Organization strives to bridge generations
When she was younger, Adelle Connors, founder of Youth2Seniors, would visit her grandmother in an assisted living facility. One Easter morning, while running a little late, Connors stopped at a costume store only to find the shop out of Easter bunny costumes.
"They did have Easter elephants, though," Connors said.
Connors donned the elephant costume for a visit to her grandmother and was taken aback by the lack of visitors at the facility on Easter.
"I thought to myself, 'If people aren't there on Easter, what are they doing the other 364 days of the year?'" Connors said.
Connors bought the elephant costume, and even after her grandmother died, she continued to visit the assisted living facility.
When Connors had children of her own, she said that she didn't want her children to have exposure to older people for the first time when they were teenagers.
"I didn't want them to already have these preconceived notions," Connors said. "I would take [my daughters] every Easter, and they would each dress up like Easter elephants. Then I realized that once a year was not enough."
Connors began designing other things for her children to do at the assisted living facilities, and before long other parents wanted to include their children as well. In 2011, Connors decided to make the organization a nonprofit, offering a number of art programs, making stuffed animal and gardening activities.
"We create intergenerational programs," Connors said. "We really want our programs to engage youth and enhance the lives of senior citizens. We want to bridge the gap between the generations.
"We want to build ongoing relationships, not just a check-the-box volunteer opportunity," Connors said. "We want to bring kids and seniors together in a way that enhances their lives and makes them appreciate each other."
The volunteer organization does the majority of its work at assisted living facilities in the Lakeway and Northwest Austin areas and is starting to branch out to memory care units.
Youth2Seniors has four focus areas to allow for children and elderly alike to give back in some way. Bear H.U.G.s is a program designed for youth and seniors to work together to create stuffed animals to be donated to different organizations.
"People in assisted living facilities generally don't have the opportunity to give back, and it kind of turned into an unexpected offshoot of our program," Connors said.
Intergenerational Art is a monthly class that allows participants to work side-by-side creating different art projects.
Special projects are done on a quarterly basis and have consisted of remodeling an activity room, holding dances and sing-a-longs and throwing parties.
Intergenerational Day is the last of the focuses and creates awareness for youth and seniors and serves as the primary fundraising platform for the nonprofit.
The local nonprofit does not adhere to any age restrictions but generally works with children as young as 5 and seniors as old as 97.
"We are going for the experience, not the end result," she said.
Currently Youth2Seniors works mainly with two assisted living facilities—The Summit, both Lakeway and West Lake Hills, and The Pavilion at Great Hills—but Connors said she would like to expand into the Round Rock area in the future.
Intergenerational Day allows participants to learn about Youth2Seniors programs such as testing one's age IQ and learning how to better interact with different age groups.
There are hands-on activities, storytelling and special activities for children and seniors to complete together. There is also food, face painting and a bounce house for entertainment.
Intergenerational Day is scheduled for Oct. 26 and is the primary fundraiser for the nonprofit through sponsors and a silent auction.
For more information on volunteering, general sponsorship or donating, visit www.intergenerationalday.org.
Youth2Seniors, 512-961-7805, www.youth2seniors.org
Assisted living facilities associated with Youth2Seniors:
- The Pavilion at Great Hills: 11819 Pavilion Blvd., Austin
- The Summit at Lakeway: 1915 Lohmans Crossing Road, Lakeway
- The Summit at West Lake Hills: 1034 Liberty Park Drive, Austin
- Helping Hands Home for Children: 3804 Avenue B, Austin