Memory care students and residents spread their wings with kites
Three years ago, Grace Point Place, part of the Anthem Network of Memory Care Communities, opened on property purchased from Christian Schools in Chicago. The private Christian elementary school, which attracts students from across the southern suburbs, saw an opportunity for children to do service learning with Grace Point residents who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“Part of who we are as believers in Jesus Christ is that we show love to others,” said Nate Pettinga, director of Southwest Christian. “We do it through our actions and one of the ways we can do it is by building relationships with our friends next door. Even if they have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, that doesn’t mean they don’t have gifts or talents.
On this bright late spring morning, senior residents sit in the sun watching their young friends fly kites from a distance. The last interaction Christian students in the Southwest had with senior residents was in 2019, when memory care residents made Easter hats. The children put on the hats and organized an Easter parade for their old friends.
“The past year has been difficult and isolating,” said Shannon Dahlman, community relations manager for Grace Point Place. “We have tried to provide quality and targeted activities to keep our residents active and engaged.”
Since cases of COVID-19 began to decline as the country was vaccinated, residents of Grace Point have been reunited with their families, after a year of interaction with Zoom, FaceTime and window visits.
“A lot of our residents watch the kids at recess, that’s how we came up with the idea,” Dahlman said. “One of our residents said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to fly a kite? “Almost all of our inspiration comes from our residents. We want to make every day the best day.”
Locals made kites from kits. Others have used their creative talents to add their own artistic flourishes. Kites have sparked buried childhood memories.
“Many of our residents started to remember kites with their fathers,” Dahlman added.
The grassy field between the school building and the memory care center was collapsing with fourth and fifth graders kites made for them by their old friends. Many children had never flown a kite before. Some kites have soared into the heights. When the recess bell rang, the first and second graders ran outside as the older students ditched their string balls for kites.
Pettinga and the reporter from Patch had their hands full of unraveling string and helping the students get their kites off the ground.
“Our kids are normally at recess anyway,” Pettinga said. “It gives them something fun to do. If we can spread some joy, we’re happy to do it.”