"Grandpal" program at Sienna Maple Grove bonds generations together

A resident sits at a table with two students, smiling for the cameraA hum, filled with excited chatter, permeates the room. Occasionally, laughter rings out as students document and listen to the stories their grandpal has to tell.

“The residents had a really good time. They love the kids; they absolutely love getting to see them and hang out with them and it’s just a good time,” said Laura Kennery, director of resident programs and admissions at Maple Grove Care Community in Brampton. “Any intergenerational program is amazing.”

Throughout the Fall of 2016, the "Grandpal" program paired residents at Maple Grove with Grade 7 students from Sunny View Middle School. Each resident was paired with a group of three to four students, who would ask them questions about their life.

“The residents were telling the students about their family and friends, what they did when they grew up, what they did for a living. If they were a truck driver, they spoke about all the things they got to see across Canada. Someone else talked about how many times they moved, and that they were actually from Germany,” said Laura. “It was interesting to hear some of the stories.”
Several residents and students are gathered in a common room chattingStudents did not have a list of questions, and instead the conversations were left to take on a life of their own. At the end of the three visits, the students created a mini-biography of the residents for their social studies class. A few weeks after their final interview, the students went back to Maple Grove to present their grandpal with their mini-biography.

“I really liked the book,” said Carmen, a resident who participated in the grandpal program. “My granddaughter, she’s 11, she read it all and she said, ‘Oh Nan, what you going to do with the book?’ I said, ‘I’ll put it in the library here, where others can read it.’”

Sixteen grandpals and 50 students took part in the program, which ran in two sessions. One class of 25 students would meet with eight grandpals in the morning, with the other class and grandpals meeting in the afternoon. While the intergenerational program has many benefits for both the residents and students, one unexpected benefit was that it gave two grandpals a chance to speak in their first language. 

“We were able to work it out so they were paired with students who could speak Punjabi, so they could actually talk in their mother tongue,” Laura said. “I thought that was really nice, because the residents were able to connect on a different level, instead of always having to think about what word to say in English.”
Three students chat with a resident in the common room

The students also had a great time in the program.

“They’re coming back again in December, just to do Christmas carols and see their friends again,” Laura said. “They’ve been very excited and very happy.”

When asked if she would do the program again, Laura’s answer was a resounding yes. 

“YES! Absolutely, it was a wonderful!” she said. “I think any intergenerational program is amazing, and the residents have pride that they’re helping the students with a project… So yeah, we would definitely take on something like this again.”