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Ed center bridges generation gap

Martha & Mary student David Osborne glues together a bookmark with Crista Shores Retirement Community resident Frances Sager. - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Martha & Mary student David Osborne glues together a bookmark with Crista Shores Retirement Community resident Frances Sager.
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

It’s quiet inside the Crista Shores Retirement Community rec room when Heather Melendrez’s small class of preschoolers shows up. They come from the Martha & Mary Early Learning Center in Silverdale once every three weeks to interact with a group of about five senior women and affectionately refer to them as “the grandmas.”

As the morning goes on, the kids start to loosen up a little and some even go so far as to try and strike up little conversations.

“Did you make those two?” asks David Osborn to Frances Sager, motioning to a couple bookmarks she made during an arts and crafts activity.

“Yeah, I made them for you,” she replies.

A shy grin breaks out across David’s face, and though it’s a small gesture of appreciation, it’s just the kind of thing that Martha & Mary’s Intergenerational Program seeks to accomplish.

“The main thing I want is I want them to interact with (the seniors),” Melendrez said. “It’s a great way to introduce another generation to them. Some of them don’t have that in their lives on a regular basis.”

The program began more than a decade ago at Martha & Mary’s Poulsbo location and continues today in Poulsbo and Silverdale. The program seeks to bridge the generational gap between young kids and seniors in the community.

“The point of the program was to give the children the wisdom of the grandma and grandpas and give the grandma and grandpas the joy of the kids,” Martha & Mary Assistant Director Sharon Deines said.

Programming at Crista Shores is usually geared toward whatever the kids happen to be studying or learning in their classes to help them get the most out of the experience. Classes rotate every three weeks, too, so residents at Crista Shores have several groups of kids to interact with.

Having the kids come to visit “just brightens up their day,” Crista Shores Activities Assistant Jeannie Butcher said. “It’s fun to see the interaction between the two.”

Visits are regular enough that kids and seniors get progressively more comfortable with each other over the course of the school year. Participation on the seniors’ behalf is purely voluntary, but most involved in the program are regulars.

“They like to come here, they really do; and we like having them,” Crista Shores resident Mabel Kelley said of the kids.

The kids often bring their experiences with the seniors back home with them, Martha & Mary Program Supervisor Brandi White said.

“I’ve been with Martha & Mary for a year now and it’s one of my favorite programs,” she said.

It’s not hard to tell that it’s one of the seniors’ favorite programs, too.

“I think the children are marvelous,” said resident Helen Haggbloom. “They’re just wonderful and they’re very happy, also.”

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