St. Michael’s students bond with seniors
By Emily Sorensen
A joint project between St. Michael’s School and Sunshine Care, an assisted living and memory care home in Poway, has led to fun and growth for two generations.
The inter-generational program, “The Great Friendship Link,” has students in kindergarten through fourth grade meeting up once a month with resident of Sunshine Care for games, crafts and more. Began in 2008 by principal Kathleen Mock after being approached by Sunshine Care, the program includes 12 classrooms. Once a month, a classroom visits Sunshine Care and interacts with residents who have volunteered, with about 30 students and 20 residents meeting and interacting each month.
Each meeting is closely planned by teachers and Sunshine Care’s director of activities, Lisa Lipsey, in order to ensure that both the students and the residents of Sunshine Care are participating in a variety of activities that enable them to interact, stimulate, educate, support and care for one another. The lessons are also planned to work around any special needs the residents may have, like limited mobility and hearing and vision problems.
Some of the projects the students and residents have worked on together include making Valentine’s Day cards for veterans living in a local veterans hospital, crafting a three-dimensional, eight-foot long dragon art project that they hung from the ceiling, and, to learn about the human body, exercising and learning to take their pulse. A healthy snack is also always offered. The visits always conclude with hugs, handshakes and high-fives, which Lipsey said is probably the seniors’ favorite part of the whole visit.
There are also occasional special events for the junior high school age kids, including a dance, where senior ballroom dancers taught the seventh-grade students how to dance.
The visits are also reciprocal, as the seniors are invited to visit St. Michael’s School for theater productions, Mardi Gras and grandparent’s day.
For many of the residents, who are generally between their 70s and their 90s, this is a chance to be a grandparent to new students every month. Lipsey also said it’s a fun experience for many of the women, who were teachers when they were young. “You can tell that many were in the [teaching] field,” said Lipsey.
More than just teaching the students about community service and providing a creative outlet, the program is also a huge benefit to the residents of Sunshine Care, many of whom have Alzheimer’s or other memory issues. The visits keep the residents stimulated and help fight off the loneliness that can come from living apart from family.
“What started out as a few classes going to visit the residents has grown into a much larger partnership leaving a deep impact on many lives. I know our visits bring a lot of joy and pleasure to the residents. What is more rewarding is to see the same joy and excitement reflected on the children’s faces,” said vice principal Elizabeth Joseph in a letter.
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