As friends gather together to watch their favorite TV show or attend a basketball game on Thursday night, Whitney Morton and Erin Traynor are able to get together to sing hymns, play games and share stories with some of their older friends.
Through Oklahoma Baptist University's Age to Age ministry, Morton and Traynor spend every Monday and Thursday night at Shawnee Care Center visiting with the elderly residents.
"Our hearts lie in that we just want to spend time with the residents," said Morton. "For some of them, their families don't even come to see them, so they look forward to us coming."
Morton and Traynor, along with the other Age to Age participants, have a simple list of activities for each visit: sit and listen. Whether the residents are able to interact or not, the Age to Age participants want to spend their time serving and sitting with the residents.
"Just going and sitting with them is sometimes the best thing you can do," said Traynor. "Whether they are happy or depressed, we just go and join them where they are at."
After three consistent years with Age to Age, Morton and Trayner have developed close relationships with some of the residents. The Age to Age participants are sometimes the only visitors the residents get throughout the week. So residents like Lois anxiously look forward to the bi-weekly visit.
"She loves it. Her face just lights up when I walk in," said Morton. "She saves cookies for me from her dinner and gives me anything she can. She thinks about me and I know that I'm important to her. That's the best part."
Each Thursday, Morton and Traynor incorporate more into their visit. With the help of students Hannah Wood playing the piano and Angela Jansen playing the flute, the Age to Age participants sing hymns with the residents. Traynor said that even residents who cannot interact or talk with her will sometimes cry or show emotion during the music time.
"It's cool to see how the musical aspect of worship is in tune with the hearts of the residents," said Traynor.
Though the residents are the focus of Age to Age, the participants have noticed how their time at Shawnee Care Center influences more than the residents.
"Having the nurses see us come in and share in their burden twice a week makes their burden a little lighter," said Traynor. "The nurses realize that some of the residents can't react to us or even remember us, but they see us come in again week after week and that is a big encouragement for them."
After more than 10 years, Age to Age continues to grow and serve the elderly in the Shawnee community. As Morton and Traynor pass on their leadership role, they have high hopes for Age to Age's future.
The ministry program is one of the eight local outreach efforts coordinated by OBU's Campus Ministry Office.