The basic story plays out across the country. A man and woman live out their dream of growing old together. They buy a home. After many years, they lean on each other for more than companionship. As their health declines, they rely on their spouse to survive. At one time, they’d put their time and energy in maintaining their investment of a house, but that gets harder. The couple’s lives revolve totally around each other and their home.
A spouse then passes away and the other remains to stand guard over the home, alone.
Eventually, it’s time for the remaining spouse to give up total independence, and she moves into a residential facility where she can receive the help she needs. Her purpose to maintain the home is gone. Her houseful of possessions are condensed into a single room. She once existed in solitude, but now is surrounded by people. Lots of them. Yet, she still feels alone.
But a group of Fremont, Ohio, Stonecroft women are working to change this story of isolation in their area. They take joy into four residential care facilities scattered across their area, helping residents develop friendships through the bond of music, laughter, and learning.
Barbara Moran-Engler was in one of the Fremont facilities visiting her mother-in-law about six years ago. A Stonecroft Bible Study (SBS) coordinator, she looked around and thought, What a great place to do a Bible study! She talked with the administrator who liked the idea of bringing SBS to the facility. So, the nondenominational study began and has grown into an important part of participants’ lives.
Now, 10 women from the Fremont Area Women’s Connection (WC) form teams to meet twice a month at each facility. After welcoming residents into a comfortable atmosphere, the groups sing, listen to jokes, and hear a shortened SBS lesson. They pray and hear the Gospel. They also do a little handwork such as a simple puzzle paper and take colorful pages of Scripture art back to their rooms. These creative pages are posted on mirrors as reminders of the lesson and sometimes end up in commons areas to brighten others’ days.
When there’s a vacancy on an SBS team, it’s been easily filled. Recently, Barbara advertised to the WC group that some substitute musicians were temporarily needed to play for the song time at the facilities. Three women immediately consented, and when the time for commitment ended, they asked to remain part of the teams. The joy in building relationships often flows in both directions.
Sometimes health issues prevent residents from attending the small groups. The Stonecroft women often visit residents in rooms to spread joy through singing and friendly conversation. They recently made their way to the room of a man to present him with a special cupcake for his 93rd birthday. These Stonecroft women take extra effort to make sure residents are bonding with other people.
“We take the time to be friends with the residents,” says Donna Miller, the guitarist for some of the studies. “They need friendship and camaraderie. Our groups bring a sense of community in a time of life when they need it most.”