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Friendly neighbors: Fostering intergenerational connections at Pennswood Village

Posted on August 30, 2018 in Community Highlight, Resident Profile

At Pennswood Village, making friends has no limits. Residents from all walks of life, all backgrounds and all cultures create a unique community of individuals. As part of Pennswood Village’s steadfast encouragement of lifelong growth, the community offers programs focused on creating intergenerational connections. Programs like these, which bring older adults and children together, have been shown to have research-backed benefits for all who participate.

children from the Friends School

With its proximity to the Newtown Friends School, Pennswood residents connect with schoolchildren on a regular basis. Each week during the school year, Pennswood residents such as Sallie H. and Amelia M. meet with a wide range of students at the school to share stories and participate in activities. It’s truly an all-ages experience. As our residents will tell you, it’s up for debate who learns more from whom!

Sallie H. – The gracious globetrotter

With a list of more than 30 countries visited, Sallie H. has an impressive collection of stories. Sallie relives her memories weekly by sharing them with students in Ms. Brady’s second-grade class at Newtown Friends School.

“I have been fortunate enough to travel to so many places, and it’s been a mix of work and pleasure,” Sallie said. “I have been involved in numerous People to People missions, and brought back with me an appreciation for the opportunity to see the world. Now I hope to help the schoolchildren appreciate the breadth of our world.”

For a few years now, Sallie has visited Ms. Brady’s class, typically on Wednesdays, to incorporate her experience into topics that the students enjoy and do so in a way that sparks their curiosity about different cultures. Sallie said that she gauges the students and focuses the conversation on topics they’ll like.

“We have a number of foreign students, so if I’ve visited their country and they haven’t, or are too young to remember it, we focus on that country,” Sallie explained. “I try to help each student gain an appreciation for different cultures, whether it’s where their family is from or not.”

While the students enjoy the visits from the well-traveled Sallie, they aren’t the only ones who benefit.

“It’s an absolute treat to go over there,” Sallie said. “It’s my therapy – and I learn just as much as they do!”

Amelia M. – The skirted storyteller

When she taught first grade, Amelia’s students drew illustrations of the stories she’d tell in class. She had those illustrations transferred to sailcloth and stitched them together into her “storytelling skirt.” Now, when she visits the first-grade classes at Newtown Friends School, she dons the skirt and puts it to use as it is intended – by sharing classic stories with the schoolchildren.

“I had been a teacher and a principal, so storytelling is one of my fortes,” Amelia explained. “Before I moved to Pennswood, I even went around telling stories to residents at other communities.”

Amelia, who formerly coordinated the Friday Friends program with Pennswood and the Newtown Friends School, now stays involved by going to visit the schoolchildren a couple times a year. She remarked how she appreciates the unique value of orally telling a story.

“Storytelling is a social and entertaining activity,” Amelia said. “It’s a way to share culture, tradition, literature and heritage.”

The stories she tells are mainly classic tales such as the Brothers Grimm and stories based on actual events: stories that have folkloric and cultural values intertwined. To keep it entertaining and interesting, Amelia incorporates motion into her storytelling, which adds a fun, performative aspect for her young audience.

More than just the entertainment value, though, Amelia recognizes that the value of sharing a story is not lost on the young ones, and she’s happy to keep it going – skirt and all.

Feedback from the Friday Friends – Students at Newtown Friends School

As part of their visits to and from Pennswood, several sixth-grade students shared their favorite parts about visiting with Pennswood residents. During the Friday Friends visits, students visited Pennswood and participated in various activities with residents such as water volleyball, birdhouse making, tech tutoring, Wii bowling, gardening, croquet and more!

Here are some students’ stories from their Friday Friends experiences:

  • “We got to go Wii bowling, and a lot of us got strikes, and the residents who played with us were really good.” – Donovan
  • “The residents helped us to assemble our own birdhouses! I enjoyed it a lot!” – Mary Katherine
  • “We connected with the residents in a different way by playing [water volleyball] with them….in the end it did not matter who won or lost, we just had fun playing.” – Drew
  • “We helped the residents with their gardens. We had fun and planted veggies and fruits.” – Avery
  • “We all had a fun time making the [Christmas] ornaments and afterwards the residents got to see the ornaments on the Christmas trees at Pennswood.” – Perry
  • “On February 9 we made Valentine’s Day cards for the residents, and then we delivered them. It was so sweet to see their reactions when we gave them the cards.” – Maddie
  • “We went to the garden at Pennswood and were very excited to catch rabbits and make sure that we kept rabbits out of the garden.” – Xavier

If you’re interested in learning how residents at Pennswood Village connect with others, we invite you to discover life at our community of individuals through our free information kit titled “How we’re inspired.” To request the info kit, simply click here or call us at 215-504-1118!