South Ridge Elementary students visit senior citizen friends

The senior citizens have visited the fourth-grade classroom and the students make regular trips to Highgate Senior Living Center to see their friends

RIDGEFIELD — The residents of Highgate Senior Living Center and a fourth-grade class at South Ridge Elementary have a very special friendship.  The senior citizens have visited the fourth-grade classroom. The students make regular trips to Highgate to see their friends. And they all exchange letters when they can’t meet.  When they see each other, there are smiles and hugs, joy and laughter. And it all came about with a monthly kindness project.

After a classroom visit, South Ridge Elementary students shield their friends from the rain as they wait to board buses to return to Highgate. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
After a classroom visit, South Ridge Elementary students shield their friends from the rain as they wait to board buses to return to Highgate. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

Fourth grade teacher Karen Moses started a project called First Friday Friendship Fiesta so her students could celebrate kindness.  In previous years, students focused on how they could impact their school or community. But when last year’s class visited Highgate Senior Living Center, it sparked something new; Moses could tell that the inter-generational program meant a great deal to both the seniors and the students.  So this year, she decided to do more. 

The students were proud to welcome their friends to their South Ridge Elementary classroom for a recent visit. Class parents and teacher Karen Moses prepared a meal for the group to enjoy. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
The students were proud to welcome their friends to their South Ridge Elementary classroom for a recent visit. Class parents and teacher Karen Moses prepared a meal for the group to enjoy. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

Building more senior/student events was a group effort.  “Our wonderful PTA gave us a grant for three bus trips,” Moses said.  Principal Jill Neyenhouse gave them funds for a fourth trip. Moses and class parents donated food and decorated the classroom for events at the school.  The staff at Highgate helped plan and host events at the center. So far, there have been four visits with the fourth graders and the seniors, including a Valentine’s Day lunch at Highgate. 

Highgate Senior Living seniors recently visited the classroom of their fourth grade friends at South Ridge Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
Highgate Senior Living seniors recently visited the classroom of their fourth grade friends at South Ridge Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

Each visit builds stronger friendships.  The program bridges the generations, giving the students a window into the seniors’ lives and vice versa.  The students get to learn from a lifetime of experience, and the seniors get to enjoy the unbridled enthusiasm of kids.  They are building community, promoting respect and understanding for all age groups. But most importantly, they are truly having fun together. 

The fourth grade students look forward to spending time with their good friends. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
The fourth grade students look forward to spending time with their good friends. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

The students look forward to their time with the seniors.  The class spends time writing letters or making gifts before the visits.  And when they see their friends again, the happiness is contagious; they can’t wait to sit down together and catch up.

South Ridge Elementary fourth graders enjoy Valentine's Day lunch with their senior friends at Highgate Senior Living Center. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
South Ridge Elementary fourth graders enjoy Valentine’s Day lunch with their senior friends at Highgate Senior Living Center. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

“The kids are making such special connections,” Moses said.  “To see the joy on the faces of both the kids and the seniors when they catch sight of their special friends is a delight to see!”  They are all looking forward to the next time they see each other in this unique celebration of friendship. You’re never too young or old to make new friends.

Information provided by Ridgefield Public Schools.

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