Connecting the Young with the Young-at-Heart

When a local class of Grade 2 students needed to beef up their reading skills, Victoria Vantwel invited them to practice at Amica at St. Catharines Place. The Beyond the Book program paired residents with little ones to read together, but the program became so much more than story time. “After each encounter, residents would talk about their student’s abilities,” says Vantwel, Life Enrichment Coordinator at the senior living community. “But it wasn’t just about reading: there was excitement on both sides when they got to see their monthly reading buddies. The kids made thank you cards and Valentine’s cards for their seniors. I remember one resident jumped up off the couch and high-fived his buddy when he saw the little boy come running in to sit with him! They had built such an awesome connection simply by spending time together. Watching the children learn gave them hope for the future.”

Nurturing a sense of mutual respect and excitement is why we make intergenerational activities a regular part of life at Amica retirement communities. On Sundays, young people from a local church arrive at Amica at St. Catharines Place for a group service and hymn singing. “It creates meaningful relationships and helps students feel comfortable around seniors,” says Vantwel, since some young people don’t have grandparents.

Amica at Unionville has hosted school bands and distributed students’ letters to the resident war veterans. At Halloween, they send the community bus to a local daycare to fetch little ones and their caregivers: kids parade around in their costumes while seniors hand out treats. “The joy on residents’ faces when they interact with young people is unmatched by any other program I’ve done,” says Life Enrichment Coordinator Renee Welch. “The young people get to hear stories from the residents about what Halloween was like long ago. They learn about things from the residents’ lives that they will never experience in their own lifetimes. I think it’s very nostalgic for seniors, whether it makes them remember raising their children, or takes them back to their own childhoods.”

Samantha Edhouse has seen how visiting youth choirs, bands and drama groups have made an impression at Amica at Newmarket and helped build bridges between young and young-at-heart. “There’s something about the innocence in children that brings excitement and a spark to residents’ eyes,” says the Life Enrichment Coordinator, who remembers how a room was filled with laughter when an Amica staff member invited her moms’ group to the residence with their toddlers. “Some residents don’t have grandchildren of their own, so being exposed to a diversity of people is meaningful and helps them feel more a part of the community. The kids often walk into our building and are shocked at how big it is and all the facilities offered. I overhear many saying that they would love to live in a place like this, and how nice all the residents are. It’s a great way to help break stigmas surrounding seniors and retirement residences.”

When you’re ready to enrich your life with senior living, please find your nearest Amica community and book at tour.

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