I think the important point is that it is all about relationships and connections. We built relationships. I then pitched the idea and people stepped forward and said, “Yes. We want to be involved in this program.”Cecilia Vespa - Community Librarian
Connecting with a Community of Seniors
When it comes to connecting with a community of seniors, there are a number of different options:
A) Seniors in a local retirement residence or long term care facility;
B) Seniors in your local community at large;
C) Seniors beyond the local community.
A) Connecting with seniors in a residence
I went into the residence, met with the social coordinator, I said,
¨I have 16 students and we’re looking for 8 seniors that we can meet with weekly. The students will create a lifebook for the seniors¨.
She jumped on it and was excited. That was how we got started.
Kristie Walraven – Teacher
B) Connecting with seniors in the local community
I was able to connect with other people in the community through my mom. My mom, being a senior herself, said she was very keen, and the next thing I knew, she was actually encouraging some of her friends to come and join in. Lynda Brown – Grade 5 Teacher
Local community organizations
My number one answer for connecting with seniors in your local community is “faith groups”. You are going to find a lot of older adults that you can really engage. And the best way to communicate is through the faith leader, because they will get the information out. Heather Thompson – Community Development Halton
C) Connecting with seniors beyond the local community
We developed a program through Adobe Connect. Every two weeks we came together on a Wednesday and the kids would talk with the seniors. They had great conversations about their lives.Heather Thompson - Community Development Halton
Connecting with a Community of Students
As mentioned, when initiating a GrandPals project, one must begin with a twofold connection. Once a connection has been established with the community of seniors, the next step is to develop a connection with a community of students.
If you are a teacher, this connection with a group of students should be fairly straightforward. Likewise, if you are already a member of a faith group, connecting with a group of youth might be fairly straightforward. If you work for a local library, then partnership with a local school or youth organization will make a lot of sense.
¨Selling¨ the project to students, teachers, administrators and parents
If you are a teacher organizing the project for your school, you may have to explain the merits of a GrandPals project to your administrators or parent community. Likewise, if you are a community library, you will likely have to explain the merits of the project to any local teachers you may be partnering with.
When ¨selling¨ the project, a number of different things can be emphasized. First, because GrandPals is project-based and involves service learning, student engagement is often greatly increased. Students sense a greater purpose in their learning, and therefore are much more dedicated to the work.
In terms of keeping students engaged, the biggest trick is that there is no trick. It’s a real world project and they will be engaged throughout the project.Paola Argentino - Principal
I thought this kind of project was a great idea. I could incorporate this into my daily lessons, so I went with it. I could see how our school curriculum includes different styles of writing and inquiry based learning and I could also see how the GrandPals program worked really well with that. Donna Calanchie – Teacher Librarian
Other Possible Connections
Finally, there are a myriad of other connections that you can make as you are looking at developing a GrandPals project in your own community. A list of possible partners include:
- Your local Age Friendly Council
- Your local service club (e.g. Rotary Club, Lions Club, Optimists Club etc.). These service clubs often have many seniors in their membership. They might also be willing to support a project financially.
- The Alzheimer’s Society – this organization might be able to provide valuable teaching and input on the development and implementation of your project.