Students, nursing home residents benefit from Life Skills program

April 21, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

To Inez Crisatelli, 80, the games shows just aren't the same without Kim Speaks by her side. The 10-year-old talks to Mrs. Crisatelli during the commercials and makes her laugh.

Although they spend only 15 minutes with each other every Tuesday and Friday, Kim and Mrs. Crisatelli have become fast friends, thanks to Key School in Annapolis.

Kim, a fifth-grader at Key, decided to spend her activity elective with seniors at the Annapolis Convalescent Center on Van Buren Street. The Nursing Home elective is part of the private school's Life Skills program and has been offered to students for five years.

Kim and 11-year-old Nathan Irving, another fifth-grader, visit the home twice a week to speak, play or watch television with several seniors. The visits last 20 minutes and provide plenty of time for bonding.

"They wait for us to come because they like our company," said Kim. "I just like to come and say hello and talk to them for awhile."

Nathan said he likes being around seniors. "I go out with my grandmother and great-grandmother all the time and they're pretty fun. The seniors at the home will listen to anything you have to say and even tell you stories about themselves. I like to learn about people."

Babette Leshinsky, a Key teacher and the children's activity supervisor, accompanies the children. She's been part of the program for two years and says the number of students involved can range from two to 15.

"The visits are very beneficial to the children," she said. "They learn to be patient, to speak clearly and listen carefully. But most of all they learn that there's nothing wrong with getting old."

Yesterday Nathan visited with bedridden Dora Wallace, 91, and happily received the Easter gift she had waiting for him. "I really like these kids coming," Mrs. Wallace said.

Kim visited Mrs. Crisatelli, who was doing her usual game-show watching. "We just sit on the bed and chat -- just everyday talk," said Mrs. Crisatelli, who has been visited by Key School kids since the program began in 1988. "I love them because they never forget your face."

Ann Garner, activities director at Annapolis, said the seniors can't wait for their young visitors. "The children bring something that no one else here can give the seniors. They, like the seniors, have their own special view of things."

Nathan has quickly adapted. "Everyone has to grow old," he said casually, "whether they like it or not."

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