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GALLERY: Bringing light into seniors’ lives

Years ago, a schoolteacher started a springtime tradition of visiting the Casa Mora Rehabilitation and Extended Care center with her students. It left a deep impression on all involved, from the children and staff at the center to the residents of the nursing home.

As this schoolteacher moved on in her life she stopped bringing the kids every year, but always meant to come back. And she did. Earlier this month the schoolteacher, Linda Agresta, now the assistant director of Manatee Technical Institute, returned to Casa Mora with about a dozen kids in tow. They marched together down the halls to an activity room where many of the residents had already gathered.

One among them was Mickey Mitchell, originally of Cincinnati, Ohio, who brought along a teddy bear.

It was enough to bring tears to the eyes.

Lovingly crafted flowers and home-made cookies (baked by the culinary students at MTI) were hand-delivered to each of the residents, and the kids performed a few song and dances. What had been a quiet room was suddenly filled with energy. Eyes around the room brightened, hearts lifted, hugs were exchanged, and even a few of the grumpy patients managed a smile or two.

I hope that when I’m old and feeble, inching my way to dinner and talking to anyone who’ll stop to listen, that there are still people around like Linda, who’ll go out of their way to make a stranger’s day.

“This is someone’s grandmother, grandfather, somebody’s mom or dad... many of them are here by themselves, and the children just add a spark to their life,” says Agresta.

This is a lesson worth remembering. We honor our elders, and in so doing honor ourselves, and help restore some of the dignity we all stand to lose in old age when we can no longer care for ourselves.