Bringing Generations Together in Friendship, Learning

Students at the Waldorf School of St. Louis are learning life lessons from Webster Groves seniors.

Today’s modern culture is filled with glowing blue screens of distraction and parents often complain that getting their children interested in non-digital activities is difficult, at best. The students at the Waldorf School of St. Louis, however, are making intergenerational activities part of their curriculum and proving that relationships between elders and children can provide warmth and appreciation that can’t be felt through a tiny screen.

The Healthy Aging Partnership, a non-profit organization created to promote health and wellbeing for older adults, reports that intergenerational activities are an important component necessary for health and wellbeing of seniors. These exchanges benefit seniors by allowing them see the world through the eyes of youth, stimulating excitement and wonder while simultaneously decreasing feelings of isolation and boredom.

Children, too, can benefit from such relationships and often come to view their new senior friends as role models and mentors. According to Kathleen Burk, activities manager at Provision Living at Webster Groves, many of the fourth and fifth graders who visit with residents at her assisted living and memory care community actually think of them as “second grandparents.”

“The kids come visit with us on a regular basis throughout the school year and they spend time talking to the residents and sharing stories about what’s going on in their lives,” says Burk. “The school’s curriculum is build around the stages of child development and focuses on how they learn as well as what they learn. By spending time with elders in their community they’re learning a whole host of things they might not otherwise learn about, like life during the great depression or how to churn butter from milk.”

Each visit offers a different activity in which students and residents participate, such as art projects, board games and cards. The students even invited residents to attend their school play and introduced their parents and family members to their friends at Provision Living.

“It’s so touching to see that the kids value these relationships and that these seniors who were once strangers are now truly friends. Some of the parents have even told me that their child now comes home from school with stories about their favorite resident – they even know their names by heart – and that they look forward to their visits with them,” says Burk, reflecting on the importance of these visits.

Though the school year is coming to a close and the fifth graders will move on to other types of community-based activities in their sixth grade year, but Burk plans to continue this partnership with the Waldorf School of St. Louis for the foreseeable future. They’re even planning a event to close out the 2016 school year and allow the children and residents to say a proper farewell.

“I can’t deny that there’s a bond there. Our residents just light up when they know the kids are coming to visit with them. I’m thankful that the Waldorf School promotes activities like this and is going the extra mile to bring different generations together. It’s exactly the type of partnership that we encourage here at Webster Groves.”

For more information about connecting your school, organization or group with the vibrant seniors at Webster Groves, please contact Kathleen Burke: kburke@www.provisionliving.com or (314) 918-7300.

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