As a non-profit group working with a goal to provide better care for seniors in our communities, we value connections made with seniors and treasure memories we created together. Our organization alike was founded based on some of the dearest and most memorable times our founder, Stephenie, spent with her grandmother.
In the summer of my first year in secondary school, my grandma (by that time 75-years-old) visited from Beijing. During her stay, on a stroll around the Vancouver neighbourhood, a Rottweiler bumped into her; she fell on the sidewalk, compressing her spinal column.
Now she’d spend her entire four-week visit in Vancouver General Hospital. She shared the room with two roommates her age: Gilbert*, a skinny bearded man, and Anna*, a small lady who refused to wear a hospital gown. Their hospital room wasn’t the most intimate and comfortable: there was no wifi, no TV, nothing to distract patients from their discomfort. To keep my grandma company, my family took shifts. I stayed with her during the day; Mom and Dad alternated nights. The first few days, my grandma and I simply chatted, but it soon became clear that we couldn’t talk all day long. I decided to bring something fun.
As a frequent recreational shopper at Jo-ann and Michael’s, I had a huge cache of crafting supplies: coloured-paper, yarn, fabric remnants, beads, and much more. The next day, we spent hours weaving bracelets and discussing colour combinations. By the time Dad arrived that evening, my grandma, exhausted, fell asleep quickly unbothered by her back pain.
I immediately began brainstorming other crafts, which allowed for creativity but required little dexterity. I scrolled through crafting blog posts and scoured YouTube craft compilation videos. The next week alone, we made paper fans, origami, more bracelets, and attempted to knit a scarf, which turned out more like a handkerchief. Our biggest success was a series of felt Christmas ornaments—they still decorate our tree every year.
For we always spend such an amazing time crafting together, I still brought crafts every day after my grandma no longer needed 24/7 care 24. But during all this time, I had never seen anyone visit Gilbert and Anna, who always lay half-up on their beds with the gray privacy curtains drawn between them. Although I greeted them each day, it was never more than “How was the food today?” or “Wasn’t the rain so loud last night?” They too were lonely and bored.
So, I brought extra materials and invited them to join. As they both agreed without much hesitation, I opened up the privacy curtains and began teaching how to make finger puppets. The results were dog-looking piglings and long-necked roosters, but Gilbert and Anna both smiled for the first time all week, laughing at each others’ funny looking animals. From then on, I brought in craft materials for everyone.
My notebook was soon filled with ideas as searching for senior-friendly crafts became daily homework. After three weeks, colourful paper boxes organized their medicine bottles; pipe-cleaner flowers twined on the bedside handrails; and a paper rose even found its way to the nurses’ station. When my grandma was finally discharged, I was happy for her, but a little worried about Gilbert and Anna. Hugging them, I took one last glance at their bedside tables, now littered with handmade crafts.
The next school year, when my grandma would call, we reminisced about our hospital crafts and, sometimes, Gilbert and Anna. The crafts had brought us together, livened their moods, and provided them company. From then on, this special experience sat in the back of my mind, gradually becoming forgotten as time passed, until I randomly came across a piece of information: thirty-percent of my community consists of seniors—there are so many other “Gilberts” and “Annas”. This realization fueled me to go all the way back to that summer, reminding me of those laughter in a crammed hospital room. I want to bring the same change to my community: intimate care and intergenerational connection through crafting!
When another summer arrived, I contacted managers of senior facilities, outlined curriculums for potential crafting programs, researched the effects of art therapy for seniors, and lesson-planned for craft workshops. Before school started, I had successfully launched Teens to Seniors Art Society, or T2SA and was soon joined by some amazing people.
To date, we have been working tirelessly to provide improved care for seniors in our communities, and our progress made were only possible because of people like you. If you find yourself ready and motivated to contribute your efforts, don’t hesitate! Contact us for ways to help or simply make a donation—even a small contribution allows us to store more materials and to bring the fun to another senior!
Last summer, making pinwheels at a summer craft workshop, a lady asked me to pass her a piece of pink-flowery paper, saying, “It’s my granddaughter’s birthday next week. This is for her.” I went back to the moment when Anna asked for another piece of tissue-paper: “I’m making another one for that nurse. She always brings me my favorite flavor of juice!”
*The names "Anna" and "Gilbert" are made up for privacy concerns.