Students at French Ford Middle school and residents of Humboldt General
Hospital's long-term care facility have begun a new year of bridge
building between today's youth and the elderly.
Following in a tradition begun by teacher Maryjo Dufurrena, Lila Wilkin's
fifth-grade class is now making monthly trips to Harmony Manor to visit
with residents and to do fun crafts and activities.
The intergenerational exchange began two years ago, and this year, Mrs.
Wilkin was offered the chance to take over. She said her response was
simply: "Oh, could I?"
"I love this!" she continued, "I have a great class and
they are wonderful."
Harmony Manor Activities Director Robin Moore said this year's students
kicked off their 2013-2014 exchange in September with a simple craft and
snacks. Each month will feature another craft or activity. By the end
of the school year, the students will not only have made some special
memories, they will also have a new group of friends.
"This has been a fantastic thing, not only for our residents but for
the students as well," said Moore of the intergenerational get-togethers.
Moore 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.
For their part, Moore 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.
Mrs. Wilkin said some of her students were a little nervous at first about
their monthly visits. "There was a little bit of reservation there
for some," she said, while other students who had experience with
an older loved one "were busy reassuring the others."
"But now look at them," said a smiling Mrs. Wilkin during the
September activity as small clusters of children and the elderly gathered
around tin foil, clay, tongue depressors, pom poms and other assorted
craft items. "They are so excited; they teach me so much."
One resident of Harmony Manor said she can't do many of the activities
due to complications from diabetes, "but I just love being with the
students," she said. "It's good for us and good for them."
Dorothy Brinkoetter was visiting a friend at Harmony Manor when the children
arrived for their monthly visit. She said her friend hardly ever participates
in social activities, "but this draws her out. She loves being with
Moore said that's the idea behind the exchange. "We want these
two groups to realize that friendship is timeless. It has nothing to do
with age, location or circumstance, but is simply the product of an open
and willing heart."