You might think that high school seniors and the “senior” residents of a nursing home wouldn’t have much in common. Well you would be wrong. In Auburn it’s a love of art that brings together some residents of Oak Park Nursing Home and senior art students from Lee Scott Academy for what they call “Senior to Senior.”

Twice a month the Lee Scott Academy students come to Oak Park and create art with the residents. The level of participation depends on the resident. If the resident is not physically able to create the art, the student encourages the resident to contribute by choosing colors or design. Some works have ended in collaborations with all the residents at the session working together. Other times residents have taken individual works back to their room to enjoy. Some days the arts sessions have had as few as four students who worked with a small group of residents. Other sessions have had as many as 14 students and 18 residents.

It’s all about getting residents engaged in an activity, in conversation, and actively creating art said Oak Park administrator Jason Banks. “Observing our senior residents interacting with the high school students has been very rewarding,” said Donna “DJ” Terry, activities assistant. “The nursing home residents have enjoyed showing off their artwork, talking to the young seniors about their life, and connecting it with things that may have brought back memories to them. The young seniors enjoy listening to the stories our residents tell and have witnessed them improve in their motor and social skills.”

“Senior to Senior” began as a pilot program. Pretty soon it became clear that the residents were capable of doing much more than originally anticipated. The residents were trying watercolor painting or sharing memories triggered by a particular theme. Shortly after the program began, one woman who had never left her room to participate in an activity joined in the art sessions. “I particularly enjoyed watching the nursing home activities associates stand behind the hall window and rejoice over each of their residents engaging in conversation, actively creating, or simply smiling,” said Jason Banks, administrator.

Not only do the seniors from Lee Scott Academy volunteer their time, the school pays for the art supplies. The finished works are being framed and will be proudly displayed in a gallery section at Oak Park for everyone to enjoy.

Oak Park will present “Senior to Senior” at Alabama’s Best Practices on August 27, 2015.

Click here for information on how to implement Oak Park’s best practice in your nursing home.