It’s hard to tell who benefits more from a unique intergenerational partnership taking place at The New Jewish Home in New York: the memory care residents or the young people with whom they work.
The facility has worked with a program called Sweet Readers over the past five years to pair middle school students with residents for art activities and trips to local museums.
The art projects completed over the course of each session’s six- to eight-week time span cross a variety of media, from collages to dioramas, all meant to spark memories within the residents. The students engage residents as they work on the projects, asking them what memories are evoked by certain fabrics, textures or photographs.
Miriam Levi, director of community life activities at the Jewish Home, says the facility’s partnership with Sweet Readers has brought joy to residents who may not receive regular visits from younger family members, while de-mystifying aging and long-term care for the students.
“When you see somebody living with dementia, it can be scary,” Levi says. “This program has maybe softened that a bit, or made it more real. We can’t even describe the benefits of it. Our elders just keep coming back for more.”