Seniors Helping Seniors brings generations together

Seniors Helping Seniors brings generations together

Laura Cordonnier plays Jenga with the senior adults at Oak Creek Terrace.

Most teens consider waking up early a drag. But during OGT week, 150 Fairmont High School seniors rolled out of bed and set out to brighten the day for some senior adults in Kettering. Some of those teens, however, may have been surprised by how much they got out of the experience, too.

During the week of March 14-18, 2011, Fairmont sophomores had to be at school each morning to take the Ohio Graduation Test, and the freshmen had to take the Freshman Graduation Test four of those mornings. Non-testing students could sleep in, but seniors had the opportunity to sign up to participate in the Seniors Helping Seniors program.

This was the second year that Fairmont students volunteered for Seniors Helping Seniors after a successful pilot in 2010. “Last year was an overwhelming success and we hope the same for this year, too,” Activities Director Jenny Borchers said before the program kicked into gear at six locations throughout Kettering. The sites included senior living centers as well as senior centers.

Borchers didn’t have to wait long to see the smiles and hear the laughter that marked another successful year for the program.

During the week, Fairmont seniors and senior adults did activities together such as painting pots, playing corn hole, playing board and card games, and scrapbooking, which was wildly popular. Students also showed their elders how to play the Wii, a new technology for some of them. Some who weren’t up for the video games got a kick out of watching the students play. At some locations, students and senior adults made fresh pasta and meatballs from scratch and baked cookies together. Students even built shelves for the seniors at  The Terraces and created raised garden beds at The Terraces, Birchwood Place and Oak Creek Terrace. 

High school senior Brittany Davis felt volunteering was a beneficial experience. “Volunteering here is a good way to give back to your society,” said Davis, “and the old people are fun.”

Senior Chelsea Ewing decided to volunteer because her grandparents were in nursing homes. This program brought back memories for her. “It makes me feel good about myself,” said Ewing. “I feel like I am doing something useful with my time.”

Dustin Davies also sees volunteering as a fun activity and a way to get to know other people. “I actually met a lady whose granddaughter’s graduation party I went to,” said Davies.

Pool was a popular activity with the men. Senior adult Ken Schomaker said he loved playing pool with the teens at the Lathrem Senior Center. “I taught some of the girls how to play pool,” the Schomaker said, “and they were actually pretty good.” 

A senior adult at The Oak Creek Terrace Center said she appreciated the students’ visits and had fun talking with some of the teen girls. “I really liked the kids coming here, maybe not every day, but just every once in awhile,” said Patricia, who asked that her last name not be used.

As the students and senior citizens interacted with one another, friendships and bonds were immediately formed. Laughter and smiles filled the rooms. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, whether it was playing a game or just talking.

“One lady I met was really funny and joked around. It made the experience even more enjoyable,” said Davis.

At the end of the week, a dance was held in the Commons at Fairmont for the senior adults and senior students who participated in Seniors Helping Seniors. The event was a way to celebrate the friendships and bonds formed during this program. A bus full of senior adults attended the dance along with the high school seniors.

Borchers was pleased by the reactions of both the young and the young at heart to the week’s events.  “I think the students were surprised by how much fun they had,” she said. “Everyone was very optimistic and had a great time.”

In addition to Borchers and the students, several Fairmont teachers participated in the program. They included Dave Anthony, Brad Bishop, Dan Boyer, Diane Dieterle, Christine Fine, John Gallagher, Liz Jensen, Jeff Kuns, Tiffani Lobertini, Dave Lord, Amanda Lymburner, Penni Meyer, Darren McGarvey, Kelly Mora, Josh Oliver, Bill Petrello and Jenny Richardson.

Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf is proud of the combined Firebird participation in the program. “Part of our mission statement is to create contributing members of society,” he said. “Seniors Helping Seniors teaches kids lessons that can’t be learned in any textbook or lecture.”

Click HERE to watch a Soundslide about Seniors Helping Seniors.