Snow day grandma: Workers’ kids hang out with seniors

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On Friday, 95-year-old Isabelle Bylsma made a couple new friends: two grade-school boys named Alex and Noah.

She couldn’t stop smiling during their visit.

“They’re just wonderful. It makes me feel like a wonderful young grandma, ’cause I’m an old one, but it makes me feel young,” Bylsma joked to 24 Hour News 8.

The unexpected play date at Samaritas Senior Living in Grand Rapids, where Bylsma lives, wouldn’t have happened if not for the weeklong winter blast in West Michigan.

“We have over 250 seniors and they depend on 24/7 care and staff to be here,” Jana Broughton, the executive director at Samaritas, told 24 Hour News 8.

That means the facility can’t afford to grant workers the day off because of inclement weather, and many are parents whose kids haven’t been to school for days.

“We have not had school all week long, which has been such a struggle to find child care,” Rachel Westerhof, a scheduler at Samaritas, told 24 Hour News 8. “I’ve used all my resources.”

“I was a single parent when I was younger working in health care and I know the struggle that moms have trying to balance it,” Broughton said. “And Anna, my volunteer coordinator, and I said, ‘What if we brought the kids here?'”

So Friday, that’s exactly what they did. A group of kids and seniors played games and even did exercise activities together. It was clear the seniors didn’t mind their new guests; not one bit.

“They’re so easy to get along with and they’re playing so well. This has been a good day for them — and for me,” Bylsma said.

“I want him to be able to know all kinds of people,” Westerhof said of her son Alex. “It’s really great that he can come here and meet people and play and have fun and have these really great enriching experiences.”

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