Youth & Elders Program
Research shows that strong ties between generations result in psychological, social and economic benefits. The Bessie’s Hope Youth and Elders Program matches schools and other youth groups with nursing home and assisted living residents. In this mutually beneficial program, the youth gain self-esteem, respect for others, life skills and academic skills, and the elders receive companionship, intellectual stimulation and the chance to feel useful. Activities in all of the Bessie’s Hope programs focus on volunteers participating “with”, not doing things “to” or “for” their grandpartners. Thus, the interaction is always empowering for the elders.
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Before their first visit to the nursing home, the youth participate in a Bessie’s Hope orientation. They receive guidance on how to initiate contact and have meaningful interaction with residents of all levels of cognitive functioning. Bessie’s Hope also conducts Group Leader Training for the teachers, other adults, and older youth. One element within the structured and organized intergenerational visits is having all activities for the ongoing programs planned in advance. Bessie’s Hope provides a model that ensures successful visits for both the elders and the youth.
Bessie’s Hope coordinates with teachers to blend the nursing home experience into the schools’ curriculum. Reading is an important component. The youth are trained to position themselves in a way that enables their grandpartners to also see the reading material. In this way, they are actively engaged while the youth read, and sometimes, they are asked to help. This is empowering to the elders, and for the youth — reading confidence and fluency are increased. Because of exemplary inter-generational programming, the Bessie’s Hope founders have been invited to be presenters at state and national level Service-Learning Conferences.
Youth and elders read scripts in choral reading. Research has shown that Reader’s Theater provides modeling of fluent reading for struggling readers, makes repeated reading easy and fun, and improves student participation. It instills confidence, enhances vocabulary and comprehension, and can be used to address academic standards in any and all subject areas.Elders eagerly participate in this project, again feeling very much a sense of belonging with the group.
Youth interview their grandpartners by using questions from a variety of Bessie’s Hope Living History themes. The elders share their life experiences and wonderful stories, and the youth capture them in written biographical sketches. In subsequent visits, the stories are shared with the entire group. The youth read their grandpartners’ stories, using a microphone to enable all to hear. In addition, the youth present the stories to the elders in booklets, posters, or laminated pages. The teachers often augment this learning experience with additional reading assignments or creative assignments. For example, the youth create items that represent important parts of their grandpartners’, such as a favorite pass times, pets, or areas of interest.
The Bessie’s Hope youth/elders programs are grounded in profound respect for all. The elders in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer youth unconditional love and appreciation, and give the youth a sense of community. The youth feel they can be “themselves”, as they learn social skills, life skills and academic skills. In our programs, youth are seen as having resources rather than deficits. Substance abuse declines; disciplinary problems decrease; and academic achievement improves. Bessie’s Hope programs reach out to at-risk youth with positive options that give them heightened self-esteem, a sense of belonging and the joy of positively impacting the lives of others–alternatives to replace drugs and violence in their day to day lives.
Bullying is a serious national issue— Jodee Blanco, one of our country’s pre-eminent voices on the subject of school bullying says, “Here’s the issue: the whole problem is a lack of compassion. If we can cultivate a sense of kindness and compassion in our kids at an early age and encourage the social neurocircuitry (how our brains are wired) in a positive way, then it is most often possible to prevent bullying.” Bessie’s Hope provides the opportunity for youth to discover the true core of their being—compassion and caring—the fundamental elements within the Bessie’s Hope programs. The youth express this in their feedback sessions—they really care for their grandpartners. Adult participants have reported that aggressive behavior toward peers lessens, due to the youths’ involvement in the Youth and Elders Program.
Youth & Elder Group Leader
With your help, Bessie’s Hope can facilitate more and more youth and elder visits. Volunteer group leaders become the Bessie’s Hope representatives at the intergenerational visits. After an 1.5 hour training and observation of a certified facilitator leading the visits, you can be matched with your own youth group. In conjunction with the youth group’s adult supervisor, you can help bring the generationas together and watch them develop life-changing relationships. Contact the program staff at 303-830-9035 or email@example.com for more information.