Weekly Feature

2017-07-13 / Front Page

Intergenerational programs at Depew church proving beneficial for participants, young and old

by ALAN RIZZO Reporter

Elma resident Betty Coon, a participant in programming at Lord of Life Lutheran’s adult day health center, gets a hug from preschooler Jayden Menczynski, who helped sing a song to her and other seniors before lunch. The interaction was part of intergenerational programming that takes place daily at the center. Photo by Chuck Skipper. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Elma resident Betty Coon, a participant in programming at Lord of Life Lutheran’s adult day health center, gets a hug from preschooler Jayden Menczynski, who helped sing a song to her and other seniors before lunch. The interaction was part of intergenerational programming that takes place daily at the center. Photo by Chuck Skipper. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com During the past two years, Lord of Life Lutheran Church has been putting an emphasis on intergenerational interaction.

The owner of two nonprofit centers on the same property — one focused on child development and the other on social health for adults — the church has had the unusual opportunity to mix age groups on a daily basis through such activities as arts and crafts, reading, storytelling and music.

Lord of Life is located at 1025 Borden Road in Depew.

On Tuesday, preschoolers from Lord of Life’s child development center visited the adult day health center next door to sing “Tiny Tim the Turtle” and to say a blessing before participants with dementia — known as grandmas and grandpas — had lunch.

As the children filed in and began to sing, smiles appeared on the faces of the seniors in the room, who later thanked the youngsters with applause, hugs and conversation.

According to the Rev. Deborah Turley, Lord of Life’s pastor and president of nonprofit

Lord of Life Adult & Child Services, the aim of such interactions is to build relationships between the young and old, help them learn from each other, and validate each group’s worth through simple activities.

“When you put them together, they discover common connections,” she said, noting that children realize that seniors with dementia are similar to their own grandparents, and seniors find purpose through doing activities with children, such as reading.

“Older people with dementia are often shoved aside in our culture. People are afraid of dementia. They don’t want anything to do with it, and so when we bring the children and the adults together, they are both being kind of honored for who they are.”

The interactions are one kind of a variety of services that the centers provide to about 90 seniors and about 65 children ages 6 weeks to 12 years, all of which adhere to a philosophy of accepting people “for exactly who they are,” Turley said.

Adult center participant Betty Coon, who enjoyed every moment of the preschoolers’ visit, said intergenerational activities make her and other participants happier and give children a chance to see what people with dementia are really like.

“The kids are so cute; you can’t help but want to hug them, you know?” said Coon, an Elma resident. “I think it’s a good idea that the kids see we [are] people, because we aren’t all crazy. We’re just a little mixed up.”

Adult center volunteer Ron Golas, a retired Town of Cheektowaga sewer maintenance worker, said visits from children also help seniors chase away the depression and disorientation that dementia brings.

“When the kids come in here, the adults’ eyes light up,” he said. “When [seniors] come in here, they’re afraid, and when you see them smile, it’s a whole different ball game.”

Lord of Life Lutheran has also been bringing smiles to hungry families in Depew recently through a monthly outreach called “Matthew’s Table,” which provides a free hot meal and social interaction to impoverished residents in the heart of the village.

Held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month in the Village of Depew Senior Center, the outreach is a cooperative effort of the church, the Tri-Community Food Pantry and Wegmans Food Markets, and has seen attendance increase from 50 to 100 in three months, Turley said.

To support its centers, Lord of Life will be holding its annual Summerfest fundraiser from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 21, in the yard outside the church at 1025 Borden Road.

Turley said this year’s Summerfest will feature a Chiavetta’s chicken barbecue and live music from oldies group “Flat Tops,” as well as a basket raffle and $1,000 cash raffle.

The event will also include jugglers, games, and an adopt-a-friend station where children can purchase stuffed animals and dolls for $1 each.

While admission to the Summerfest is free, tickets for the chicken barbecue are $10 each, and can be purchased at the centers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., or at Summerfest on July 21.

Turley said proceeds from the event will go toward purchasing two new vehicles for the adult day health center’s transportation service, a walk-in freezer for the centers’ food service department, and room dividers for a preschool classroom at the child development center.

To learn more about Lord of Life Lutheran, visit https://www.lordoflife.us/. To schedule a tour of one of its centers, call 668-8000.

Return to top