I enjoy GrandPals. And it makes me feel like, even though I know I’m getting older, I’m still very important to the children.Lorraine O'Donnell - Senior
GrandPals is a project that was originally developed at Montgomery Village Public School in Orangeville Ontario. While the initiative began about five years ago, the project has been evolving from year-to-year. Each year, different seniors, students and teachers have been involved in the project and new components have been added or developed. In the 2014–15 school year, the project was run collaboratively with Parkinson Centennial Public School in Orangeville. The GrandPals project guide was also shared with the Orangeville Christian School and the Burlington Public Library. Both locations planned and ran their own successful versions of a GrandPals project. The Orangeville Christian School expects to undertake the project again and the Burlington Public Library is expanding its initiative from Brant Hills Public School to a number of other schools in Burlington.
In this way, the GrandPals project now consists of a small network of seniors, educators, librarians, and staff from long-term care or retirement residences. This small network of people has witnessed the power of this rich intergenerational programming:
Seniors involved in the project have shared about how beneficial the program has been for them. It has provided many seniors with a kind of informal life review, friendship, and an opportunity to influence and educate the upcoming generation. A number of seniors have continued to assist in developing the project.
Students are deeply engaged and learn in multifaceted ways. Not only do they develop literacy skills from across the curriculum, they also develop skills of collaboration, interpersonal communication, and a broader historical understanding.
Teachers interested in project-based, service learning, appreciate how the current GrandPals project guide outlines the many rich curriculum connections that are made possible through the project.
Program Managers in Long Term Care or Retirement residences have expressed appreciation for the project, as it fits right into the kinds of programs that they are looking for in their facilities.
Service clubs (such as Rotary) have expressed interest supporting for the project, as it fits with their ethos of ¨service above self¨.
Many faith groups are looking for ways to build stronger inter generational relationships within their own members and local community. Faith groups have appreciated the way in which a GrandPals Project can accomplish these two goals.
It’s so life changing. It’s an amazing opportunity for everyone.Alyssa Curry - Student
Not only does a GrandPals project bring benefit to all involved, but current social and demographic trends indicate that such an initiative is a timely undertaking. As our the baby boomers population continues to age, our communities will be comprised of an unprecedented number of seniors. These seniors need to remain deeply connected socially within our communities. Meanwhile in our increasingly mobile society, student connections with family elders seem to be more and more difficult to maintain. Yet our ¨information age¨ students can still benefit greatly from the wisdom of their elders! The time is right then for a project like GrandPals. Regardless of what the program might look like in your own unique community, at the core the program remains focused on a common vision: bringing students and seniors together for the purposes of friendship, social engagement and shared learning.
The current hope is that GrandPals can continue to develop and deepen as an ¨open source¨ social program, under the guidance and input of an even broader group of like-minded community leaders. We are happy to freely share our learning and resources, with the idea that struggles and successes are freely shared in return, as you undertake your own unique version of the GrandPals project in your own local community.
On behalf of the growing GrandPals community,
Montgomery Village Public School
The highlight of my teaching career so far was doing this GrandPals unit. Kristie Walraven - Teacher
This program’s been great for my daughter. She has much more appreciation for the seniors in our community. And she’s much more willing and wanting to help. Something as simple as opening a door for a senior in a public place, in a shop, just stopping and saying hello. Offering to help – those are the types of changes I’ve seen in my daughter – it’s just been wonderful.Jeremy Curry - Parent
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
We were actually quite blown away by the exchange [between seniors and students]. The expectation was that they just respond to [pen pal] letters. We saw stuff that would make you cry… Cecilia Vespa - Community Librarian
It was perfect timing, because we were just looking at developing some new inter-generational programs. It is something our company has been working on for a long time. Anna Hardy - Program Manager - Long Term Care