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Linking Generations Skips No Beats

By Megan Voss, Sherwood Park News
Thursday, June 11, 2015 4:11:48 MDT PM

Less than a year after starting up again, Linking Generations has been nominated for a minister’s award.

Linking Generations, a non-profit, inter-generational program based in Sherwood Park, was one of 81 nominations for the 2015 Minister’s Seniors Service Awards, which recognizes organizations or individuals in Alberta who volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of seniors.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Linking Generations executive director Debbie Sinclair of the nomination.

“Linking Generations actually received the minister’s award in 2008, so to be nominated once again — it’s such an honour…. When we initially resurrected ourself for programming in 2014 in September, it was our goal to come back to the community with two programs — two junior high programs. We have come back with four programs — we have two junior highs and two senior highs, and we will be introducing a fifth junior high program this year. To come back and know there is such a demand in our community for this type of programming and this type of youth and senior mentorship is phenomenal. The support that this community has given Linking Generations is part of our success.”

She believes Linking Generations was nominated because of the value the program offers to seniors and youth in the community.

“There’s so many worthy, non-profit organizations out there in our own community, but to have our name put forward, that alone just recognizes and validates that we are a non-profit that’s needed,” Sinclair added.

There has been an increase of senior participation in the program by 20 per cent since starting up again, she noted.

“Normally, when we go into our seniors lodges and we ask the seniors to be involved, they’re hesitant. They don’t know what to expect about them. This year, we had more seniors than we have ever faced, which is wonderful,” Sinclair said.

“We did have one senior join our program only at his daughter’s insistence. He just moved into a seniors residence and really wasn’t quite knowing where to fit in. The daughter placed him into our program, and he is probably one of the most enthusiastic seniors we have.”

Linking Generations is a program where students from junior high and high schools are matched to a senior, and they visit that senior for a year in a structured, mentored, visit environment.

“We believe that seniors are feeling isolated once they’re placed into whether it be long-term care or just seniors care,” Sinclair said.

“We’re not going into individuals’ homes, these are all seniors residences. A lot of our seniors may not have families in the vicinity and they’ve also lost touch with youth. Our youth go in and teach the seniors what the youth are going through in today’s generation — their issues. The seniors, in turn, teach our students what it was like maybe 50, 60, 70 years ago.”

Upcoming plans include adding a fifth school — St. Theresa Catholic School — to the program.

Sinclair said there were many notable moments she was able to witness so far.

“We unfortunately had two students this year who lost their senior midway through the program — he passed away,” she said.

“I know it sounds like a sad highlight, but to be able to watch today’s youth be able to understand what the circle of life really means and to have them themselves explain it to their peers — that is a highlight, because it reinforces that we’re teaching these kids. They’re getting an experience that they normally might not get.”

Sometime in the fall, the award will be given to eight organizations or individuals.

The executive director credits the support behind the organization for how well it has done in just over half a year.

“We would not be able to grow so quickly and so successfully if it wasn’t for our funders and our huge supporters,” Sinclair said.