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“Adopt-a-Grandparent” Team-up with City of Cambridge

September 17, 2021

A recent City of Cambridge “Adopt-a-Grandparent” initiative has given dozens of high school students new “grand-friends” in two local peopleCare long-term care (LTC) homes. This intergenerational community program brings youth and residents of Golden Years LTC and peopleCare Hilltop Manor together to share their experiences, form new bonds and create a mutual sense of being valued and needed.

Golden Years resident Dennis on a video call with a local student

Dennis, resident at Golden Years LTC, on a video call with student Ben

When the City announced the program, aimed at keeping seniors connected during a challenging time, it was thrilled with the number of young people who put their hands up to participate. They reached out to peopleCare and, after careful planning to match residents and students to ensure a successful and impactful experience, approximately 30 students met their new, older friend in Spring of this year.

According to Kathryn McGarry, Mayor of the City of Cambridge, the success of the program has been a bright spot for the community.

“We are really excited to see this partnership with the City of Cambridge and peopleCare Communities,” says Mayor McGarry. “Combating senior isolation is more important than ever during these unprecedented times and this program gives students an opportunity to connect with wonderful and interesting new grand-friends.”

Eleanor, resident at peopleCare Hilltop Manor, chats with her pen pal over Skype

Eleanor, resident at peopleCare Hilltop Manor, chats with her virtual pen pal

While involvement in the program counts towards the community service hours required to graduate high school, student Maya – who enjoys video chats with Golden Years resident Jamie – says the benefits of participating extend much further.

“Meeting with Jamie has been awesome and I look forward to our conversations, especially about things like school, career advice and our past successes and failures,” says Maya. “We can get out of our comfort zones by sharing new thoughts and experiences, and this has been a major social opportunity for both of us during the pandemic!”

Jamie, Golden Years LTC resident, chats with student on a video call

Jamie and Maya chat on a video call

During a time when everyone has needed to practice social distancing as a precaution, the program has been a great way for residents to feel more connected and be reminded that they belong and are an important part of their community.

For Golden Years LTC resident Adib, being able to share his advice has made him feel valued and appreciated.

“This has been a very beneficial activity for both myself and Abby, and it gives me her perspective into what is happening ‘out there’ in the world,” says Adib. “I really look forward to our visits.”

In addition to Skyping, many students have shared letters and crafts with their new pals. Some, like Abby, have even taken advantage of the nice summer weather to get together for lovely outdoor visits at the Homes.

Golden Years LTC resident Adib and student during an outdoor visit at the home

Abby and Adib during an outdoor visit at Golden Years LTC

According to City staff, there is a long waitlist of students who are excited for their chance to connect with a LTC resident. And peopleCare is certainly keen to match more residents and students in the coming months.

“Our residents have lived long, fascinating lives and have a lot of knowledge, wisdom and wit to share with the younger generations,” says Jason Fisher, Director of Programs at Golden Years. “We appreciate the City of Cambridge for supporting such meaningful interactions through this program. It really reinforces that we are all part of one strong, welcoming and inclusive community.”