As a resident of Botsford Commons senior community in Farmington Hills, Joan Daley spends most of her time with people her own age.
Over the past six weeks, she has been part of a program that connects seniors with students at Botsford Elementary School in Livonia. Through Bridges Together, which fosters intergenerational experiences, Daley and more than a dozen of her friends have enjoyed weekly visits with 2nd graders taught by Lana Schultz and Brittany Murawski.
”I really enjoyed it,” Daley said, “I have young grandchildren, but they live far away.”
Bobbi Silberberg was an elementary school teacher for 25 years. The weekly visits from 49 Botsford students brought back wonderful memories.
“I loved having children to work with again,” she said.
Fullness of Life Coordinator Barb Smith says Botsford Commons is the first group in Michigan with a Bridges Together program. A grant funded training not only for Botsford staff, but also for Schultz and Murawski.
“The group activities are about getting the kids to understand that we all grow older,” Smith said. “It wasn’t about the end product, it was about the process you go through with the kids.”
Botsford Elementary students already have a strong connection with Botsford Commons. Seniors give first graders books through the Christmas Giving Tree program, and kindergarten students visit in costume to pick up Halloween treats.
Each weekly, one-hour Bridges visit had a theme, with a story followed by a craft and treats. The final event brought students to Botsford Commons on June 3 for a reading of What a Wonderful World. Everyone also sang the classic song made famous by Louis Armstrong.
“(The students) are very engaged with the lessons and the relationships they have with their seniors,” said Schultz. ”A lot of students had an extra special relationship because they’ve lost a grandparent or their grandparents live out of state.”
Smith said Botsford Commons plans to continue the Bridges program during the 2019-2020 school year. The seniors, she said, “really get excited about going.”
”They always had the same kids and got to know them,” she said. “They developed a really quick bonding.”