A new intergenerational program offers benefits to Comox Valley children and seniors, according to organizers.
The pilot program, which started four weeks ago, sees Valley View kindergarten students visit Berwick Comox Valley once per week to do learning activities alongside Berwick’s senior residents.
“We’re really enjoying it,” Valley View kindergarten teacher Karen Reimer says. “It’s wonderful for us to see the relationships that are starting to develop between the children and the residents … for our students especially, it just gives them a broader sense of their community and it gives the residents a chance to share their knowledge and experience, as well.”
The kids are “very excited on our Berwick mornings,” she continues. “They’re starting to remember some of the seniors, and they look forward to seeing them again, and wondering what activity we’re going to be doing.”
The program was started in partnership between the Comox Valley School District and Berwick Comox Valley. Valley View’s two kindergarten classes alternate Thursday mornings at Berwick so that each class goes every two weeks. A handful of interested Berwick residents have formed a core group of regular participants.
The learning theme was names this past Thursday, so after some discussion on the subject, students were split into groups to create art using their names. Seniors sat at each of the student group tables helping students do their projects, and getting to know them.
Berwick resident Barbara Shearer says she’s glad she tried the program as she now comes every week.
“I think it’s an amazing program,” says Shearer, noting the children, who are four and five years old, are smart and observant.
“I like children. I like to be with them. The older I get the better I like to be with them, and they’re so cute,” she adds with a laugh.
Berwick general manager Jackie Holt is pleased with the success of the program, pointing out it has surpassed her expectations in terms of the benefits to Berwick residents.
“What’s really important, that I’m seeing in the residents is, not only the contact with young children, but also the opportunity for them to reminisce about when they were children,” she says, adding it can be difficult for seniors to remember their lives when they were young children, and spending time with children can help trigger those memories.
“Reminiscence is one of the most important things for people, for seniors to be doing, because it’s part of contemplating life, and contemplating life and all of the aspects of life is a very, very good thing psychologically.”
She adds the interactions between the kids and seniors also renews the seniors’ sense of fun and discovery.
School district director of instruction for elementary Allan Douglas says the idea for the program came from a school district in B.C.’s interior. He hopes to expand the program in the future because it’s working out so well.
“Our plan is to start small like this, but there are many senior residencies throughout the Comox Valley that we could certainly look at expanding this pilot into,” he says, adding other schools are watching the program with interest.
“It’s children learning with the seniors and seniors learning with the children and it’s just a lovely feeling.”