From preschool through high school, youth groups are educated and trained by Bessie’s Hope to enable the cultivation of mutually rewarding relationships. Youth learn about aging, dementia, and life in the nursing home world. They gain insights, understanding, and skills that can be used in every area of their lives. They recognize that the elders in the care facilities, although isolated from the community, have vast wisdom, knowledge, and experiences to share with all younger generations. The youth gain patience, respect and compassion and are able to have meaningful interaction with elders of all levels of cognitive functioning, including advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. The elders feel needed, valued, seen and heard. They are given a sense of purpose. This has happened for Priscilla.
Having raised her own grandson, she has desperately missed him since he went to California a few years ago. “He doesn’t have time for me now. He is 18, and I know he is a fine young man, because my husband and I gave him guidance and values for living a good life. We didn’t have much, but we had love, and he felt that. Bessie’s Hope has given me Jeremiah. He is 18, and I feel like I have another grandson to love and help with life’s ups and downs. I’ve told him that I want him to graduate from high school because he needs that to get a job, and I want to get him a graduation present. I also told him he should work hard and go to college. This year that I’ve had with Jeremiah has meant a lot to me. I’ve watched him grow into a more confident young man.”
The teenage boys and girls at Third Way Center, a Denver residential treatment center for teens with behavioral issues, began visiting Briarwood once a month. Then, one day, they went to the counselors and reminded them of what they had learned. When they were trained about the elders, they were told that most of the elders didn’t have visitors. The boys said, “Really?!! Once a month?!! That’s all they get?!! That’s not enough, and we want to visit twice a month.” The past few months, they have visited their “grandpartners” at Briarwood every other week. Jeremiah has also requested permission to visit Priscilla on his own. He will be graduating from high school this month, and he thanks Priscilla for being such an inspiration to help him do that.