Sparking new friendships

“If I end up in assisted living, I want to be surrounded by kids and dogs, and then I know I’ll be happy,” smiles Sarah Reves, teacher at École Bellevue School in Beaumont.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, depression affects about 60 per cent of residents in continuing care facilities. Factors that can lead to depression include children or grandchildren moving away, loss of loved ones and diminishing social networks.

Resident Shirley LaRosee (right) teaches Riley Stevenson how to play card games like King's Corner.

Sarah is bringing Chateau Vitaline residents joy by giving them the opportunity to connect with her Grade 5 and 6 students.

“I just love children,” beams Velma Baker, who moved into Chateau Vitaline in July 2016. She worked with kids all her life and has a school in Edmonton named after her. “It’s nice to talk to the students because so many of the residents don’t get visitors. It can be pretty lonesome.”    

As part of the curriculum for Career and Technology Foundations (CTF), the students visit the residents throughout the year to complete a Legacy Project. “The plan is to take the information the kids learn, journal it, and at the end of the year present a legacy book to each senior with the stories they have shared,” says Sarah.

This is the second year Sarah has visited Chateau Vitaline with her students because it’s a great opportunity for kids to work with seniors in their community. “This is very much a student-led project. They will begin to see themselves for the empowered young people that they are.”

Student Zach Reves (left) was excited to see some familiar faces, including Gayla June Richards (right).

Riley Stevenson is a Grade 6 student who decided to join Sarah at Chateau Vitaline for a second year. She encouraged her classmates to participate in the Legacy Project by saying, “Don’t be nervous, just be yourself. You’ll make new friends!”

Riley loves learning about all the different seniors and how things were in the past. She connected with Velma and Shirley LaRosee at the very first meeting while talking about family camping trips.

Shirley’s sons live in Toronto and Indonesia, and are only able to travel to Beaumont a few times a year. She really enjoys when the students come to visit. “They are really cute and wonderful. It’s nice to talk to them. I get such a charge out of it.”

Sarah finds that the visits are beneficial for everyone and she sees the most beautiful interactions.

“Every time, I leave with tears in my eyes. It’s exciting to watch these students realize that they can, and are, making a difference. They learn so much from the residents and bring them so much joy.”

One month into the Legacy Project, the students made each resident a card. Riley (left) shows the card she made for Shirley (right), thanking her for being so sweet.

Alberta Education states that CTF allows students to explore their interests and passions as they learn about various career possibilities and occupational areas, such as the human services field. 

Contribute to The Vital Beat

Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.

Submit an idea