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High school students connect with seniors in New Brunswick community


The residents of a long-term care home in Riverview, N.B., were paid a visit this week from a dozen students who made the 20-minute march from Riverview High School to make a connection with another generation.

The Grade 9 students from Riverview High are part of a wellness and enrichment program and are participating in a project that sees them paired up with a resident from the Grass Home long-term care facility.

Their teacher, Charlotte Love, said the students were so excited to meet the seniors in-person for the first time.

“They were a little nervous once we got here. One little girl said, ‘I'm nervous,’ and I had to hold her hand and take her over to her senior,” Love tells CTV Atlantic. “But once they start talking and the human-ness comes through, those boundaries just fall away.”

This was the first trip inside due to COVID-19 protocols -- so for the first time this fall, the teens could actually sit and interact with the residents by playing games and telling stories.

Stephanie Thomson, the activity coordinator at the long-term care facility, said the residents are thrilled when the kids come over.

“The residents some days are moved to tears just to think the students would do these things for them. The students show up, one week they had their favourite recipe on a recipe card for each resident, one week they showed up with posters they made for them with some information about themselves. It just really helps with that connection. It makes it more personal,” said Thomson.

Love teaches her students the importance of human connection in every stage of life. She believes youth have a role to play in the life of a senior.

Resident Dorothy Tingley said it’s nice to have the kids come over.

“It's really so good. You can tell they're really happy to be here. I think it's great for them to get out in the public and do this,” said Tingley.

Resident Ed Bowes likes to talk about history with the kids from RHS.

“It's just nice to do something different than just sitting in your room,” said Bowes. “I just think it's nice to see the students and talk to them.”

But there is a learning and feeling-out process between the teens and the seniors. It isn't necessarily an easy thing to do.

“You could see some of the kids weren't too sure about what to do inside,” said Love. “That comes with time and getting to know their seniors. It's beautiful. Everyone leaves feeling special. Everyone feels it. Not just the seniors -- the students feel really, really... they just feel happy.”

Grade 9 student Jake Wilson said it was a bit hard to find conversation topics.

“It generally revolved around where she was from and how it was different back then compared to how it is now,” said Wilson.

However, the students do realize just coming inside and talking for 30 to 40 minutes can really brighten someone's day.

“I hope so,” said Grade 9 student Desiree Messenger-Hessle. “You see a few smiles on their face because they get a few new things. It's not always the same old thing. You get to meet new people and I think that puts a smile on their face.”

The visits provide good company, but Thomson said they are also a huge benefit to the mental health of the residents.

“It just brings such joy and they just feel like they know these students. The Grass Home is lucky that we have a teacher on board like Charlotte, who recognizes the benefit of these visits,” said Thomson. Top Stories

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