Washington students bring Christmas cheer to senior citizens

Washington students bring Christmas spirit to senior citizens

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Santa Claus and 17 of his Christmas helpers visited the Presbyterian SeniorCare center in Washington Wednesday and brought smiles to the faces of its residents.


Washington School District sent a group of its life-skills students on their monthly visit to the center, and the children and senior citizens exchanged gifts, sang Christmas carols and met Santa Claus.


The students started visiting the senior citizens once a month starting in September as part of an intergenerational activity.


Joyce Eisiminger, a teacher in Washington School District, approached Michelle Engle, the supervisor of special education, with the idea after students sang Christmas carols at the center last year.


“(I said) you’d be crazy not to!” Engle recalled as she glanced around the room at the excited students and smiling senior citizens surrounding Santa Claus.


The teachers reached out to the center, and students soon began visiting with senior citizens. On Halloween, the students came trick-or-treating, and on Thanksgiving, they brought food and ate a meal together.


Audrey Wolfe, a longtime resident at the senior care facility, said she loves seeing the children. “They always love to talk to me,” she said. Wolfe, along with 19 other senior citizens, received no-sew fleece throw blankets from the students. She loved her cozy, pink blanket and said it would look great with the scarf the kids gave her earlier this year.


Ralph Ruscello, another senior at the center, also formed a close bond with the kids. Austin, 12, met Ruscello on the first day he visited. Someone pulled out a pack of cards that day, and Austin formed a bond with the older ex-military gentlemen over “Rummy.” Ruscello won the card game.


Another child also visited the senior center that day, recalled activities assistant Susan Wilson. The child began to play cards with one of the residents, and the resident said to the child after playing for a while, “I bet you’re tired.”


“No,” the child replied, “I want to keep playing.” That was the first time the child had spoken in a month.


“(The) kids are very accepting and open,” said SeniorCare director of activities Rena Tatka. “They get right in with folks and accept you no matter what.”


Next year, the group hopes to have a cookout, paint Easter eggs and make valentines with the residents. Until then, the senior citizens will enjoy their new blankets and friendly visitors, and the students will enjoy memories of meeting Santa Claus and making new friends.


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