Bridging the Generational Gap at Summerhill PARC

in Community Connections

Written by Christine Thompson

Funny how the energy in a room can change, depending who’s in it. I recently visited Summerhill PARC  to observe a group of students from North Vancouver’s St. Edmunds School and the seniors whom they had interviewed. The project was a written biography.

St. Edmunds Student Reading with Resident

Before the children arrived, the eight participating Summerhill PARC residents sat quietly chatting in the second floor lounge. I’d say the energy in the room was more or less subdued. And then in came the children. We heard them before we saw them:  the giggles and animated  chatter, with their teacher issuing directions.

But what was apparent most of all was the bubbling ENERGY that swept into the room! They arrived with smiles, in their maroon hoodies and purple t-shirts ablaze with school slogans and crests. After greetings and a little impromptu dancing on the patio, the groups sat down together to share and read their prepared biographies.

As everyone relaxed into it, the conversations grew more animated. The students told residents about their recent ‘Spirit Day’ at school, gave updates on their sports teams, showed photos from mobile phones and invited them to attend the school’s annual Choir and Christmas concert.

St. Edmunds School Students showing residents iPhone

It seemed to me like they had all been friends for a very long time.

In the written reports I glanced at, I saw comments like “I hope our friendship continues to grow, even if we don’t see each other often.” Another said:  “She has been a great gift from God. I wish to see this in others as well as she has done for others.”

When I asked a few of the students what they had learned from this exercise, one bright freckled boy said smiling, “You should never judge a book by its cover.” and then: “It makes you see that people are much more special than you think they are.”

For the residents of Summerhill PARC, they were thrilled to participate. One said, “When my sons read these reports (now in their 50s), they learn things about me they never knew.” For Summerhill resident Elaine, a long standing friendship and camaraderie has developed with a girl who participated in this project three years ago. They now get together regularly to knit.

Summerhill PARC resident with St. Edmunds School students

I could see that no one really wanted the afternoon to end. Who would? The kids enjoyed themselves, and they were out of the classroom, while the residents got to share their life stories and be around a gaggle of bright bustling young students. That’s a win-win.

Judging by the warm goodbyes, hugs and promises to stay in touch, I’d say this project was exceptionally rewarding for every individual present. Including me.