2015-03-20 / Schools

Two generations come together for fun, friendship

By Julie Mondimore Wilke


FINDING COMMON GROUND—Seniors in the Camarillo Health Care District’s Adult Day Center program and student council members from Dos Caminos Elementary School share a visit with therapy dogs from Love on a Leash last Thursday. 
Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers FINDING COMMON GROUND—Seniors in the Camarillo Health Care District’s Adult Day Center program and student council members from Dos Caminos Elementary School share a visit with therapy dogs from Love on a Leash last Thursday. Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers To see them, you’d think they were old friends. The pair—Carolyn and Tim—sat side by side and laughed at each other’s jokes.

And although Carolyn is 79 and Tim Sloan is 11, the Camarillo residents have found common ground and a shared sense of humor.

The connection is exactly the point of Generation Us, a new collaboration between the Camarillo Health Care District and Dos Caminos Elementary School. The idea is to bring together students and seniors.

“What did you put in your hair to get it like that?” Carolyn asked the Dos Caminos fifth-grader.

He told her his “magic product” was water and then pulled out his comb and started styling his slicked-back hair. Carolyn couldn’t help laughing.


PULL UP A CHAIR—Tim Sloan, 11, chats with Carolyn, 79, at the Camarillo Health Care District last week. PULL UP A CHAIR—Tim Sloan, 11, chats with Carolyn, 79, at the Camarillo Health Care District last week. Ann Springer, the district’s business development manager, said she was looking for a way to bring seniors in the Adult Day Center program together with elementary school students.

The center’s seniors have mild dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other impairments Springer said, and chatting with other people provides much-needed mental stimulation. The health district cannot release their last names due to confidentiality laws.

After a meeting with Carol Bjordahl, Pleasant Valley School District’s director of student services, Springer said they decided to pair Dos Caminos Elementary with the Adult Day Center program.

“This sounded like the perfect opportunity for students to connect with our community,” Dos Caminos Principal Mark Asher said. “We’ve started with our fourth- and fifth-grade student council members to pilot this program. Our school is right behind the center so we can walk over. The kids really look forward to their Thursday visits.”

Fifteen student council members, accompanied by two Dos Caminos teachers, visit the center once a month to talk with the seniors and participate in various activities.

Both groups wear nametags to make it easier to strike up a conversation. They chat about everything from how to upload photos on an iPad to how to write in cursive on a holiday card.

During their latest meeting, students and seniors were visited by therapy dogs from Love on a Leash and they celebrated Pi Day with pies from Marie Callender’s.

Watching the two generations talk about their favorite pie flavors and quizzing each other on math facts, Asher said his school is lucky to be part of this program.

“At first, many of the kids were tentative to come over and talk to the seniors, who were strangers to them. But now many of the kids know (the seniors’) names and they can’t wait to come over here and show off some of what they are learning in school,” Asher said. “A few have even made a special connection.”

Carolyn and Tim have one of those special bonds.

“Tim likes to smile,” Carolyn said. “I think that’s cool.”

“Carolyn tells good stories,” the 11-year-old said.

Fifth-grade teacher and program chaperone Lara Landry said the goal of the program is for students and seniors to develop a connection and to learn from each other.

“I think this program helps bridge the gap between these two generations,” Landry said. “These two groups often have more in common than they realize.”

Such was the case for Betty, 83, and fourth-grader Kathleen Godinez.

“We started talking about the (therapy) dogs and school,” Betty said.

Kathleen listened to Betty talk about her family and memories of her days in elementary school. They discovered they both like dogs. “Today’s my favorite visit so far because I made a new friend,” said Kathleen, 9.

Back at Tim and Carolyn’s table, the two told jokes and enjoyed each other’s company.

“We couldn’t wait for you guys to get here. We were so excited, we didn’t eat lunch,” Carolyn said. “You’ll visit me next time?”

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