Try Trick or Treating at a Nursing Home–It’s a Win-Win!

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

It  is no secret that trick or treating is not the same as it was when I was a kid, and I’m not even that old. Since we lived in the country, my mom would drop us off in a neighborhood in town and come pick us up hours later, once our pillowcase bags were full of candy.

In the years between my childhood and the days I had my own little trick or treaters to dress up, a lot had changed. Few people trusted their neighbors to hand out non-poisoned candy and the fear of a child abduction was on every parent’s mind. With our own children we mostly relied on the short street we lived on in Missouri, where we knew all of the neighbors and then a trunk or treat event that was held through our church in Utah.

The year we lived in Washington, D.C., was a challenge. We knew only one of our neighbors and she had no plans to be home for the holiday. We had not found a church yet so couldn’t partake in that type of party. A friend of my daughter came up with the perfect solution. Every year she and her family trick or treated at the local nursing home, where her grandmother lived. The residents there clapped and oohed and ahhed over the costumes and each had a bowl full of candy to hand out. Even my youngest, a two-year-old at the time, had a full bag that night, with very minimal walking. It was definitely a win-win.

Fast forward a few years and we found ourselves living in Upstate New York. I briefly worked in the Alzheimer’s unit of a local nursing home and once the Halloween decorations started going up, I was reminded of our trick or treating adventure back in D.C. My kids were getting close to the age where they didn’t want to dress up anymore and I was trying my best to squeeze just a couple more Halloweens out of them. Nursing home trick or treating seemed like a good fit.

On Halloween night we showed up and saw the delighted faces of the residents I worked with every day. Even the ones trapped deeply in Alzheimer’s seemed to perk up and enjoy watching costumed children wander by. My middle son soon figured out that no one minded if you took a few extra tours on the circle that made up the unit, as some of the residents wouldn’t remember his first visit, and the ones who did were thrilled to see him come by again. He smiled and chatted with each of them and in return got a pretty nice stash of candy.

If you are in a similar situation, or just want to do something that would mean the world to an elderly person, consider calling up your local nursing home and inquire about their Halloween plans. Many of them host the trick or treating event and welcome everyone, not just relatives of the residents. Because a lot of the relatives live too far away to visit, having some fill-in families is a welcome addition.

Some facilities might even offer the event on a night before Thursday, which means you can make the holiday special for someone else and still get your time to trick our treat in a neighborhood or at a church party.