SARASOTA, FL – Middle school students from the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School and residents from Aviva: A Campus for Senior Life came together for an end-of-year luncheon at Michael’s On East to see each other one final time before the summer, reminisce about the wonderful experiences they shared together over the past year, and watch a heartwarming video featuring program highlights.
Last year, Community Day School was selected to participate in the Better TogetherTM Program, a two-year program designed to encourage meaningful interaction between young and old. The focus of the Better Together Program is to sensitize students to the challenges of the elderly and incorporate Jewish learning and values in their interactions with them.
Community Day School partnered with Aviva (formerly Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson) for this program. A total of 34 students in grades 5-8 participated, with the exploration of Jewish values and texts, and monthly visits to and interaction with the residents of Aviva.
Madelyn Halperin, who was a winner of the “Better2Write” essay contest through which students were invited to express how the program impacted them, read her essay during the luncheon. She talked about how she lost her grandmother when she was only 9, and how the Better Together program filled a gap for her.
“When I was younger, I couldn’t appreciate the person my grandmother was. After she died, I knew that a large part of my life would be gone. But when I met with the people at Aviva, I knew that I had been given a special chance to connect with equally incredible seniors,” she said. “I have been able to really cherish and appreciate the stories the seniors tell of their experiences. Not only that but I am forming relationships I’ll never forget.”
Each month offered a new opportunity for interaction and understanding. In October, the students spent time with residents and got comfortable with having conversations and being good listeners. In November, they interviewed residents about their lives. In January, the students and residents made “snow” during a fun, tactile science experiment. On Valentine’s Day, the students and residents shared family photos together, a wonderful opportunity to bring happy memories to the surface. In April, the seniors were invited to the school for a variety show featuring skits, card tricks, and some piano, followed by the sharing of treats from Edible Arrangements. The first year of the program wrapped up with the luncheon at Michael’s.
April Mischini, the activity director at Aviva, noted that the program has mutual benefits for the participants – young and old. “The students gain an understanding and appreciation of the aging process, and a respect for the individual journeys and wisdom of their senior friends. And the youthful energy of the students is uplifting and brings happiness to our residents – after a visit, they would talk about the children for the rest of the day.”
The organizations are working on an informal plan to connect available students and the residents at Aviva throughout the summer; they will continue the program through the next school year. This project is generously supported through a Better Together Grant from a prominent national foundation. For more information, call Community Day School at (941) 552-2770.
The mission of the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School, which serves students in preschool through eighth grade, is to impact the world by creating a community where children of all faiths demonstrate integrity, academic excellence, and a desire to improve the world. Community Day offers a rigorous, project-based academic program in a diverse and vibrant learning environment rooted in the Jewish values of honesty, integrity, mutual trust and respect. For more information, visit the website at communityday.org or call (941) 552-2770.
AVIVA – A CAMPUS FOR SENIOR LIFE, is Sarasota’s only rental senior campus offering all levels of living options: Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. Aviva was formerly called Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson before rebranding in 2016. The Jewish Housing Council Foundation supports the mission of Aviva: A Campus for Senior Life. Together, we can enrich the lives of our seniors and the greater community.