Not everyone ‘home for the holidays’

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The Christmas spirit will soon fill the behemoth house at 202 West Shiawassee Ave. in Fenton. Festive music from carolers and violinists will reverberate through the halls. Family will come and mingle, taking their kin back to their homes to witness grandchildren unwrapping gifts. Visiting children will brighten the faces of the elderly, invoking memories of gatherings past.

For the members of Rockwell Assisted Living in Fenton, Christmas is a time of family and community inclusion.

And while these small gestures may seem innocuous, it defines one of the year’s most important holidays for the residents.

“With the elderly, it’s the small things that matter,” said Marcia Coons, who has been working at Rockwell for the past three years. “It’s nice to see children interact with the elderly. We had Santa here last year and the residents really enjoyed it.”

Since most of the residents of Rockwell are wheelchair bound or have physical limitations, many of them are not seen in public.

But in Fenton, not everyone who is out of sight is out of thought. Church members will come and hold services. Students from local schools will sing and involve themselves in activities with residents such as baking or crafts. Coons said preschoolers came and visited last year, donating stuffed animals.

“I’ve been here eight years and (Rockwell) has been very good to me,” said 72-year-old resident Laura Fox. Although technology and social views have changed throughout her lifetime, Fox said the meaning of Christmas remains the same. “It’s Christ’s birthday. It’s an opportunity for me to get with my family, to give hugs and kisses. It’s just a nice time.”

Residents dress in Christmas clothing and decorate their rooms. Staff coordinates activities and a feast for residents and visitors. Christmas movies dominate the television screen, as they would at any other home.

Marjorie Pratt, who has lived at Rockwell for the past decade, said that while Christmas is always enjoyable at the assisted living home, she has noticed differences some years, particularly with visitors and donations.

“It’s getting to be the pits around here the past two years,” the 70-year-old resident said, noting that the economy may have been a factor in activity. “But it’ll get better, it always does. Most years it’s pretty good.”

As a 24-hour care facility, workers will have to spend some of their Christmas with residents. Coons said she has holiday activities with her family before and after Dec. 25 in order to be at Rockwell on Christmas. For Coons however, having to reschedule her own holiday plans is inconsequential.

“I enjoy the residents and bringing a smile to their faces,” Coons said. “We make the residents feel loved and wanted.”


This story appeared in “The Tri-County Times” Saturday, December 1st and was written by William Axford.
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