Life is always about your ability to reflect – enjoying your successes and learning from your mistakes – moving forward stronger and wiser. When my journey launching Phoenix Senior Living began over 16 years ago, building it in my mind (and heart) and breathing life into it over the last few years, I have remained true to my belief, Intergenerational Programming was a critical piece in helping our seniors live a purposeful life. I continued to believe that bringing our newest and wisest generations together, would not only help bridge the generation gap but it could help mitigate ageism, starting with our newest generation.
Today, my passion to integrate Intergenerational Programming into all our communities has been renewed with vigor. Last week our community, The Phoenix at Dunwoody, hosted our first Phoenix Kids Kamp. A week-long event of youth led programming for our seniors. Children between the ages of 8 to 12 joined our Phoenix team, leading and participating in activities. Talking with our residents, interviewing our residents and creating art collages of their lives, eating lunch with our seniors, building bird houses with our seniors and setting up bird feeders. It was a week-long series of events, bringing our newest and wisest generations together. You may ask, was I confident in our ability to manage the gap, I had confidence the Phoenix team would figure it out and we did.
Walking into the community during the Kids Kamp, the children’s laughter, which truly, when you listen, is music to the ears, resonated throughout the community. I could hear it before the doors opened. Not only could you hear kid’s laughter, you could feel the energy of the residents and our associates. The seniors getting up early to join the kids, asking what the schedule was for the day and who their lunch partner was. Our families coming into visit to enjoy what their parents were talking about, to meet their new friends, the Phoenix Kids.
Recognizing the value of partnerships, we had the privilege of hosting our first Kids Kamp with the support of Jamar Milsap, author of The Sandpaper Effect: 10 Ways to Spark the Entrepreneur in Kids. His work offers “10 Sparks” for children to better understand entrepreneurship and his involvement and support helped us fuel the learning for our Phoenix Kids as well as align the experiences for our seniors, using their wisdom and life experiences through the process.
Sometimes one thing happens that seals the deal and for me it was the feedback from one of our families. Unfortunately, during our Phoenix Kids Kamp week, one of our resident’s passed away. Our Executive Director spent time with the family before the start of the camp day. During this time, the family expressed that “it’s so wonderful to hear these young voices fill the community. It’s such a comfort to us today.” Incredibly, in the midst of their own grieving, these family members requested to stand beside us so that they could help protect our Phoenix Kids from seeing their Mother leave to rest in peace. The Phoenix Kids made a difference.
Next year, The Phoenix Kids Kamps will continue and Phoenix Senior Living will continue our mission to keep all generations connected. When it comes to your loved one, everything matters and it matters to all of us – learning and experiencing that learning at a young age makes all of us better.