Past on parade for memory care residents

Family, police honor seniors with drive-through art show

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/11/20

Donna Marshall’s smile is almost unforgettable, even as it’s hidden behind a blue mask. Sitting curbside along with her Greenridge Place neighbors, you can see it in three places — in the black …

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Past on parade for memory care residents

Family, police honor seniors with drive-through art show

Posted

Donna Marshall’s smile is almost unforgettable, even as it’s hidden behind a blue mask.

Sitting curbside along with her Greenridge Place neighbors, you can see it in three places — in the black and white photograph from her high school senior year, and then in the photograph taken weeks ago while she was sitting on the sofa in her unit of the memory care facility, contemplating her high school self.

And finally, you can see it in person, sitting next to that photograph in the August 4 sun, waving to people in cars driving past.

“I’m pretty happy at most things,” Marshall said.

Marshall and her Greenridge Place neighbors, all residents of the memory care facility who have been diagnosed with some level of dementia, were the subject of a specially designed art show. Friends and family were invited to the facility, just off of 101st Avenue and Old Wadsworth in Westminster, to drive past and visit their beloved, even if just from the window of a car. Everyone waved and snapped photos and some decorated their cars.

For Marshall, it was a chance to sit alongside her neighbors, see some different faces and get some sun.

She still has family in California, she said, and some relatives living nearby.

“I’m 83, and this was when I was 18, in California,” Marshall said. “It’s nice being outside. I don’t really get out all that much.”

COVID-19 has been especially hard for Greenridge Place’s mostly senior patients and residents. Since the pandemic virus is especially dangerous for older folks, the memory care facility closed its doors to visiting family members and friends back in March.

Katie Nelson, of Brighton, said it’s been tough not being able to see her grandmother Alma Green regularly.

“My mom, before COVID, was here every week, twice a week,” Nelson said. “My sister and I would come when we could, and we’d bring our kids when they could. But with all this, we can’t.”

In all, the family brought seven family members in two cars to visit and wave.

Keeping connected

Lisa Anderson, executive director at Greenridge Place, said this is the third parade/virtual visit they’ve scheduled since COVID-19 closed her facility to visitors.

“We wanted to find a way to celebrate our seniors, and with all the craziness with the pandemic, we also wanted to try to keep them connected with their loved ones,” she said. “So, we’ve created a little art exhibit.”

The theme for the Aug. 4 event was memories.

Anderson asked family members to provide photographs of the residents from earlier in their lives. The staff enlarged those photos and mounted them in frames and then photographed the residents looking at the photos. Residents were encouraged to sit along side their photos while their family members drove by, waved, took more pictures and talked to their loved ones through the car windows.

“We called it ‘Reflections’, with the residents looking at the picture of their past, and we listened and did some reflecting with them, talking about what they had done,” she said.

In all, 29 families brought in photos of their loved ones for the project. For residents that didn’t send in a photograph, Anderson had staff take a black and white photo of each residents’ folded hands sitting in their lap. Those photos were enlarged and framed, along with a caption describing what those hands had accomplished during their lives.

“We’ve included a little biographical description of their lives,” Anderson said. “We wanted to show what those hands had done. This one raised three kids. This one was a nurse. Just a little backstory on who they were, and who they are.”

It’s the third drive by celebration Greendridge Place has hosted during the COVID-19 quarantine, with family members dressing up their cars. The facility provided drinks for the residents and some umbrellas for shade from the August sun. In all, more than 80 people registered with the facility to say they were coming. Westminster police and fire trucks were included as well.

“Our families have been so supportive,” Anderson said. “This is just something fun we can do for the families and the residents, and have the police and fire here has been great. They’ve been involved in all of our parades.”

Isabel Zimmerman of Windsor, whose mother Paulette Whitcomb lives in the facility, said she’s attended all three of the parade events, often with her own daughters.

“They had another event where we came and decorated the windows of their units and they opened up the screen about a month ago, and that was neat,” Zimmerman said.

Former Northglenn High School teacher and basketball coach Dale McCoy sat stoically alongside his photograph, sipping a cup of cold water and reminiscing quietly.

“It was a good 35 years in there,” he said.

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