The Senior Shades, an all-ladies local initiative whose purpose is “to give back to others,” is working on their first project together to deliver handmade, sewn pillows to people who might use them when coughing and need a cushion to brace themselves for chest support, according to David Dailey, recreational director at Garden Plaza of Cleveland.
Experts say such pillows can relieve pain from the surgical incision, protects against accidental bumps, helps ease edema, and may relieve shoulder tension. All the materials used by the Senior Shades — threads, patterns, backing, stuffing — are donated, including one sewing machine. Seniors in the assisted living facility are exhibiting more social skills, verbal interactions and enthusiasm for working on a project with a purpose, says the recreational staff.
“The excitement of getting out of their room and being excited about doing something — about giving back — is what I’m hearing more from these senior ladies,” Dailey said. “The thrill to hear a story about someone using a pillow that they made is something they really appreciate. When we started, these pillows were initially designed toward cancer patients. But they’re so close to a heart-shaped pillow that we thought, ‘Why not go ahead with both?’ I know it’s good that heart patients, after heart surgery, have something to grasp when they have to cough. So we’re going with both. Mostly it will go toward women who had a mastectomy. We’re going to start here at the cancer center in town and let them lead us to the best places to leave them.”
Some seniors sew pillows, others cut and stuff, while others donate material, funds and other resources to the project. What makes Senior Shades such a versatile group is not only their colorful characters but their approach to the group’s appearance. In summer months group members wear more yellow. In fall the color is purple. In winter they will be wearing blue and in spring they will be looking pretty in pink.
“It goes with the season and not only changes their outfits but it affects their mood as well,” said Lynda Copely, assistant recreational director. “I remember when we first started Senior Shades and we came out with the colors. We had a meeting and the ladies said, ‘It’s Senior Shades — not Senior Grey.’ They didn’t want grey in there. They came up with shades because they wanted to be different — to be bright and colorful. I think it benefits them tremendously because they want to come out of their rooms and express their talents. They are sharing experiences and bonding with each other. They’re having fun as a ladies group! At the same time we have a men’s group so they are not left out. I’m very excited to see this.”
Copely said senior residents Pauline Brackin and Ruth Hale are very skilled at sewing and are utilizing their expertise to help others.
“They have a tremendous talent and are teaching others how to sew. It’s creating a bond,” she said. “We’re including our logo and address with the pillow just in case someone wanted to send back a card to say thank you.”
Brackin, who has been at Garden Plaza for a few months after an ankle injury, said she enjoys doing something that helps others as well as doing service for the Lord.
“The women here have been really helpful. They’re all trying,” she said. “I enjoy helping them learn.”
The Senior Shades would like to deliver the special pillows to cancer and heart patients in the area, according to Dailey, who said his personal observation regarding the benefits of the program has been both positive and uplifting.
“It feels great starting this program,” he said. “I think just about everyone has been touched with cancer in their family somewhere down the road. Cancer itself is bad enough, but if you can put just a minute of a smile on someone’s face — it won’t cure them or get them over it — but just for a minute it could clear someone’s mind. That’s what these pillows are about. This particular program has created and sparked more interest in a men’s club.”
Started in June, Senior Shades has between 15 and 20 active members. The group meets every Monday to work on a sewing project.