When residents attack

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Mary Gustafson, McKnight's Staff Writer
Mary Gustafson, McKnight's Staff Writer
It's mid-January. Snow and rain keep visitors indoors. Your residents are cranky and your nurses and CNAs seem to need more coffee than usual. You are knee-deep in the winter doldrums.

Indeed, winter, especially in colder climates, can take a toll on anyone's mood. But a little creativity and planning can make a world of difference for residents and employees.

The cure for one upstate New York assisted living community is an unconventional one: a good old-fashioned snowball fight. An annual tradition for the last four years, anyone who wants to can — and does — participate. But it's not the kind of snowball fight you're probably thinking of.

While Mill View Assisted Living, located in Cohoes, NY, is never at a loss for snow in the winter, a real snowball fight isn't practical for a community with an average age of 87. So instead of hurling tightly packed balls of the white, icy stuff, residents and staff launch hundreds of marshmallows at each other in the facility's dining area.

This year, a photographer from the Albany Times Union stopped by to cover the event, which is called the Snowman Soup Snowball Fight. Click here for photos.

As tradition dictates, says Robin Sage, the community's marketing and admissions coordinator, on the day of the event, the kitchen serves a variety of soups served in bread bowls, as well as sandwiches and cupcakes decorated with snowmen. After lunch and dessert are served, the tables are cleared and filled with mounds of marshmallows.

Participants come dressed up in their finest scarves, hats and gloves.

“You see the biggest smiles and laughs,” Sage says. “The most fun the residents have is going after the staff members. And staff members are charged with clean up.”

Sage says participants run all over the dining room chasing each other with marshmallows. Occasionally someone will step on a marshmallow and get it all over his or her shoe, but it's all a part of the fun. Once the supply of snowballs run out, residents and staff stick around for a couple hours and chat.

“It is 45 minutes of laughter and happiness and joy,” Sage explains. “Your sides will actually ache from laughing so much. It sets the mood for the whole rest of the week — they've just had such a wonderful time.”

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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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