The Rosemount residents, Rosemount Middle School students making memories, no matter how long they last

Members of the Rosemount Middle School Leadership Group have been visiting with The Rosemount Senior Living memory care residents this year. This is the third year of the program.

Rosemount Middle School eighth-grader Jamie Bennett said he feels like a grandkid when he goes to The Rosemount as part of the school’s Leadership Group’s regular visits to the senior living facility.

That’s an important feeling for him to have since none of his grandparents live nearby, which is true for some of the other students and vice versa for some of The Rosemount’s residents who don’t get to see their grandchildren that often.

“It feels great,” said Jamie, who admits he was nervous since it was his first visit to a memory care facility.

“It’s great to see their faces when they see us,” he said. “They are really nice. None of them are mean.”  

For the past three years, Leadership Group students have been making many walks across the street to The Rosemount where they have spent time with memory care residents.

“It’s a buzz when our kids show up,” said Jacki Regalado, Leadership Group adviser. “They want us there as much as we want to be there.”

Regalado said for the memory care residents they have a fun time playing cards or games with the students or talking to them about whatever’s on their mind.

For the students, Regalado said the benefits are the same, but even more.

“They are learning some life skills, communication skills and building their own confidence,” Regalado said.

Jamie said being in the presence of older adults is important.

The program has been so successful that the number of students participating has grown from eight in the first year to about 50 this year.

“We have lots of kids who want to do it,” Regalado said.

Eighth-grader Allison Etheridge said she would encourage any seventh-grader to participate in the program because they will learn so much.

“I’m always excited,” Allison said. “I’m happy. We really want to be there.”

Participating in the program has cleared up some misconceptions about aging, according to Allison.  

“I thought they would not have as much personality because of the memory loss, but when you really get to know them they really do,” Allison said.

Both of the students agreed that the residents really loved to have fun and joke.

Allison said it was fun to listen to one of the residents sing along to a song from the 1950s, proving that not all of their memories are gone.

One of the central efforts of RMS is “building community.” That can be within the school or out in the community.

The middle school’s connection to The Rosemount has proven to be a symbiotic relationship as many of the eighth-graders fill the role of extended family grandchildren and the students adopt a new grandparent.

Regalado said they are learning the value of giving back to others, and “what it means to put someone else in front of themselves.”

Two girls who were part of the program have returned to The Rosemount to offer manicures to residents. Regalado said other students have volunteered on their own to be Bingo callers or just visit when they can.

Learning

The fact that the residents they are visiting have deficits in short- and long-term memory presents a challenge and a chance to learn.

Before the students visit with the residents they have an orientation with The Rosemount activities director Vicki Peterson.

Peterson talks to the students about what it means to have memory loss, which could mean residents might not remember talking to the same student from a previous visit or they can’t identify a color on a playing card.

Peterson coaches the students how to react and what to say in certain situations.

“One week you might have a great time with one resident, but the next time they might not know who you are,” Regalado said.

She said two boys, who are avid hockey players, have listened to the same war stories from one of The Rosemount’s residents more than once, and they love hearing them each time.

She said that some students are nervous at first, but then they realize there’s nothing to fear.

Regalado said she’s seen some students who are very shy in school really open up and have well-engaged conversations with the residents.

As part of the orientation, the students get to see one of the care suites and learn about The Rosemount’s services and how it operates.

Regalado said another positive outcome of the sessions is the chance for students to unwind and unplug from technology.

“When they come back, they have story after story talking about their conversations or what they did,” Regalado said. “They have so much fun.

“I feel really blessed that we get to go over there.”

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@ecm-inc.com.

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