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Kids and patients come together at Runnymede


Manager of Activation and Volunteer Services Sarah King (back) with patients and junior kindergarten students from Humbercrest Public School.

For a number of Runnymede patients, the monthly visits from the junior kindergarten class at Humbercrest Public School is a highly anticipated event.

Intergenerational programming consists of events that bring older adults and children together to participate in activities, and has been shown in larger studies, and at Runnymede, to be beneficial for both children and patient participants. This hugely successful program brings these eager kids to visit Runnymede once a month during the school year, and was started in mid-2015.

As part of a recent visit to Runnymede, the class of four and five year olds shared a project relating to The Wizard of Oz – they were seeing if houses they built out of cardboard, feathers, popsicle sticks and other crafty items would take flight, or remain stationary when placed in front of a fan.

The kids first explained the project to the group of patients, sharing their theories about what would move, and what would stay put. Patients listened intently, charmed by their youthful energy.

Among the benefits of this kind of program is the forming of an important link between young children and older adults, providing patients with a special opportunity to play a mentoring role during programs. Teachers of these younger visitors also report tangible benefits for the children involved, including increased comfort levels around people with disabilities as well as providing the children with an increased sense of purpose when they, in turn, are encouraged to teach or help older adults.

Rebecca Forte, the class’s teacher, says "the kids have become more comfortable over time with the patients. They understand that patients may not always be able to communicate in familiar ways but that they are still involved and understand what is happening. Many kids today don’t live close to grandparents like kids of earlier generations. Having a chance to interact with older people in the community is so valuable for them."

It’s not just the kids who benefit. "What we see is that the children really enjoy being able to visit and help some of our patients with specific activities, and that our patients love the energy that the children bring to the program", says Sarah King, Manager of Activation and Volunteer Services. "We definitely notice an increase in engagement and more interaction when our patients are interacting with children during intergenerational programs."

For both patients and students, this program is a way to be part of the larger Bloor West community. "Fostering the school-community connection is important to Humbercrest, and we are always looking for opportunities to do good work in the community," says Forte. King adds, "When the kids come, it is a way to bring the community outside of Runnymede in. Everyone has an opportunity to learn about and with each other."

Next: Redefining possible with Runnymede's five year-plan