Every Tuesday, Brandy Quaderer, Life Enrichment Director at Oliver Woods, sees the growing excitement in the eyes of her residents.
At almost the same time, Megan Friend witnesses the same high spirits from her 3rd grade class at Owosso’s Central Elementary. These two age groups spend an hour together every week and have built an extraordinary relationship that has allowed each to learn more about the world around them.
“This is the definition of a win-win scenario.” said Quaderer. “The relationship-building at all levels is priceless; watching the joy the residents receive from interacting with the students fills my heart. Every Tuesday, we will hear them talking about ‘my kid’ coming to visit and how they’re looking forward to reading with them, doing a craft, or just talking. Those are the touching moments that make them happy.”
The program, first suggested by Friend 4 years ago, matches the tenet of embracing lifelong learning, one of the 8 core values within the 26 Leisure Living Management communities:
Friend added that the experience at Oliver Woods provides her students with lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom. The children hear first-hand stories from military veterans who served overseas or how it was growing up in simpler times and, also, how to be professional in careers that stretch from ‘factories to farms’.
“Around every part of our curriculum, we can find something that these men and women can help us better understand and learn. Our kids can talk and teach the seniors what it’s like growing up in the world today. It is mutually beneficial.” she said.
To illustrate one of the ways a senior is impacted by the children’s visit, Quaderer tells the story of a woman, a former teacher living with dementia. “She often has trouble conversing with staff but when the students visit, it ‘flips a switch’; she finds that greatness that’s inside of her and she finds it in the children too. She’s back in her school-teaching days. Her face reflects pure delight. We’re very grateful and blessed for Megan and her students.”
Approximately, 20 Oliver Woods residents participate in the weekly visits by being ‘buddied-up’ with students. Others in the community take part in various events like a recent Easter egg hunt and other activities.
“It’s precious what they bring to us and what our residents give to them.” Quaderer mused.
Similarly, Friend has nothing but praise for the bonds being built between tomorrow’s leaders and their predecessors. “They have so much life experience to give us and it is truly incredible.” the teacher said.