Success Stories

Helping Hands

Photo of helping hands

In Native American cultures, Elders are the wisdom keepers. They carry and pass on the language, stories, values, and cultural teachings.

Honoring them can come in many different forms, but recognizing their wisdom and respecting their contributions is a very important practice. We need to be good role models for future generations so they can continue to pass on these practices.

Sadly, many of our tribal Elders no longer live independently.

Some of them find themselves living in a residential setting or a nursing home. This is the case for nearly 40 Elders residing at a nursing home on the eastern portion of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Photo of elder students

Mary, of the Martin Community Action Program (CAP), is a longtime Program Partner serving her community, which is also located on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

She approached Linay, the Activities Director for the nursing home, early in the spring to co-host an intergenerational activity.

The pitch was to “improve generational activities by sponsoring interactions between 4-H members, CAP students, recipients, and Elders of the nursing home” where Linay worked.

Mary has utilized many of our services to benefit her community — particularly the Elders. The Community Event Service was a perfect complement to this meeting of hearts and minds of all generations. As studies indicate, intergenerational visits benefit both the youth and the aging.

Female Elder enjoying getting nails polished

Linay was on board immediately. The Extension Staff that oversees the 4-H program had the interested students while the nursing home had the Elders — all of whom were deserving of this special day.

The students determined that a mini-makeover would be provided to the female residents and the men would have a book read to them. Each student came armed with a smile, a bag of goodies (provided through our Community Event Service) and a list of questions to engage the Elder in conversation.

The questions they prepared included, “Where were you born? Where did you live most of your life? What was your favorite job? Did your school have running water or did you have to pump the water at school?”

Elder male enjoying story being read

A steady hand, and in some cases a helping heart, was required for the nail polishing. To keep the mess to a minimum, special polish was used to make the painting easier. The Elders were given their choice of color. Then, the first — and sometimes second coat — was applied carefully. After the polish dried, the real artistry began. Smiley faces, butterflies, flowers, and a different image were applied on each finger.

One of the Elders, Cecelia, proudly showed off her nails after Laura, one of the students, had painted them. Even through her dark glasses, Cecelia could see all the artistic details that Laura put into polishing Cecilia’s nails.

Once the books were read and the nails were polished, the young people knew that they would return for another activity. Honoring Elders wasn’t just for a day, but rather as part of the service to their responsible and caring community members.

Thank you for helping make this day possible.