to often overlooked sects of your community. In fact, you can take your kids trick-or-treating at a nursing home and share the fun with people who may not get to interact with little ones on a regular basis. Romper chatted with a few nursing and retirement homes across the country and the consensus is in: the elderly would love to see your kids' cute costumes on Halloween.
"One of my residents actually told me that it’s been 30 years since she had a trick-or-treater visit her," Becky Hudson, lifestyle director at Heartis Senior Living - Clear Lake in Webster, Texas, tells Romper of one particularly excited resident. Like many assisted living facilities across the country, Heartis Senior Living is planning on welcoming trick-or-treaters on Oct. 31.
"We’re opening up our doors to the local communities so anybody can come and trick-or-treat," Hudson says, adding that the Texas living facility is hosting "a huge kick-off event" as this year will be its first official Halloween party. Kids who visit there can expect hay rides, carnival style games, a bounce house, hot dogs, as well as a face painter.
Heartis Senior Living residents are understandably excited for their first Halloween soirée later this week. Last week, in fact, the center's Facebook page shared a photo of two smiling residents sitting in front of a massive candy stash, donated by their community and others across the country, holding signs that read, "We need trick-or-treaters."
Other facilities across the country have been hosting festive events for trick-or-treaters for years, and they're always a hit. Like at Legacy Health Services in Parma, Ohio. Kali Whitlock, admissions director at the center tells Romper their Halloween celebration was last week and brought out about 130 kids, and for good reason: "It's kind of like a party... we had a pet pig [this year]!"
"The residents like to see the kids in their costumes, and it's fun for the kids," Whitlock says.
Similarly, Sue James, recreation director at Life Care Center of Cheyenne in Wyoming tells Romper that her center's residents greatly enjoy when kiddos come trick-or-treating and many haven't handed out candy in a long, long time.
"Halloween is one of many intergenerational activities the center uses to bring the kids [of Cheyenne] in," she says. Along with great fun for everyone, she says having younger generations visit serves another purpose of helping to "break down the stigma that goes along with nursing homes."
"You remember how it was when you were a kid and you thought of nursing homes," James says. "At least for me, I was afraid to go in to see anyone I knew in a [nursing home] because I thought they were there to die, it was not a nice environment in my mind." And events like trick-or-treating can help change that impression in their community.
"We do a lot of activities for our residents that maybe they haven’t done in years," like handing out candy, James explains. "Seeing the residents happy and full of life helps with that stigma in kids here."
An added bonus: Employees can get in on the fun, too. "It gives our staff and their kids a safe place to trick or treat," James tells Romper. "A lot of them bring their kids to see the residents and it's always a big hit."
While families are certainly encouraged to stop by their local senior center, James also urged parents to be aware of the health risks that opening up centers to the public can pose to their residents. "You have to consider that it's flu season," she says, adding that parents need to be absolutely certain that their children are healthy before bringing them in to nursing homes.
So, parents, if your kids are healthy and looking for something fun and different to do this Halloween, consider stopping by a nursing home or assisted living facility near you. Call ahead to be sure that your local center is participating in trick-or-treating, but odds are that they will be. And for anyone in the Webster, Texas area, Hudson encourages you to come on by if you "need a safe, dry place to go." What's more, “A lot of residents will probably be sitting with the door open already waiting.” I can't think of a better invitation than that.
Additional reporting by Kaitlin Kimont.
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