When teenagers and senior citizens get together, the question is “Who is helping whom?” For a group of Grayslake North High School teens and Oak Hill Supportive Living seniors who regularly spend quality time together, the exchange is undoubtedly mutually beneficial. Both teens and octogenarians give the intergenerational experience two thumbs up!
“The feeling you get when you meet the elderly people at Oak Hill is amazing,” says Grayslake North High School student Tamika O’Connell. “It feels great to give back to other people after they’ve done so much for the world.”
“Just seeing the kids and knowing how much they have to look forward to in their lifetime warms my heart!” says Oak Hill resident Geri Dubberke, age 78.
As part of the school’s service learning project, students in the Choices Program have the opportunity to participate in projects that benefit the community and society to work on improving their self-esteem and confidence. Once a month the kids visit Oak Hill residents. Together they’ve made a God’s eye craft for Round Lake Beach police officers and crocheted sleeping mats from used plastic bags for the homeless as part of the national “New Life for Old Bags” project.
Some days they just chill and play board games or chat.
“It’s refreshing to see the kids,” says Dubberke, who has no grandchildren of her own. “They’re respectful…they laugh…they play games. They don’t just stand there and look like they’re totally bored.”
That’s because the teens are anything but bored, according to their special education teachers Beth Bendix and Kim Keaskowski.
“This has become one of their favorite places to go,” says Bendix. “They like the social interaction and are totally comfortable giving hands-on help to the seniors. They’re always saying, ‘Let me do that for you.’” In fact, the first meeting went so well that the teachers and Oak Hill team members were teary-eyed at seeing the kids and seniors interact so comfortably and naturally together.
The opportunity for intergenerational activities and giving back to the greater community fits perfectly with the engaged and fulfilling lifestyle that Oak Hill aims to provide its residents. “We want to create positive, memorable moments for each and every resident, and I am pleased to see that happening every time our residents get together
with the high school students,” says Jan Castillo, Oak Hill Supportive Living’s Executive Director.
The teens and seniors recognize and respect each other’s strengths and truly enjoy each other’s company. When working on the sleeping mat project, Dubberke, who is good at cutting the plastic bags, partnered with a girl who could put them together to make “plarn,” the plastic yarn used to crochet the mats. Despite the significant age gap, the two new friends enjoyed working together on a project to help someone neither of them will ever meet.
“The experience with them is amazing and makes me feel like I am making a difference in someone’s life,” says student Madii Roberts.
“It’s awesome for both sides; they’re both giving and receiving,” says Bendix.
Oak Hill Supportive Living Community, located at 76 East Rollins Road, Round Lake Beach, IL, features supportive living apartments, three meals a day, support services as needed, wellness programs and outings and other social opportunities at an affordable monthly rate. Amenities include a billiard room, dining and community rooms, beauty salon, library, greenhouse and movie theatre. The community is operated by Pathway Senior Living. For more information, please call Oak Hill at 847-201-1100 or visit the website at www.Oakhillslc.com
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