My friend, Kendall Joyner and I have a fun community service project. No one told us to do it. No one told us to be kind to older people. We just do it. It is fun. It brings joy to older people.
We take candy that older people remember from their childhood to retirement homes, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. We visit with the residents and listen to their stories about eating these candies.
A lot of older adults have problems remembering things that happened today or even this week. They often have no problem remembering things from their childhood. These little candies get their memories flowing and they start talking. It brings them joy and it also puts a smile on our face. We always get dressed up for our visits. Starched white shirts and red bowties are our “uniform.” The old ladies love it and the men want to know if we tie our own bowties.
Check out our Facebook page and learn more. – Ben and Kendall
Why we started our project
It all started because I heard my mom and her sister talking after dinner one evening. My aunt works in a nursing home and was telling my mom how sad it is that some senior citizens don’t have much money for snacks and drinks from the vending machine. At the time, we were just finishing up on 9th-grade year in school and we were 14 years old. At that age (and even at age 17) snacks and soda are a big deal. I just couldn’t imagine not having a snack every once in a while. I decided I could change that but I would need help so I went to my friend, Kendall Joyner, and got him to help me.
We decided to do a Senior Citizen Summer Camp that year where my aunt works. We had activities every day and the prizes were snacks! We had a lot of fun and a lot of support from our community. Over the last couple of years, our project has changed a little but our mission has stayed the same. We visit with the elderly and bring them snacks. We now bring old-time candy and visit with those who have memory issues. A lot of the elderly people we visit may have a hard time remembering things that happened recently, but have no problem remembering things that happened decades ago. They can remember eating the candy we bring them. They can remember walking to the store with their friends. Purchasing it with pennies and nickels. They can tell you the name of the store and the name of the person who sold it to them. They talk to us and they talk to the people around them. They are almost always happy memories.
We have been blessed by our family, friends and community. We receive candy and donations from everywhere. We will have people bring us candy and donate it in memory of a loved one who is no longer with us but they have seen our story and are moved to help us. One of the best parts of our “job” is listening and watching these people. We get to hear incredible stories. We see their faces light up when they have a piece of candy that they haven’t had in years. Occasionally we see adult children visiting with their parents. They struggle to find things to talk about. Candy gets them talking. We have people all the time ask if they can have some extra candy to give to their grandchildren. The answer is always yes. It feels good to give something away and we like to give them that good feeling.