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Senior Center Gets Creative In Bringing Cheer To Residents

ELK RIDGE, Utah – This holiday season brings more dangers than just COVID-19 for Utah’s elderly, especially those in isolation. One community in Elk Ridge is coming together to rally behind the seniors in an assisted living facility.

They’re looking for ways to be closer, even if it means pulling out some tape and scissors to safely show their love.

“Wow, I feel special,” said Helen Romero, a resident at Elk Ridge Assisted Living.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Romero and Ruth Sommers have not had a visitor in months.

“Yeah it’s hard for everybody,” Sommers agreed.

That’s why neighbors and youth, like Kamie Norton, stopped by to show some love. “We’re always still thinking of them, no matter what,” Norton said.

Chris Hermansen, owner of Elk Ridge Assisted Living Center, welcomed the visit. He said 15 residents died at the center this year, a jump from last year when three or four residents died.

Hermansen said some of the deaths were expected or because of natural causes.

“In particular, at this facility, I haven’t seen so many people pass away because of what’s called failure to thrive,” Hermansen said.

Those deaths were not attributed to the virus.

“Luckily, and knock on wood, we haven’t had any COVID positive employees or residents, but there is still that fear that if it does get in your building, it will spread fast and there is not a whole lot we can do until we get a vaccine,” Hermansen said.

As his residents wait for a vaccine, Hermansen said they’re trying to mitigate the toll that isolation has had on residents. He called it COVID-19’s collateral damage.

“I feel like these are my own mom and dad at night, I wonder if they’re going to be OK, or if they’re even happy,” he said. “We’re trying to give them the quality of life that I feel they deserve.”

Hermansen said his staff is getting creative with indoor activities, access to digital communication like Zoom calls and other socially distanced interactions.

Lee Pope, president of a local branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said the visits aren’t just for the residents. “It’s really a privilege to be here, that’s what I feel,” he said.

Pope recruited 13 wards in his stake to coordinate visits with 26 youth groups through the holidays.

These two generations found they have a lot in common, and the teens took some golden nuggets to heart.

Sommers, 94, read them a favorite quote she found in an adult coloring book, “Believe in yourself first, and then you can go from there.”

Romero, who is 95 years old, suggested they focus on the silver lining.

“Don’t dwell too much on the bad things in life, because that will take away from the good things you can experience,” she said.

“I just appreciate them so much — how positive they are and how happy they are, even though they don’t get to see the outside world,” Norton said. “And I just wish I could have that type of appreciation one day.”

It’s inspiration we could all use.

“I can do hard things,” Sommers said.

Pope told KSL he has recruited enough youth groups to stop by every day through Christmas.

KSL 5 TV Live

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