Picture this: Residents of Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, sit outside their homes, eagerly awaiting teens who will bring them farm animals to see and pet.
The teenagers are members of a local FFA. They bring goats, chickens, turkeys, sheep, a calf and a horse for the residents to enjoy. Residents ask many questions about the animals and the care they require. Smiles and laughter abound when the antics of the goats and turkeys entertain all.
My husband and I have been residents at Fairhaven, a United Church Homes community, for approximately three years. Besides receiving very good care, we find that living here offers many opportunities to attend interesting life enrichment programs, musical offerings, craft workshops, religious discussion groups and worship. I try to attend many of the programs, as does my husband.
Quite often, teenage girls and boys attend these events as part of the Teen Impact volunteer program. Sometimes they help residents by walking with them or pushing them in their wheelchairs to the location of the program or workshop. They also give assistance as needed, whether it be painting, cutting or stringing beads. The smiles on the faces of residents when projects are completed are a good indication of the fun they have had. They form new friendships, and they return to their apartments with artsy items to show friends and family members who visit.
At the same time, one can see the smiles on the faces of the teens because they know that their help and encouragement made it all possible. It is almost as though they are helping their own grandparents! The teens share information such as names, schools, family members and even what their plans are after graduation. And, in turn, residents share information about themselves. It is a pleasant experience — a time to reflect and remember.
At the close of a life enrichment program, teens often accompany residents back to their apartments, and the conversation continues. I personally was fortunate to have two young women talk with me. They called it an interview, and it lasted almost an hour.
They asked questions about my school years and my experiences while teaching. We compared values of my growing years to the values of today. They shared their plans for the future. They both were delightful, and I would welcome another visit from them.
Once a week, a class of students from a nearby high school travels to Fairhaven to join residents who wait on the Sun Porch. The students and residents enjoy a variety of life enrichment programming together, including crafts, board games and cards. Everyone appears to have a good time working and playing together.
Both the residents and the teens have meaningful experiences being together. Many of us are aware that sometimes it is difficult for young people to carry on a conversation with adults — especially older adults. But that barrier is put aside here at Fairhaven Community as seniors and teens enjoy one another’s company while working together on projects or just talking and getting to know one another.