FFMS Students, Harmony Seniors Enjoy Year of Getting to Know Each Other

Students at French Ford Middle school and residents of Harmony Manor are working together to bridge the gap between today's youth and older adults.

According to Mendi Fayal, Activities Director for Humboldt General Hospital's Harmony Manor long-term care facility, the students and the residents have been spending this year getting to know each other.

Maryjo Dufurrena's fifth-grade class makes monthly trips to Harmony Manor to visit with residents and to do fun crafts and activities. Fayal said the two groups began interacting last year with great success and will continue through the 2012-2013 school year.

"This has been a fantastic thing, not only for our residents but for the students as well," said Fayal of the intergenerational get-togethers.

"How often have you said to yourself, 'I should take time to learn more about my grandparents,' or 'I've been meaning to talk to my parents about their lives when they were young; one of these days I will.'"

Fayal continued, "These are treasured memories; we need to get to know the history of our elders before it's too late. We also need to give our youth the chance to share their talents and contribute to society."

Over the past months, the students and residents have enjoyed making holiday decorations, painting planters, planting flowers, and baking.

In the coming months, students will interview and write stories about each of the residents, which will be bound into book format. Each participant will receive a copy, thanks to a grant from Newmont Mining Corporation.

"The students are full of energy and have an eagerness to work alongside and assist the residents in whatever the day's task is," said Fayal. "Both the residents and the students have the opportunity to learn a lot from each other during the activities."

Fifth-grader Destine Enriquez said, "I have learned a lot about the residents, and they have lived interesting lives. I love coming to Harmony Manor; it is so much fun!"

Student Kylee Bennett said, "I have learned that no matter how young or how old you are we are all somewhat the same."

Fayal said the monthly interactions give the children an opportunity to become familiar with the issues of aging, which can involve wheelchairs, life support equipment, intravenous equipment, or disabilities associated with getting older.

"This is a great way to break down those barriers and debunk old stereotypes," said Fayal. "We have seen firsthand that the young and the elderly do bond and they can become lifelong friends."

For their part, Fayal said the monthly interactions give residents the opportunity to reminisce about activities they may have been involved in as children, and to share them with the youth.

Student Nicholas Warner said "What I like about going to Harmony Manor is we get to know about the residents' lives, what they did as kids and who their friends were."

Fayal said many residents' grandchildren do not have live close enough to visit often "so these intergenerational activities give them an opportunity to still contribute and be a positive influence on the next generation."

She continued, "Really, what we're seeing is that these activities can enliven two very diverse groups in our community that have so much to give."

Fayal added, "It's our hope to start a movement by creating not only a positive and welcoming environment at Harmony Manor for these two groups, but to encourage other youth groups to become involved in connecting with seniors throughout our community."