by Cori Hilsgen
If you think you might be in the wrong location seeing seniors participating in activities at Kennedy Community School and students participating in activities at Woodcrest of Country Manor in St. Joseph, you aren’t.
Students at Kennedy and Woodcrest are implementing a new intergenerational partnership.
Laura Freese, Kennedy Community School’s academic coach, said the partnership is very new.
She said she, Kennedy principal Laurie Putnam and Woodcrest directors met and brainstormed some possible activities students could do at both Kennedy and Woodcrest.
Transportation is somewhat tricky because only some of the tenants at Woodcrest drive and they have to rely on the shuttle service to travel.
“Our planning has to revolve around when the shuttle can transport,” Freese said.
Because the partnership is very new, Freese said, they are moving a little slower trying to figure out how it will work best.
The first activity they scheduled was bingo in March with some fifth-grade students. On the afternoon of bingo, there was also a choir concert at Kennedy, so a couple of the tenants decided to watch and listen to the choir concert, while the others played bingo.
Some students from Kennedy commented about their experiences.
“I thought it was pretty fun,” said fifth-grader Joseph Forbregd. “I liked playing bingo with a mix of people. I would like to have played with more of the senior residents.”
“I thought it was fun because you got to meet new people,” said fifth-grader Kaela Jenderseck. “It was nice to play with some of the seniors from Woodcrest. I would like to do it again.”
Woodcrest tenant LouAnn Huss participated in the bingo event.
“It was real(ly) enjoyable to play bingo with the fifth-graders,” Huss said. “They were a very nice group of kids. I look forward to our next visit.”
With warmer weather, seventh-grade students, walked to Woodcrest on May 1 to deliver some surprise May Day baskets containing candy to tenants. The students also shared punch and cookies with some of the tenants.
To create the baskets, the students decorated paper and created the baskets from that paper. They taped ribbon strips to the bottom of the baskets to give them some extra flare and used ribbon to make the handles. The baskets were filled with shredded paper to make use of recycled materials.
The students used advisory and several lunch times to work on this project.
Freese said she thinks the partnership is a great way to build multigenerational connections.
“It provides another opportunity for building compassion and kindness in our students,” she said.
Emily Frericks, marketing director of Country Manor Campus/Woodcrest of Country Manor, said Woodcrest staff thought of the idea while planning activities to add to the tenants’ social calendar.
Woodcrest staff has expressed excitement about being so close to Kennedy and the many possibilities for intergenerational programming.
She said the programming offers unique therapeutic benefits for both seniors and students.
Woodcrest coordinator Jason Jones remembered the excitement he felt as a child surprising unsuspecting friends and neighbors with May Day baskets and thought it would be a chance for students to explore their creativity while helping brighten the day for Woodcrest tenants.
Frericks said the students’ eagerness upon arrival was obvious and they couldn’t wait to present their gifts to the “grandmas and grandpas.”
Students first stopped at the Woodcrest Memory Suites where tenants engage in daily life-enriching programming. During regularly scheduled activities on May 1, tenants were surprised when the students came in with the baskets. People applauded and thanked the students for the baskets.
Staff at the memory suites said the students’ acts of kindness brought many smiles and joy to the tenants.
Students next stopped to visit the tenants in the apartments.
“There was a knock on my door, but by the time I got to the door they were gone,” said Woodcrest tenant Al Pflipsen, who was not expecting a May Day surprise. “My neighbor was looking out her room and said I just saw them go that way.”
The apartment tenants enjoyed both the baskets and watching the students hurry as they successfully left baskets without being “caught.”
“This was the best knock on the door I’ve ever had,” said tenant LaVern Hruska.
“It was such a nice surprise to meet some of the Kennedy students,” said tenant Therese Wiener. “It made my day.”
Frericks said tenants are still discussing the May Day surprise.
“It truly is the simplest acts of kindness that often mean the most,” she said.
Frericks said staff at Woodcrest are looking forward to many more events with Kennedy students, which they are sure will be just as impactful as May Day 2018.
Woodcrest of Country Manor, which opened in November 2017, includes patio homes, senior apartments and suites. Tenants can choose from a variety of lifestyle options ranging from independent living to 24-hour licensed memory care.
Tenants have access to a nondenominational chapel, fitness classes, salon and spa, store, coffee shop and exclusive hobby rooms such as the “Man Cave.” The campus is on 137 acres and walking trails are underway.
For additional information, call 320-271-1200 or visit the woodcrestofcountrymanor.org website.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.