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Red Oak Students Make Fast Friends with Seniors Living Nearby

Red Oak Students Make Fast Friends with Seniors Living Nearby
  • Elementary
Anna Aguilar

Red Oak Elementary started a beautiful new program and unique friendships with its second graders and the seniors living at the Village on the Park. The senior living center is just behind the elementary school.

Red Oak Elementary started a new program this semester and through it, unique friendships have grown among its second graders and the seniors living at the Village on the Park. The senior living center is just behind the elementary school and there is a dedicated walking path, that makes visits quite easy. When Village on the Park Executive Director Karen Proctor contacted Principal Karie Hill to see about the potential for visits, Hill immediately saw the benefits for the students and the residents.

Teacher Christi West said, "I have students this year from different countries and some speak other languages. They don't get to see their grandparents and nurture those important relationships so this is wonderful for them. I also needed extra ears to listen to my students as they build their reading skills so this was perfect."  

West's class started walking to Village on the Park in January for their first visit. The students met the residents and read books out loud to them, much to the delight of the residents. West said the room was filled with smiles and laughter.

"I could see the sparkle in both students' and residents' eyes. After the visit, my students made comments like, 'This was the best day in 2nd grade!' and 'I love my new friend,' and 'My new friend was a teacher or a nurse.' It was so beautiful to watch the friendships grow right from their first meeting," said West.

Studies have shown that intergenerational interactions are beneficial for children and seniors. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, "the (intergenerational) interactions increase the health and well-being of both young and older participants, reduces social isolation," and more.  

Hill and West knew the visits were popular right away as they said the residents thanked them for bringing the students and asked when they would return. On their second visit in February, students and residents asked specifically for their new friends. There were hugs and smiles as the students arrived and settled in for games of subtraction bingo and then a vowel egg hunt.

The seniors asked when the students would return; however, it was the residents who had an opportunity to return the visit. In early April, the residents surprised the students by coming to watch their musical production called “Hat.”  They got into the spirit by wearing fun hats and they took cookies for the students to enjoy. The residents said, “Grandparents always bring cookies.”

West said, "This outreach has impacted both my students and the residents in such a positive way. My students are learning respect and not to be afraid of older people. The residents are showing my students that learning never stops.

"In my 28 years in education, this has truly been the most rewarding experience."

It starts as the typical day in class for Mrs. West second graders at Red Oak elementary school in Moore, but this is one of those days the students get really excited about.

“They will tell me, this was my favorite day of second grade,” said Christi West, second grade teacher at Red Oak elementary school.

It’s a field trip of sorts, but not to an amusement park or playground.

“I can tell you that this has been the most rewarding experience as a teacher,” said West.

“It’s a track through the park, leading the students here, to the Village in the Park Senior Living Community to spend precious time with their extra special friends.

“We do a lot of special things here for our residents, but this has been one of the most special heart-warming things that we have ever done,” said executive director of Village on the Park, Karen Proctor.

Students spend time reading to their friends and catching up on life.

“I like it when we just talk together about our lives and I just think that she is a really nice friend,” said second grade student Makaiya.

“The children remember their special friend, and they look for them and our residents look for their special friend, and they have really made this really special friendship,” said Proctor.

Students presented a special serenade for their friends, complete with kazoos, that brought nothing but smiles to the residents.

“My students, many of them are not from this country, so they don’t have their grandparents here,” said West.

The students talked so much about their friends that the parents made a point to come meet them.

“When I introduced them to his special friend the parents got really teary,” said Proctor.  

A bond not easily broken even with summer break just around the corner.

“They’ve already asked if they can come see him this summer sometimes,” said Proctor.

Turning friendships into family.

“Feels like she’s just a part of my family,” said Makaiya.

  • Red Oak