At Hebrew SeniorLife we know that pairing seniors with students creates endless possibilities for meaningful connections that change lives. Students often volunteer at HSL to fill community service requirements—providing support in our sites, and bringing smiles to the faces of residents throughout the HSL network. Sometimes the connections between students and residents run deep, and we witness powerful interactions between our young volunteers and the residents they have befriended. Such was the case with our series of intergenerational programs launched in late February and early March centered around Black History Month and the anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery Civil Rights March.
A recently published book titled, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, chronicles Lowery’s experiences as the youngest participant in the 1965 voting rights march, overcoming terror with staunch determination and courage to change history. Both the Simon C. Fireman Community in Randolph and the Center Communities of Brookline participated in resident book groups that met with students to explore the themes of the book and make connections to their own experiences.
Fireman residents met with a group of students from the Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH) in Dorchester for lunch and conversation in mid-February. Students were in awe of Lowery’s passion and commitment at such a young age to stand up for her beliefs. Residents shared their memories of this pivotal time in US History and helped draw connections between the fight for equal rights in this country, and other histories when people have been persecuted for their differences. Conversation evolved to explore whether separate is always bad. Students reflected on the notion that their lunchroom is often ethnically divided. When is it acceptable to have separate affinity groups and when does that become uncomfortable and unacceptable? It was a fascinating conversation.
In Brookline, residents met with 7th grade students from the Driscoll School to explore the themes of the book. They discussed questions such as, “What/who inspires you to make a mark on the world?” and “Would you take credit for another person’s crime not knowing the potential severity of the punishment?” They listened to music of the Freedom Singer, “We Shall Overcome” and “Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedom.” Residents sang the freedom songs they remembered to the children and talked about music’s power to inspire.
Great things happen when students and seniors connect. The dialogue enriches the minds and souls of everyone involved.
About Hebrew SeniorLife Multigenerational Programs
Hebrew SeniorLife’s multi-generational programs serve as an important model for how seniors and children benefit from enhanced learning opportunities. The young people bring liveliness and joy into the community, and the residents spend hours reading, tutoring and participating in learning activities with the students. On any given day, in any one of our communities, you will find students and residents working together and forming a bond that sparks energy in our senior living communities.