On September 10, the third annual Adopt a Grandparent Day will be celebrated across the nation, especially in Mississippi.
Growing up, Kathy Rogers, coordinator of Adopt a Grandparent day in Mississippi, was surrounded by positive morals and ethics from a family of faith, which included respecting the elderly. Ever since she experienced a life-changing moment, she decided to dedicate a whole day to the elderly, helping them stay cheerful and positive.
“It’s the heritage of my family to honor the elderly. My mother raised me that way and I am continuing her legacy,” Rogers said.
During the past two years Adopt a Grandparent Day compiled volunteers from across Mississippi to go to nursing homes in Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties to “touch the lives of the great senior citizens,” Rogers said.
In the first year, Rogers gathered 319 volunteers who visited 19 nursing homes. The next year, it rose to 527 volunteers visiting 20 nursing homes. Her goal is to expand each year.
“We hope to have 1,000 volunteers visiting 30 nursing homes,” Rogers said. “Our goal is to change 1,000 senior’s lives.”
This year, volunteers will visit nursing homes in Jackson, Harrison, Hancock, George, Stone and Pearl River counties.
When the elderly become a resident of a nursing home, Rogers said the majority of them feel lonely and isolated or emotionally distressed during a time of their lives that should be celebrated with laughter and joy. She recognized this when her mother, Sybil Jean Megehee Pigott, was in a nursing home for 30 days.
In 2011, Rogers’ mother had a stroke, which forced her to move in with Rogers. Then two years later, Rogers’ mother fell and broke her hand, requiring 30 days in a nursing home for rehabilitation. This is when Rogers saw the loneliness some seniors experience in a nursing home.
“It’s not the nursing homes themselves, because they provide a great service for the elderly. For most of the elderly though, it is how they got there that is the saddening part,” Rogers said.
Rogers and her husband frequently visited her mother while she was in the nursing home, but the first time they went back was an eye-opening experience.
“When we entered the home, she was sitting with her back towards us. We walked over and when she turned around she said ‘I thought you weren’t coming back,’” Rogers said. “This made me think about how most of these senior citizens maybe have families or friends that drop them off and never come back, which really hit me and made me want to make sure that each senior citizen in nursing homes feel like they are loved and that people are interested in them.”
Recently, Rogers’ mother passed away. Because of her experiences in the nursing home, Rogers coordinates Adopt a Grandparent to honor her legacy.
When volunteers go to the nursing homes, they divide into teams and bring supplies to participate in activities with the elderly. Groups that have participated range from high school students, businesses, motorcycle clubs, boy and girl scouts, military, churches and other generous individuals.
“When we get there, we run through the halls and knock on every door to invite each senior to help us make a Adopt a Grandparent Day banner. When they see us, you can just see their energy change and they begin smiling ear-to-ear to have fun with all our volunteers,” Rogers said.
The banner is the best part of the two-hour event on Saturday, Rogers said, because it is the beginning of an amazing experience for both volunteers and seniors.
“This day isn’t only for the seniors, but it is exciting and beneficial for the volunteers as well,” Rogers said. “These seniors have all had full lives and have some amazing stories to share. We can all learn from the elderly if we just sit down and talk with them.”
Other activities include bingo and story telling. To Rogers, this event means more than helping the seniors.
“This makes me feel like I’m making a difference and making my mother proud. I want to honor her with every action I make and seeing all these smiling faces in a nursing home would do just that,” Rogers said.
Adopt a Grandparent Day is still looking for volunteers, especially in Picayune, as well as donations to buy supplies for the volunteers to bring to the nursing homes.
To donate and register to volunteer, visit adoptagrandparentday.org.
Source: Picayune Item (By Taylor Welsh)