I wanted to make a difference. So I developed Grandkids Intergenerational program, which uses meaningful activities and stories to connect high school students with older adults at assisted-living facilities.
Students go through a three-hour intensive training that involves them participating in activities that teach them what it’s like being an older adult who needs assistance.
Some activities included students learning how to get around in a wheelchair, reading a passage with Vaseline-smeared eyeglasses (learn what it feels like to have failing eyesight), talking with their friends while wearing ear plugs (learn what it feels like to lose their hearing) and opening a medicine bottle with kitchen mittens (learn the difficulties of arthritis).
I was 9 when I started the Grandkids Intergenerational program. Now, I’m 18 and the program has expanded to high schools around Florida, with a new one starting at the University of Florida soon. (VIDEO: Community Hero Ishan Mandani)
The students’ two- to three-hour weekly visits helped them bond with, and learn from, their adopted grandparents.
The programs made the older adults feel valued. For the youth, who are often distracted by technology, it instilled empathy, respect and compassion for their elders.
In my home state, this program expanded into 10 high schools, impacting 1,000 students and over 900 older adults and growing.