The presence of youth in a senior’s life has an unmeasurable impact. The pure beauty of it is the fact the child has no idea they are even giving what some would call a “gift”. I have witnessed this first hand in many senior living communities when elementary school children or teenagers walk through the doors. Resident’s eyes light up like a child who has never seen Christmas lights before. If a baby comes through the door the mother needs to be prepared to take on forty new grandmothers because that child isn’t leaving until every senior gets a look at that precious gift. Yet where it hit home was exactly that, in my home.
My father-in-law is a gifted carpenter who could simply look at any piece of furniture with a long gaze and then months later that piece would emerge from his garage. Ok, sometimes six months later but true artists never use a clock, it has to be just right. When my first child was set to be born my father-in-law’s mind raced with ideas of what he was going to make for his first grandchild. While he had many suggestions from his wife, he knew this gift had to be unique as it was his first grandchild and a boy to boot. This was going to be the most challenging a craft he had ever ventured. Not to mention this had to be something a boy could use. Then it hit him, “I will build a canoe!”
When we first heard the idea we thought, like many man projects, this will never see fruition not to mention he had never built a canoe before. Yet, through many months of tireless labor and meticulous detail he stripped every piece of wood, sanded, and pieced together what would come to be a powerful message and symbol to me. Truth be told he probably built and re-built that canoe a few times over. The gleam in his eye the day that canoe was done can’t be measured by any ruler or scale. Like many gifts for children, my son never actually used the canoe but that didn’t matter to his “Papi”, the nickname my children bestowed upon my father-in-law. We all realized the magic of it all. Through just the mere thought of youthful exuberance and life this man was invigorated with enough passion to try something he had never done before. He was ready to tackle a completely unguided course and handle whatever obstacles lay in front of him. Again the pure beauty of it all was the gift each gave to one another. Because of this I knew one thing for sure, intergenerational programming was going to be a key backbone of my company.
That very canoe stands proudly in our home office as a reminder to us daily that we can never forget the power of intergenerational programming and continuing to help our senior’s everyday find their renewed purpose.