Here at Bedford Village we are overjoyed to have the program in place, allowing weekly interactions between our residents and local schoolchildren.  When I first heard of their work, I was excited to have them in our Bedford Village community to support intergenerational communication, community building and life enrichment for our residents.  They continue to achieve and exceed those goals every year using absolute minimal budgets and driven dedicated volunteers and staff.  The impact this program has in my building and on the lives of the participates, residents and students, alike is tangible. If you are lucky enough to observe it the laughter and communication flows unabated in our dining room on program days as the properly matched students and residents share and learn from each other.

For years, I have seen the relationships grow and bring quality life enrichment to my residents and the students. In some cases, the bonds formed last long after the program year has ended and benefit the community for years.   The ingenuity and dedication of the program leadership and volunteers ensured it was maintained in spite of Covid precautions in a safe and effective way and proved even more valuable during the periods of isolation forced upon my residents to keep them safe. Indeed when the school year started, many residents came to me concerned about linking generations as they felt it was vital to their wellness. 

The Linking Generations program supports the concept of being good neighbours in a measurable way.  Some would question the wisdom of putting a senior’s residence across the street from the school. Any fears of misalignment have been eliminated by this relationship and the kindness it fuels. The results are real and impactful and bring joy, caring and kindness to Bedford Village.

Stephen Blackie – Executive Director, Bedford Village & The Village at Westmount

I have been with the linking generations program for 5 years now. Five years is just about a third of the time I’ve lived. Through this program, I can recognize now that five years is not that long of a time.

Some seniors in this program are over 100 years old! Despite being in the program from grade seven to grade 12, I really only feel I’ve experienced a fraction of what any of these seniors could impart on me. I could spend every day just talking with any senior in the room and I would never hear all of their stories.

I also feel that I’ve gained a greater depth about how they live. Sometimes, when I’m in class at school, I find myself thinking “I can’t wait until Thursday!” and just a couple weeks ago it struck me: Some of our seniors feel like this all week, every week. Once I realized this, I finally fully realized this program’s impact on both us as students and our seniors: —- for us, it has increased our compassion and has also given us a greater understanding of other ways of life. For the seniors, it has given them someone they see often, someone they can talk to and share experiences with.

I could never give enough thanks to this program for helping me develop these skills that I will have for the rest of my life, and I think I speak for the seniors when I say they’d thank us for giving being a friend.

A Participating Student

Linking Young and Old

I really enjoy being with young people. Their energy is contagious. Our energy level seems to drop as we age, but a few hours with teenagers can rejuvenate eighty and ninety year olds. 

We have been given the privilege by schools here in Sherwood Park to take part in a visit once a week with an organization called Linking Generations. It has been the source of many happy hours for myself and others, as a senior residing in Chartwell Country Cottage Residence. The youth arrive just before 4:00 pm, and a buzz of conversation breaks out as they drop their backpacks to wrap their arms around “their” senior, amid hugs and kisses, and hoots of “Hi!”

No matter what stage of old age, deafness, or inability we are at, they empathize, laugh with us, and share their weekly experiences. We count the days in between visits and look forward to Tuesdays as a group. We roll up our sleeves, young and old, and jump in with paste or paint to participate in the next activity or project. 

This camaraderie certainly gives me a sense of being valued. What a great gift to be given from the heart by these kids. Any of the letters to the editor complaining about teenagers can be refuted. The unanimous opinion of the seniors is that these students are our friends. 

In the last six years, I have been active and enjoyed these young people from grades eight, ten, and twelve. The pleasant time I have spent with them has been reciprocated, but I feel I have been the winner. I smile and remember good times. The youth have been at different ages and developmental stages, but have harbored a special place in their heart for seniors. 

The dedicated people who run the program should be proud of the results from the many hours spent in preparation for each session. 

Quality time spent with someone you enjoy is a gift for us older people. The giggles, breaking into songs in a spontaneous manner, and enthusiastic hugs given and received really fill the bill. Let’s hear it for all young people who care about the infirm, poor, and elderly among us, and raise our voices to sing praises of our future generations!

Editor’s Note: Linking Generations, a non-profit organization based out of Sherwood Park, is aimed at building relationships between youth and seniors in the community. The program brings the generations together in order for youth and seniors to share knowledge and life experiences. 

For more information on the Linking Generations program, visit the Linking Generations Society of Alberta website at http://www.linkinggenerations.ca.

A participating senior

I want to thank you ALL for allowing me to participate as a volunteer in this wonderful and special program. As you can see from my evaluation sheet – my experience was so positive – the BEST!

My students were very special and so gifted. I loved working and being teamed with them both. They helped me to grow within myself immensely. I have a much bigger picture and knowledge and understanding of what teens are going through, their interests and goals they are trying to achieve.

They have helped me so much to broaden my thinking. To think bigger and set goals for myself – even as a senior, and helped me to come out of my ‘shell’. I really enjoyed the activities we did – the games were fun (made me realize I need to play more – even as a senior). Also, the scrap booking, the crafts and the visiting and socializing was absolutely great.

I myself felt that they (students) gave me more and enriched my life in a much greater way. I do hope I was able to leave the students with a positive note of what a senior experiences along with challenges we have. We need each other.

I have been so blessed and enriched by volunteering myself with Linking Generations. Thank you so much again!

A Participating Senior

Many of the seniors here see the world differently than I do because they lived in a different time where the world was also different. Many of them do things a certain way and I have learned how to create an activity that we both enjoy. I also learned how to be grateful for what I have. By interacting with the seniors here and listening to their life stories, I see how much society have changed. A lot of these changes are because the generations before us tried to make things better for the younger generation. 

By participating in this program, I have also learned to be patient. Even though I am the volunteer, our visits here are not just about me. I have learned to go with the flow. Sometimes my senior may want to play cards. And sometimes they just want to talk. My favourite word to describe my role in the program is flexibility. There have been times when my senior has not wanted to do the activity that the group is doing so we end up playing another game or just talking. There also may be times when my senior is not there so I go with another group or another senior joins my group for the day. Most of the seniors just want someone to talk to, someone to play games with and someone to interact with. They just want to be appreciated and be told that they are important for no other reason than they are a living, breathing human being. They want to know that they have not been forgotten.

A Grade 12 Student

They help us to feel healthier and happier. We forget about our aches and pains and just delight in their enthusiasm for life!

A Participating Senior

I wanted to let you know what a great program this is. My daughter is thoroughly enjoying this experience and talks very positively about it. Thank you for making this happen. It most certainly has been great for my daughter!

A Parent

The experience of Linking Generations helped me to really value older people and their experiences. I am incredibly thankful to all the people who make this program possible.

A Participating Student