Recorder: "Children connect with ‘grandbuddies’ at Greenfield’s GVNA"

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Children connect with ‘grandbuddies’ at Greenfield’s GVNA

By SHELBY ASHLINE

Staff Writer

Published: 1/30/2020 4:57:25 PM

GREENFIELD — When the Discovery School at Four Corners’ first-graders walk through the doors of GVNA HealthCare Inc. each Thursday, they eagerly seek out one particular person: their “grandbuddy.”

Julie Clark, GVNA’s activities director, said that since October, 15 students in Kate Bailey’s first-grade class have bonded through weekly meetings with 15 seniors in GVNA’s Adult Day Health program. The children play card games with the seniors, read to them and ask questions to get to know their buddies.

Student and Senior play card game

Photo credit: Paul Franz/Recorder

“You can tell that they have a strong bond with the buddy,” Clark said. Despite the program only being 4 months old, the children connected with the seniors right away.

Clark said she stumbled across the idea online while researching successful programs to bring to GVNA’s Greenfield location. She found that “grandbuddy programs” had been started overseas, and reached out to the Discovery School at Four Corners to get their own version started.

Based on Bailey’s descriptions of her first-grade students and Clark’s descriptions of GVNA’s seniors, they coordinated pairs, also holding an initial meet-and-greet.

“The pairs just clicked very well together,” Clark said.

She believes the program is mutually beneficial for both the children and the seniors.

“I find that some of the kids don’t have grandparents, or some of them are out of state,” she explained, “but this is bonding with someone like a grandparent.”

The seniors, likewise, enjoy seeing how excited and energetic the children are, and enjoy hearing about what the youngsters are doing at home.

“I think it helps to build the community and have the kids feel like they’re giving back,” added Caissie Putnam, interim principal at the Discovery School at Four Corners. “(The program) is just kind of in its infancy, but hopefully it will be growing.”

GVNA also partners with Franklin County Technical School, Northfield Mount Hermon School and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Clark said. The UMass students teach the seniors about healthy eating and hand-washing, while Tech School students offer manicures and play games with them.

Clark said she loves “being able to bring a different generation into GVNA.”

“It’s worth seeing the smiles and everyone connecting,” she said.

Reach Shelby Ashline at 413-772-0261, ext. 270 or sashline@recorder.com.