The Cobb School, Montessori and McLean, a senior living community located in Simsbury, are thrilled to announce a new, intergenerational partnership. The collaboration was originally conceived over thirty years ago, when a young Mary Lou Cobb, Head of The Cobb School, sought out Mr. Bailey, the then director of McLean to bring together the young and elderly. Although the timing was not quite right, a seed was planted. And at last, three decades later, that seed has begun to sprout. Mary Lou and current McLean President, David Bordonaro, believe that now is the perfect time for an association between the two communities, as research highlights that creating meaningful interactions between older adults and younger children is advantageous to both populations.
Research shows that children need four to six involved, caring adults in their lives in order to develop fully emotionally and socially. The difficulty today is that children often get too much peer socialization, too much mediated contact through computers and texting, and not enough one-on-one, personal time with mature adults.1 The Cobb School is most fortunate to have an incredible grandparent and special friend community to support and love our students. Children, however, continue to benefit from additional adult interaction. Older, non-familial relationships provide unique opportunities for students to open up, share and learn, ultimately benefitting their social-emotional growth.
Mary Lou has long contended that, “Children need purpose; people, in general, need a purpose. When you take purpose away, you take away a person’s reason for living. Purpose provides fulfillment and joy.” The McLean community is excited to share their skills, talents and hobbies with The Cobb School’s older students in a multi-faceted Intergenerational Learning Program. There are knitters, seamstresses and woodworkers among McLean’s population. These are skills that are often lost in the fast-paced world in which we currently live. Sharing these skills offers a wonderful sense of purpose to both generations. The elders experience fulfillment in teaching, while, at the same time, the students are exposed to a multitude of skills, and learn to look beyond ageist stereotypes. Students will begin to see the older generation as a source of knowledge. Some researchers believe that hobbies, skills, and attitudes children pick up from elders, tend to stick with them more than those picked up from other sources.
We also look forward to our Primary students partaking in a Reading Buddies Program with McLean residents. Reading aloud is an incredibly important component to building literacy for children. Additionally, emergent readers benefit tremendously from reading to others and increase their own vocabulary far more than they do through conversations. The additional exposure to vocabulary in written word and the act of practicing reading are factors that contribute greatly to academic success in later years. (NAESP)
In addition to the benefits to our own students, Mary Lou is excited to share the Montessori principles and philosophy with the McLean community, especially with those experiencing memory loss. Research is being done in Australia in which Montessori techniques are being used to help people with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Montessori believed that if you consciously prepared environments for a child’s specific cognitive stage, the child would explore and in essence teach him or herself the skills necessary to more into the next stage of development. Imagine if the same process could be used with older adults with memory loss! David Bordonaro, along with residents and staff of the entire McLean community, is receptive to discovering the possible benefits that Montessori techniques may provide, but is even more excited about building a connection with Cobb School students, as well as the community at large. “Our relationship with the Cobb School students truly supports our mission and commitment to the well-being of our residents. Creating opportunities on and off our campus will help them feel connected in a meaningful way, while creating long-lasting relationships that will benefit both sides.”
In the Montessori environment, where the building of global and caring citizens is of utmost importance, real life exposure to different age ranges helps to build empathy. The school’s relationship with McLean will aid in the children’s understanding of others and provide additional views on the world around us. Other benefits of intergenerational relationships include invigorated and energized older adults; a reduction in depression and isolation in the elderly; provides children and older adults a sense of purpose; helps alleviate fears children may have of the elderly, and helps children to understand and later accept their own aging.
The Cobb School and McLean community are hopeful that their partnership will be a prototype for other schools and retirement communities to emulate. Maria Montessori wrote “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” It would be of tremendous benefit for us all to remember the importance of connection through the generations. Connection, ultimately, is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.