An event for the ages: Life Care Center residents mingle with kids at country fair

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By Barbara Ford

Some things never change.

At a fair, the band will always play “You Are My Sunshine,” and kids will eat sweets and run everywhere they go. There are quilts and cornhusks, and everyone wears brightly colored hats and spends a little too much time in the sun.

Also, ask a woman her age, and she’ll tell you that you don’t want to know. That’s how most of the female residents of the Life Care Center in Evergreen responded to questions about their age.

The Old-Fashioned Country Fair on Aug. 12 had what would be deemed typical events: horseshoes, a corn-shucking contest, a sponge toss and a cakewalk. Haney’s Homemade Jam band played old favorites that had residents mouthing long-forgotten words to distant music memories. The sweet bluegrass music transformed an ordinary parking lot into a country fair.

But the best part for the residents was the arrival of the children.

A couple dozen children joined about 40 Life Care Center residents for a two-hour fair that was as much about playing games as it was about allowing the kids and the residents to interact.

Mary Cash of Evergreen has been volunteering at the Life Care Center, at 2987 Bergen Peak Drive, for two months. She brings her two children, Britton, 4, and Calvin, 3, for a visit with residents, and she sees the benefit for everyone. They spent time talking and, more important, listening.

“I like the mutual benefit for the kids and residents and each other’s company,” Cash says. “We’ve got the time, and they’ve got the time.”

Cash and her children take time to visit with residents, crouching down to eye level with a woman wearing a bright red hat who sits in a wheelchair. Cash and her son Britton listen intently to the quiet whisperings of an old voice that couldn’t remember how to yell if it had to.

Marilyn Herrs, recreation director for the Life Care Center, is always looking for ways to get residents outside and involved in activities. Six years ago, Herrs and the Life Care Center staff came up with the idea of an old-fashioned fair complete with events that would stir memories in the older residents.

Herrs had noticed that the residents’ faces light up when they see kids, and she contacted home-schooling organizations and Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen for young volunteers. Herrs saw that the interaction between the kids and the residents was relaxed and natural.

“The interaction was warm and heartwarming,” Herrs said.

Residents such as Gina Vurnham, 90, liked being outside for the fair. Vurnham participated in the corn-shucking contest and was surprised that she cleaned off an ear of corn in 49 seconds.

“I have arthritis in my hands and everywhere else — well, except my eyes!” Vurnham said with a smile.

Ciara Hagston, 7, of Lakewood came to visit her Uncle Tim Fager, who gives his age as “37” but in reality is a spring chicken of 61.

“I came to see Uncle Tim, and my cousin came with me,” Ciara said.

Ciara’s cousin, Samuel McCrary, 7, of Lakewood, was sitting on a llama provided by Soda Creek Llamas.

Meanwhile, when Virginia Morris, who was sporting a red calico prairie hat a la “Little House on the Prairie, was asked her age, her misty eyes came alive to the question. With a snappy response that could have come from any slightly vain 50-year-old woman, she said, “You DON’T want to know.”

Some things don’t change.

Herrs says the Life Care Center will continue to hold such events to let the community know it’s here and that residents are well cared for.

“This community is incredible,” Herrs said.