Christmas: A time for the young, the young at heart
By Whitney Skeeters
No where in Madison illustrates this more perfectly than the Madison House Assisted Living.
On Friday, December 12, plenty of both livened the scene at 167 West Jefferson Street. Morgan County Elementary School's student government body visited the Madison House in the midst of the house's nearly month-long holiday celebration. More than 30 third, fourth, and fifth grade students arrived that morning bearing gifts and plenty of that infectious Christmas excitement only a child can generate.
Playing host to young carolers each year is only one of many ways owner Albert Perera ensures residents thoroughly enjoy the holidays.
Perera jumpstarted the season on the morning of December 1 by encouraging residents to get up and out of their rooms to help him decorate the large Christmas tree that stands in their living room.
"Some of them said, 'Christmas is 25 days away'!" said Perera. "But we start early here! You only live once, enjoy every minute of it!"
Residents Sadie Porter and Inez Jones were two seniors eager to dive into the festivities that day.
"The ornaments look real pretty," Porter said. "We are really enjoying them."
Jones said she liked listening to and singing "just about everything" with the group as they transformed the house with decorations and eased into that familiar Christmas spirit.
"It really is a fun time of year," Jones said.
Three days later, it was time to take the picture for the Madison House Christmas card. Funny holiday hats weren't just the style, they were practically a requirement that day. Attempts to resist a smile were futile: a look in any direction would entail at least one of their roommates decked in either reindeer ears or a Santa or elf hat. Perera positioned everyone into just the right place while the seniors joked and caused a little mischief.
When Perera went to help Kathryn Everitt up, she took his hand and began dancing with him to the holiday tunes blaring from the music player.
Another resident urged him, with just a tiny bit of sass, to take the picture already: "I can't stay pretty for long!"
Enjoying the scene that lay before her, Lottie Hodges exclaimed, "Isn't it great!"
Ernest "Bud" Arthur, a harmonica player for the past 80 years and a Madison House resident for two, regaled the group with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" and received a round of applause.
Residents have even more to look forward to as December 25 approaches. The House usually has a nativity scene, a bus trip around the city and Lake Oconee to see the Christmas lights, a much-anticipated Christmas dinner with family and friends, and residents can always count on a sharp increase in visitor traffic.
Perera said people drop by the house all the time to sing, play the piano, tell stories, or just hang out. Many individuals and local choir groups come out to perform religious and Christmas songs.
Shirley Evans has been a nurse at the Madison House for five years, and someone Perera considers his "top gun." Evans said that although the residents love the holidays, it can also be a time when some get homesick and want to be home for the holidays.
"We comfort them, listen to stories," said Evans. "You've got to be there for them when their family can't be."
"We just try to make them happy and make them feel at home. This is a family environment," Perera said. "I do Christmas here as if it were my own home."
Many would say the hard work of Perera, Evans and the rest of the stafff pays off.
Linda Pritchett's mother and her grandmother are both residents of the Madison House.
"Everyone seems really happy here," said Pritchett. "I think they do a great job."
The residents truly enjoy each visitor, but it's no surprise which group elicits the most smiles.
"They love it when the kids come," said Perera.
"We've been doing this for years. The kids really love it," said Alesha Knight, MCES teacher and a student government council chairperson. "It is a wonderful thing."
Each year, the kids distribute cards made by their peers at school to the residents and then gather in the living room to perform all types of holiday music. They've even been known to take requests.
The Madison House is clearly the place to be for the festive-inclined, the naughty, the nice, and especially the young at heart during December.
"It is just wonderful – that's all I can say," Lottie Hodges said.