Art connection: Project brings seniors, teens together – Miami Herald


Making connections with others has been difficult for the last year or so, especially for those in assisted living and nursing homes.

So Laney Orndorff got an idea to make connecting a little easier.

Orndorff, a certified nurse aide at The Lantern at Morning Pointe, thought the loss of socialization affected the elderly and teens.

“I was just thinking about how our residents and students are going through the same things we are, the struggle with COVID-19 and not seeing family as much, so I thought we should kind of relate those two struggles and bring a positive outlook to it,” she said. “(Residents) tend to connect to young people, teens and children. It’s a good way to connect to their youthfulness. I reminisce with residents every day. Most of them have huge photo binders from their youth, and it’s interesting to the young people to learn about them.”

Orndorff spoke to her high school visual art teacher, Jennifer Spade, about a project to involve students and residents.

“Laney wanted to make a difference and had the idea to reach out to me, where she was just a senior in my classroom last year, to see if I would be willing to have my students collaborate in a partnership with her elderly patients and a beautiful project has begun,” Spade said. “Laney interviewed 28 patients and put together a slideshow biography of each person. For example, ‘Katie is 86 years old; she loves cats, chocolate and her favorite color is blue. She enjoys walking, she’s a very talented pianist and worked at Armco steel.’

“I asked Laney to photograph each individual so my students could put a face with their name and, in turn, my students created their own bio for their senior partner, as well as drawing a personalized coloring page based on their interests.”

The students thought the project was a good idea.

“This was a great experience. Making art for yourself is one thing, but making art for others in need is such an amazing feeling,” Ollie Merge, 17-year-old junior and son of Florian Merget, said. “I chose to do this project because I like making a change, even if it’s a little one. Most people feel lonely during the times right now; I couldn’t imagine how they feel in the nursing homes. I hope I made a difference and made someone happy and felt less lonely.”

Hannah Laney, 16-year-old sophomore and daughter of Lonnie and Anita Laney, said: “Doing this project is so important because it helps remind these people that they are loved and appreciated even when circumstances prevent others from directly telling them so.”

Freshman Levi Joseph said he appreciates what seniors have to offer.

“The best thing to do is be nice to the elderly because they are wise and you might just learn something useful,” the 15-year-old son of Sonya Joseph and Randy Joseph, said.

After creation of the coloring pages, Blazer students sent their works, and the slideshow, to Morning Pointe.

Orndorff said her patients light up when they see young people, so they will virtually meet via Google slides to learn about each other since strict visiting rules prevent students from being able to hand deliver their pictures.

Once the residents color their pages, students will receive a copy.

Orndorff said residents like to color.

“It’s universally relaxing,” she said. “It brings a lot of focus to our residents. It occupies their time and calms them down and it’s something they can really be proud of.”

Britni Canfield, Lantern program director, said it was great timing.

“We had been talking about trying to find something to get the schools involved and working with kids,” Canfield said. “Visitations are tricky, so we’ve been trying to find a way to have a partnership. Any time a resident moves in, we have the families fill out the resident profile and keep it in a binder and we can tailor projects to them.”

Some patients are unable to color due to loss of fine motor skills, so those patients will receive a picture/sensory bag created from various objects placed in gel, sand, and other small objects that they can manipulate while stimulating their senses.

Spade said her students were excited to help the elderly in their community, and she said she’s proud of her former student for thinking of it.

“I love that Laney has such a big heart and that she thought of me to help her implement this wonderful idea of joining old and young in our community using art as a mechanism to bring people together,” Spade said.