Intergenerational Learning (IL) is based on the notion that people of different generations can learn skills and values from one another and work together. This style of learning fosters empathy, compassion and kindness for a subset of the population often pushed aside as they age out of work and physical recreational activities. For Lisa Cyr, the Revelstoke Community Network Coordinator, it’s an integral part of society and one that should be both encouraged and celebrated.
Cyr created a pilot program aimed at doing just that. She received funding from the Revelstoke Credit Union, The Community Foundation and the Columbia Basin Trust. She sent an email to the schools in the hope of finding interested classes.
Kim Floyd, a grade 4 teacher at Begbie View Elementary, responded.
“A lot of kids don’t have grandparents in town,” explains Floyd. “So they really enjoy making connections with other senior people.”
Back when Mountain View School was open, Floyd taught a grade 7 class and would frequently take her class to Moberley or the Cottages. “The kids always liked it,” she says. “It gives them a chance to have new experiences and widen their circle a little bit.”
“That was the start of empathy classes,” explains Cyr. “The kids were able to try on gloves with popcorn in them, have their vision impaired by blurry glasses, and try wheelchairs. They learned how to communicate and interact with seniors, which really boils down to basic respect.”
When it came time to visit the seniors, Cyr was impressed with the positivity that the kids displayed from the start.
“Originally I thought ‘this will help break down the stigma behind age and aging and the fear of what happens of diminishing capacity and mental health.’ But the kids were so positive and those bonds happened so quickly, it has been quite magical. Some people have been instant friends, which is great fun for everyone.”
The program ran smoothly thanks to the community support of those involved. “The mentorship and help I got from Sandy Whitty at Interior Health and Sharon Mackenzie, an intergenerational consultant who offered her consultation services pro-bono was amazing. It was also easy and fun to collaborate with Moberly Manor,” says Cyr.
As for the seniors, there is no pressure to participate. “Some are more able to move around and interact with the kids than others,” says Cyr. “Even those who aren’t joining actively come out and watch, and it is entertaining to them. They are still stimulated and observing the kids.”
Nancy Webber, a senior at Moberly who was helping create posters with the kids, was thrilled to have them visit. “It’s nice to have young people around,” she says.
Mary Lou Holiday, another active senior bustling around helping the kids with their art, reflected on time with her own family. “It’s nice to see the next generation. Maybe, with our children, we didn’t have enough time to play. A lot of our grandchildren live out of town and we miss them, so it’s nice to connect with different ages. I don’t see many young people.”
The kids’ enthusiasm at Moberley is evidence enough of their enjoyment, though they are quick to offer their favourite experiences.
“My favourite part was meeting new people,” says Jackson.
For another student named Violet, the stories of life from the seniors, so different from their day to day experiences, was fascinating. “One person used to use a dynamite box in the river as a fridge,” she say. “Another went to war and had rats all over him.”
Johnny and Rowan debated whether the day the seniors had a jam session or the day when they heard stories was best. “The stories are wild,” says Johnny. “One guy was in WW2 and his boat got torpedoed and he was covered in oil, but he lived.”
This day, the students and seniors are creating posters to put around town, inviting people to celebrate IL day at Moberly Manor on Friday, May 31 from 11am – noon with snacks, company and coffee.
“We will be celebrating the wisdom of seniors and youth and promoting the relationships that have been created with these seniors in particular, and all IL relationships in general,” says Cyr.
Cyr is already percolating ideas for next year’s program, hopefully with more classes involved. “Teachers are welcome to get hold of me,” she says. “IL is amazing for all ages as, ultimately, it creates positive bonds, though studies have shown it to be most impactful for grades 4-6.”
Anyone interested in the program can reach Cyr at firstname.lastname@example.org