Intergenerational programming, or connecting older adults with their younger peers, can offer benefits that span the age differences between participants. At Arbor Terrace Teaneck, we’ve had the opportunity to watch the magic of intergenerational programming firsthand. Our Leading Through Lessons program, though still in its first year, is showing all of us the benefits of connecting teens with older adults.
Creating the Program
The Leading Through Lessons program started when the Teaneck Board of Education reached out to the Arbor Terrace team. The Board was searching for ways to create intergenerational programming that was sustainable and beneficial for everyone involved. Our community’s engagement director, Andrew Fuentes, and business office manager, Katie Pastor, jumped at the chance to get planning.
In order for Leading Through Lessons to work, Andrew and Katie knew it had to be engaging for both the students and for the residents. They immediately harnessed the enthusiasm of Arbor Terrace’s SWAP (Seniors with a Purpose) group. The SWAP group is composed of residents who are devoted to giving back to the Teaneck community, which made them the perfect fit for this program’s inaugural year.
How It Works
Leading Through Lessons is a program that connects residents with seventh and eighth graders from local Teaneck schools. The intergenerational group meets 3-4 times per year, focusing on conversation topics that tie directly into the visiting students’ current school curriculum.
But Andrew and Katie knew that intergenerational conversation does not always come easily at first, and so they planned for the sessions to start with lunch. After all, life happens around the table here at Arbor Terrace Teaneck, and our residents wanted to connect with students over a shared meal so they could get to know one another before attacking the curriculum topic of the day.
Leading Through Lessons started its first session with students and residents talking about travel. Students were able to share where they have traveled and how that impacted them, as well as listen to where residents had traveled and how those trips impacted their lives. It didn’t take long for the students and the seniors to swap stories of trip highlights and laugh together about travel mishaps. The connection was immediate, and everyone in the room knew that this program was sure to make a lasting difference at Arbor Terrace and in the Teaneck schools.
What’s Next for Leading Through Lessons
Andrew and Katie continue to make plans with Teaneck school representatives to adapt the Leading Through Lessons curriculum so that it can continue for years to come. There are sessions about women’s history and World War II in the works, all focused on creating a connection that bridges the generational gap. The residents at Arbor Terrace love the program so far, and the Board of Education does too; everyone is excited to watch Leading Through Lessons continue to take shape over the years to come.
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