There are some pairs you don’t automatically put together. But sometimes, the most surprising combinations create the best results.
At The Bridge at Ocala, Florida, that’s exactly what’s taking place. Their Intergenerational Program, started in collaboration with the Kinderoo Children’s Academy in February 2017, seeks to provide meaningful connections between children and the elderly residents.
The Bridge’s intergenerational program began after the children at Kinderoo Academy created birthday cards for the residents each month. The children would then deliver the cards and interact with the residents, which kicked off a tradition of having the children come on a regular basis to see the residents. Since the program began, the residents have participated in the school’s Halloween Trunk and Treat event, read books to the children in their classrooms and even dressed up as Christmas characters to visit the kids at school.
The program has had a tremendous impact in the community. Children learn appropriate manners, patience, tolerance and how to interact with people who are much older. The skills they learn through the program will stick with them throughout their lives.
The idea of pairing children with elderly residents isn’t too far-fetched, either. After all, the elderly are natural nurturers toward children, while the children bring a positive energy into the facility.
“My children do not have grandfathers because they died before they were born, and their grandmothers live in Puerto Rico,” says Ledmarie Rodriguez, resident care director at The Bridge at Ocala. “I see the benefits in my own children every time they visit the residents. The smiles and hugs are all over the room, and the kids and seniors are dancing and have a lot of fun!”
The Bridge is planning more events for children and seniors to come together. Rodriguez and her staff have plans to coordinate a talent show for both seniors and children, an art show and other onsite activities. Their goal for the year is to encourage both children and seniors to work on motor skills while helping bridge the gap between the generations.
“When the kids come, they give the best hugs, and they are so sweet to us,” says Carolyn Jeannotte, a resident at the facility. “They bring a lot of memories from my great grandkids that I don’t see often because they are out of state.”