Generations learn to connect through COVID-19
Addressing ageism, myths of aging, and having the opportunity to have genuine interactions with seniors is not typically a topic of conversation in many elementary schools. Kids are often too focused on the here and now. Carefor’s Carling Adult Day programs want to change that.
Carling Adult Day programs, offering a mental health social support group for isolated seniors and a respite program for individuals living with dementia, is leading community initiatives that show the value and importance of bringing generations together. Program staff have been exploring and facilitating meaningful interactions between young people and older adults.
To bring this idea to fruition, day program staff Meghan Kenny connected with Dr. Jenny Small, the director of St. Timothy’s Classical Academy. Dr. Small was delighted with the idea of having her students participate in the Intergenerational Program.
Beginning in October 2019, groups of Grade 3 to Grade 8 students closely interacted with day program clients for more than an hour. Each group visited the programs once prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting future meetups.
“We wanted to show students that while it’s easy to imagine an older senior, they often don’t see them as people with individual likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. We really wanted them to see how seniors are much like them, but just older,” says Meghan. “This initiative is also a great opportunity for seniors to connect with students and relate to them in a different world then the one they grew up in.”
Despite COVID-19 derailing the project, Dr. Small encouraged her students to continue to connect with seniors during this time of heightened social isolation.
“The lockdown, although protecting vulnerable people from serious illness, has unfortunately increased social isolation and exacerbated the effects of dementia and other mental illnesses amongst seniors,” says Dr. Small. “It’s vital to help them feel connected to society and feel a sense of being cared for.”
As a result of this initiative, 44 students have been paired with seniors, mailing messages of hope and best wishes to them during this challenging time. For Let’s Get Together Club client Isobel Heron, 90 years of age, she shared how the personal letter she received from a student really warmed her heart.
“I was surprised and quite pleased to receive a young man’s letter. In the letter Thaddeus said that he and his mom are praying for me and keeping me in their thoughts. Isn’t that interesting, that we are three generations apart and they are thinking of me? I was really touched by that comment.”
While the students and seniors are not physically able to spend time together, they are staying connected virtually during this, and that is what really matters.
“It’s important to show our seniors that we love, respect and value them as important members of our community. Although they may feel more isolated now, as a result of the pandemic, we must do our best to ensure they know we care about them,” Meghan says.
Learn more about Carefor’s Adult Day programs and how they are making a difference in our community. Our programs rely heavily on fundraised dollars - please offer your support during this time of need by giving at carefor.ca/donate.