Alaska Life

Bright spots: Kids are writing notes to seniors isolated in nursing homes. Here’s how yours can, too.

Editor’s note: We’re collecting stories about how Alaskans are helping each other get through a tough time. Do you see a bright spot in your community? Send us a tip at We’re all in this together.

Nursing home notes

Almost all visits with the elderly residents of Alaska’s nursing homes have been restricted due to concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.

At the same time, school has been canceled, and a lot of children are stuck at home for a while.

Hoping to connect the two groups and combat the feelings of isolation during a difficult time, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association has created a site where kids can upload cheery messages, drawings, photos and videos for elderly residents to see.

“All sorts of things are coming in, really cute drawings, notes of encouragement saying, that we’re all Alaskans, and we’re thinking about you,” said Connie Beemer, the association’s vice president. “We got at least one video with some dancing.”

Beemer said about 20 messages were uploaded a day after the “Alaska Caring Notes” project started.

People can go to the site and upload text, images or video. Activities directors at nursing home facilities across the state will be able to download them and share them with people in the nursing homes, either by reading them aloud, printing them or showing them on a mobile device, Beemer said.


With in-person visits on pause, Beemer said it’s important that people frequently call and FaceTime their family members in nursing homes. Community notes are no substitute for one-on-one connections with loved ones.

She advised people to get in touch with the nursing home where a relative is staying if they need information on how to stay in touch with that person by email or video.

Still, Alaska Caring Notes is "a good way for kids who are at home to express love and support to a generation that needs it right now.”

Beemer said there’s talk of nursing home organizations in Ohio, Virginia and Maine making their own version of the program.

Virtual storytime

Anchorage florist and blogger Natasha Price will read your children a bedtime story tonight -- via Instagram.

Starting last last weekend, Price has been holding a live readings of children’s books from 7-7:30 p.m. on Instagram stories.

A few days ago, Price said, when “it really hit me we might be in this for the long haul.” Recalling a story she had once heard about a librarian in the Lower 48 reading stories aloud on social media, she dug out all of her son’s bedtime books (and some of her own from when she was little) and put the word out she’d be offering a “virtual storytime” each night.

“It’s been an uplifting part of my day as I am adjusting to working from home and attempting to home-school my 7-year-old son for the first time,” Price said. “I’ve even had non-parents tell me they’ve like tuning in.”

You can tune in to Price’s virtual storytime on Instagram @ak.natashaprice. (If you miss it at 7 p.m., that’s OK-- Instagram will keep the video up for 24 hours.)

The Anchorage Public Library has also launched a virtual storytime on its Facebook page.

Curbside art exhibit

Some old racks found a new purpose at the The International Gallery of Contemporary Art downtown.

The gallery, which is devoted to new and experimental forms of Alaska art, had to shutter its annual member’s show this month, which included over 100 pieces from 75 artists. It’s an important show that’s been going on since the ’80s, gallery manager Karinna Gomez said.

“Our members are really important for the gallery. I don’t know that the gallery could continue without them,” Gomez said.

The gallery is working to post images of the show and the artworks online as a kind of virtual exhibit, but they decided to go a step further. Using some hanging racks they’d been storing with no clear purpose in mind, staff set up a portion of the show in the gallery window and lit it so people can see pieces as they pass by, day or night.

“Art has power to uplift in times of difficulty, and we ‘re really trying to celebrate artists and use it in that way,” Gomez said.

The art in the window will rotate weekly, probably through the end of April, Gomez said.

Victoria Barber

Victoria Barber was formerly the features editor at the Anchorage Daily News and is an occasional contributor.