Lacombians are coming together in a new intergenerational way that encourages young people and seniors to take part in each other’s lives.
The program is being conducted through a partnership between the Lacombe Parent Link and Alberta Health Services.
It takes place once a month at the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre, with different activities to bring together the generations such as decorating baked goods and playing with toys together.
“I feel like we’re bridging the generational gap. We’re bringing the children in to spend time with the seniors and so far they all love it. They all love to spend that time together,” said Heather Marcoux, communications advisor for Alberta Health Services.
The program began its planning stages in the summer and came to fruition in September. Marcoux consulted with Cora Hoekstra of Lacombe Parent Link, and together the two figured out a partnership that would bring together the generations in Lacombe.
“For the seniors, even just being able to watch and walk around with and have a little chat with the kids was a lot for them. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is huge for them,” Marcoux said.
“I’d been kind of toying with the idea of a program like this because I have something running in Ponoka, but it’s a little bit different. But I talked to Cora and she was really, really excited. Through the summer, we worked together to establish boundaries, decided what we would expect from the program and what would be expected of the volunteers who would come in with their children.”
Parent Link provides families that volunteer to spend a few hours with the seniors at the Care Centre. In December, the groups got together to decorate Christmas cookies and sing carols, events that Marcoux said were a hit for everyone.
“It’s something that if you’ve never witnessed before, you should. I know that whenever I go down, I leave with a tear in my eye because everyone is just so happy. It’s so nice to watch the expressions on the faces of our residents and as well on the children – it’s amazing,” she said.
The benefits of the program are that seniors get to connect with youths and their parents as many of the seniors in the facility do not have family nearby. They get to do activities and the mood levels in the Centre are elevated by the visits. For the children, Marcoux said that it helps them learn that the hospital can be a good place and that it isn’t scary. It also gives them the interaction of a grandparent figure if theirs are not able to visit frequently.
“The last one we had, a gentleman was sitting in the room waiting for over an hour before the children came. He said, ‘I heard the children were coming and I’m not missing this.’ He waited and it was so cute because one of our little visitors took a real shine to this gentleman,” Marcoux said.
“It was just amazing. The little guy was only a year old, so not really talking, but he was babbling to this gentleman and they had a great time together. They decorated cookies together and to watch it was just so great – it’s so hard to describe. Once you see it, you can only say, ‘Wow’.
“It’s an incredible experience for everyone. You see the benefits of bringing the generations together. The children are learning from the seniors, the seniors are enjoying watching and helping them. It’s just great.”
To get involved with the program, contact Cora at the Parent Link centre, located within the Family and Community Support Services office at the LMC.
In the ‘Bridging the generation gap’ story that ran on Jan. 8th in the Lacombe Express, it was stated that Heather Marcoux was the main source and was quoted multiple times in the story. Those quotes should have been attributed to Leanne Brusgard, volunteer coordinator at the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre. We apologize for the error.