Seniors help senior residents through new initiative

Anyone who has a teen – or used to be one – knows how much they enjoy sleeping in. But more than 100 Fairmont High School seniors gave up the chance to sleep late during OGT week in March so that they could give back to the community.

Activities Director Jenny Borchers organized the first “Seniors Helping Seniors” event so that Fairmont’s 12th-graders could do nice things for senior adults in Kettering. “Seniors Helping Seniors” was funded by a grant from the Kettering Community Foundation that Borchers’ applied for in the fall. Activities were scheduled from 8:30 to 10:45 a.m., Monday through Thursday, during the week that Fairmont’s freshmen and sophomores were testing.  

Activities ranged from organizing a library to playing board games at a variety of locations around the city. Thirteen teachers assisted in the activities.

At the Lathrem Senior Center located at the Kettering Recreation Center, Fairmont seniors installed a Wii and Wii Fit out of the grant money and taught the senior adults how to play. “This is fantastic,” said Pat Hendricks, a senior adult at the Lathrem Center. “It’s really good for the seniors.”

At The Terraces, a senior community located near St. Albert, the Fairmont students helped by building gardens, organizing a library, and just playing board games or cornhole with the residents.

The seniors also helped out at the different Franklin Group independent living locations each day of the week. At these locations, students painted flower pots for residents to use for planting, since there isn’t enough room for a garden. They also played various games with the residents such as cornhole or bingo.

The “Seniors Helping Seniors” event was similar to service learning, which essentially means that students do community service as part of their regular high school curriculum. Currently, community service isn’t required for Ohio teens, but Gov. Ted Strickland wants to make it mandatory in the future. “It’s important to work towards service learning before it’s mandatory,” said Borchers. She hopes to make “Seniors Helping Seniors” a new Fairmont tradition and that many people will want to get involved.

Getting involved for some of Fairmont’s seniors meant learning new things from the senior adults, who shared their experiences living through major events such as the Great Depression and World War II. “I loved it; it was a great experience,” said senior Amena Shermadou. “It was so much fun because they taught us just as much as we taught them.”

Some students could relate to the senior adults. Senior Liz Shine, who helped put puzzles together at The Terraces, spent some of her time with different senior adults. “I liked hanging out with Hilda from the Dominican Republic,” said Shine. “It was fun because we were able to speak a little Spanish back and forth.”

Many senior adults also seemed to enjoy the experience. Marlene Wilson, a resident at The Terraces, didn’t want the teens to leave. “I have a lot of kids in my family and nothing can compare to Fairmont’s seniors,” said Wilson. “They’re wonderful. We loved having them.”