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KidsPeace youth, nursing home residents connect amid COVID-19 lockdowns

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Loneliness has proved to be a “side effect” of society’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re an elderly resident of a nursing home, or a young person being treated in a residential mental health facility, the coronavirus lockdown has had the same effect – separating you from your family.

Youth in KidsPeace’s residential treatment programs in Pennsylvania recognized this shared experience, and reached out to those in area nursing homes to let them know “You are not alone.”

Stephanie Kerns, director of recreational therapies and enrichment services for residential programs at KidsPeace’s Orchard Hills Campus, says the idea came as residents were finishing the “relationships and communication” portion of their Community Living curriculum.

“We received a request for our clients to make greeting cards for individuals in local nursing homes. Our clinicians presented the idea as a way to discuss the significance of bolstering relationships with individuals in our communities,” Kerns noted. “Our youth jumped right on board with the idea and really made this project their own.”

Many of the KidsPeace clients made multiple handmade cards, including positive and upbeat messages of hope and inspiration for the nursing home residents. “Some of them even wrote silly jokes in order to give the recipient a little chuckle,” Kerns recalled.

In total KidsPeace clients created 80 cards that were sent to Country Meadows and Cedarbrook, two nursing homes in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.

Country Meadows’ Director of Dynamic Living Wendy Balik confirmed the cards were a big hit among their residents. “Our folks loved them; they read them out loud to each other,” she said. “They were really touched by the messages, especially coming from children, and they did recognize they share with the KidsPeace kids the experience of being away from family.”

Kerns said while the cards may have helped brighten the recipients’ day, their impact was equally important on the kids – and on the staff caring for them: “We were blown away by the compassion the kids showed for the nursing home residents. I think the most impressive component of this entire activity was seeing how many of our youth felt compelled to participate while expecting nothing in return for doing so … (just) hoping that when the residents read these messages, they would feel just a little more hopeful, a little less lonely, and a whole lot more special.”


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