Old and young jitterbug together in intergenerational program
Older adults and youth are discovering that “we’re not so different,” through an intergenerational program between Eskaton Village Carmichael residents and St. Michael’s Episcopal Day School students, says Eskaton Activities Coordinator Gae Ruddell.
The residents and seventh-grade students met for their third get-together of the year at a joint dance on Jan. 24.
Dance instructor Tim Kulton, member of the Morning Star Dancers of Sacramento and staff member at Eskaton, led instruction in the Jitterbug, or the East Coast Swing, as it is now called.
Students in sharp blue insignia sweaters and old-school sneakers lined up with Eskaton residents in their 80s and 90s to learn the basic moves.
“Step. Step. Quick step. Step,” instructs Kulton.
After a brief practice time, the dancers shyly paired up and worked on holding their arms in the proper frame while moving in unison. Before long, some partners boldly ventured into twirls while skirts swirled.
Eskaton and St. Michael’s paired up a few years ago for the intergenerational program, in which students and residents are matched with buddies for the school year. “The students learn what life was like for the residents and the residents learn about what’s happening in kids’ lives today. They find that even though there is an age gap, at age 13 they all felt the same things,” explained St. Michael’s teacher and event co-coordinator Joe Morgan.
Ruddell, event co-organizer, says that because of the interaction, participants realize that they are very much alike. “I too love baseball. I too have been to Brazil. I too have brothers and sisters.” We are all “just older and younger versions of ourselves,” explains Ruddell.
Last year, residents and students toured Crocker Art Museum together. Upcoming are a trip to the California State Railroad Museum and a joint scrapbooking project. The scrapbooking project will be an opportunity to share pictures of travels and families.
Morgan says that St. Michaels ties the students’ participation into the history curriculum. One student described get-togethers with his resident buddy, “At the first meeting, I learned about my buddy’s childhood and at the second meeting, my buddy brought pictures of the boat he was on when he was in the military.”
Resident Lois Parrish told her student buddy about what was popular when she was young, and that “during World War II, we had blimps downtown and in our backyard in Oakland.”
At the end of each school year, the students do a presentation on the experiences they had during the year with their buddies. “It brings out the tears,” says Ruddell.
With 10 minutes left on the clock before the students had to get back for their math class, Kulton asks if they would rather practice their twirls or dance at “super speed.” The students were quite in favor of super speed. Residents were game for it too. Kulton gave a quick introduction to a line dance, and everyone was soon pivoting and rocking together, lost in the music. As Ruddell says, “inside, we’re all the same.”