By Eileen Bailey
AMORY -Taking a piece of cucumber off the paper plate, Maggie Coleman dipped it into a vegetable dip before popping it into her mouth.
The cucumber she liked; the dip she said was different. But what Maggie Coleman liked the most about the food was that it gave her a chance to visit with the student who delivered it.
Coleman is one of about 35 residents at Amory Manor Nursing Home who are visited by nine students from Hatley High School each week. The students are in the FFA class and visit the nursing home as part of a community project.
During the 25-minute visit with the nursing home residents, students serve a variety of fruits and vegetables as part of a “tasting luncheon.” The tasting part comes after the residents eat their noon meal.
“I like it just fine,” Coleman said. For Coleman, the president of the nursing home’s Resident Association, the tastings give the residents the chance to spend time with the students. “They tell us about the things we will taste,” she said.
Dian Lindsey, Recreational Services director for the nursing home, said the tasting sessions began last fall when students began visiting the residents and started a gardening program with the residents.
When school began this year Lindsey and the students’ instructor, Steve Cantrell, decided to do things differently. They began with two students researching a specific food and giving a report on it. But because of the noise in the dining room, the residents had a hard time hearing the report.
Lindsey said they decided to have the taste-testing program and let students walk around and visit with all of the residents. Lindsey said to get the variety of vegetables and fruits, she approached the produce manager at a local store who has provided fruits and vegetables from all over the world that are sold in his store.
From apples from Korea to avocados from California, the nursing home residents have tasted it all.
For the students, Cantrell said the visits are a chance to learn from older residents. “It is good experience for them,” he said. “They (the nursing home residents) tell them about the way they used to do things,” he said. Some of the students, he said, have not had much experience being around older residents.
Lindsey agrees. “Hopefully it will make the students feel more comfortable in a long-term care setting,” she said. “It exposes them to geriatric illnesses and they began to understand the aging process.”
Student Tina Ivy, 17, said she enjoys her time at the home. “I have learned a lot,” she said. Ivy said she enjoys hearing about how things were done in years past.
Lindsey said that students are not the only ones who benefit. “The residents enjoy visits from the students,” she said. “They are excited to see them take time out to come for a visit.”
Resident Carolyn Justice, 74, said she thinks the visits are nice. She also likes the food. “I didn’t like my lunch and this just hits the spot.”