Sharing stories: Pilot program matches local teens with seniors
A group of local teens affiliated with the Woodburn Youth Advisory Board celebrated Fathers Day in an unusual way last week, by spending time with someone they had only just met.
It was part of Adopt-a-Pop, a new program being piloted by Synergy HomeCare, a national senior and elder care company with a branch in Beaverton. The idea was to match young people with older dads who might not otherwise have anyone to spend Fathers Day with.
Too often, there are seniors who dont have family who live close by, or maybe dont have family, to honor them on Fathers Day, said Donna Cole, owner of the Synergy location in Beaverton, which does a lot of work in the Woodburn area.
She said isolation and loneliness are widespread among seniors. But the goal of Adopt-a-Pop was not only to give seniors someone with whom they could talk and share, but also make an impact on young people.
I dont feel like kids today have the opportunity to interact with people from this generation very often, she said. This is really a win-win.
According to Synergy, studies show that children who are given the chance to take an interest in elders are more likely to take care of them, and tend to be more understanding and patient with people who have disabilities.
The program had participating students interview their pops, asking questions about their lives, work and experiences. They then took turns sharing with the group what they had learned.
The pairs also did a small craft project making key chains, and filled out specially made adoption certificates commemorating the occasion. The day was capped with one activity that knows no generational bounds: a pizza party.
Shauna Thompson, sales and marketing director for Cascade Park, called the event fantastic and said it was obvious the positive impact it made on the residents.
Theyre pretty happy guys normally, but theres definitely a lot of light in their eyes today, being able to meet with these kids and share their stories, she said.
She said the program offers a special opportunity for a shared connection, especially for those students who may not have or be close with their grandparents, and for seniors who may not have grandchildren.
Kathy White, general manager of the retirement community, echoed Thompsons sentiments.
They love this, she said of the residents. They love to share their stories from the war, and what they did with their careers. And whats so wonderful for them is when someone takes an interest in that, especially kids.
The kids, most of whom were in high school, seemed to have been just as affected by the experience as the seniors.
Karson Christiansen, a junior at the Wellness, Business and Sports School, said he didnt really know what to expect when he first heard about the Adopt-a-Pop program.
I didnt expect it to be like this, he said. Its been far better than I ever thought it would be.
He was matched with Cascade resident Wally Dale, whom he said had a lot of neat stories to tell.
Its been good getting to know him," he said. This has been a really great experience.
Another student, Ari Archibald, who was paired with Bill Morgan, said she was excited about the opportunity from the time she first heard about it.
I feel like its just a really nice way of brightening peoples day, she said.
This was her first time volunteering at a senior care facility, she said, but she doesnt think it will be her last.
This was my first time volunteering in this way, and I really enjoyed it, she said. I think Id like to be more involved in the future.