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Generations Together: SUNY brings together kids, seniors


3/6/2019
By Patsy Nicosia

It’s not only preschoolers who get a kick out of farming with toy tractors and not only equine majors who’d rather brush a pony than…just about anything else. Seniors do and can too, thanks to Generations Together, a free program at SUNY Cobleskill’s Campus Child Care Center that kicked off again yesterday. Generations Together is a one-of-a-kind effort that runs from 10am-noon Tuesdays and includes socializing, activities, and even lunch. After a successful launch in 2018, it’s entering its second year and there’s still room for seniors, including those who may be dealing with things like Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers. Gail Wentworth, an Early Childhood Education professor at the college, created Generations Together in 2018 as a way, to give seniors—often isolated locally--a place to socialize. It’s also a way to give their caregivers a break—even if it just means a couple of hours for grocery shopping or a hair cut—and introduces preschoolers and college students to people whose stories and lives could easily be forgotten. “We’re still evolving,” Dr. Wentworth, “but we’re going to stick with this to make sure we create something that’s going to be in this community for years to come. It’s that important.” A typical morning at Generations Together might see seniors and preschoolers singing along to old favorites like “Old Susannah,” or baking beside Child Care Center staff and students. When they can, Dr. Wentworth said, they’ll tailor activities; if a senior used to be a farmer, they’ll bring out the toy tractors as a way to spark memories and stories. Sorting and identifying old parts is something else the preschoolers enjoy that often resonates with seniors used to working with their hands; art activities that use fabric, button, and zippers strike a chord with others---plus they’re all just plain fun for everyone, Dr. Wentworth said. Generations Today is funded through the Institute for Rural Vitality and works closely with the college, tapping into ideas like gardening therapy through the Plant Science Department, taking seniors on strolls around campus, and even giving them a change to visit with Fuji, a pony who’s part of the college herd, or therapy dogs in Steve Mackenzie’s Canine Concentration. “No one has a program like this,” Dr. Wentworth said. “We really encourage people who think it might be a good fit for a senior in their lives to see what we do.” And to be a part of it: A senior who brought her husband to Generations Together last spring ended up staying to read to the preschoolers. Dr, Wentworth is quick to point out that she’s not an expert on aging—though she’s learning—and owes a lot to those who are, including partners from Albany Medical Center, Bassett Healthcare Network, Schoharie County Office for the Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Association Northeast Chapter. Dr. Wentworth has received approval from the college for a fall sabbatical, time she plans to spend on Generations Together, connecting with community groups, and growing the program so she can expand it to two days a week in 2020. For now, she’s looking for participants for this year’s program, which runs Tuesday mornings through May 7. Generations Together is located at the college’s Campus Child Care Center, next to Agway. The building is handicapped-accessible and drivers can pull right up to the building. For more information or to participate, contact Dr. Wentworth at (518) 255-5474.


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