By MARGARET BLOHM
For the Times-Herald
DEARBORN – Over the summer, residents of Beaumont Commons, Dearborn experienced fun, interactive social hours during six Thursday afternoons with preschoolers from CHUP, a children’s co-op preschool at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church.
The intergenerational program was spearheaded by Krista Morabito, an intern with Beaumont Community Health, who is pursuing a master’s degree in community and public health nursing at Wayne State University.
Before beginning her internship, Morabito worked for 12 years as a nurse, mostly at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn.
“As a mom of three young children, including two who attend CHUP, I was drawn to the idea of setting up an intergenerational program for my master’s project,” said Morabito, who quickly found support from other CHUP moms who liked the idea and had valuable ties within the community.
CHUP mom Michele Caruso, a youth services librarian at Henry Ford Centennial Library, was immediately attracted to the idea for a variety of reasons.
“My grandma was at Beaumont Rehabilitation and Continuing Care before she passed away in 2016, and we were grateful for the care she received,” Caruso said. “I always wanted to do something to give back.”
As a youth services librarian for preschoolers, Caruso had access to the supplies, games and activities at HFCL, which closed for the summer for major renovations.
“The timing was perfect, because the library is always seeking ways to reach out to the community,” Caruso said.
Also enthused about the opportunity was CHUP teacher Margaret Hadley, who donated her time for the summer program.
“It’s not work,” Hadley said. “It’s fun to see kids interact with seniors.”
Together, they coordinated the social hour program with Shavon Baker, activities supervisor for Beaumont Commons.
Each social hour included an opportunity for residents to help preschoolers with a variety of games, puzzles and art activities, as well as light refreshments. Caruso and Susan Jelic, also a youth services librarian, led the group in singing songs and listening to stories familiar to all ages.
Many of the nearly two dozen children who participated were accompanied by a parent and a few younger siblings still in strollers.
“I love that our children are learning to respect all stages of life,” said Erin Bauer, an active CHUP mom and past president. “They’re learning how to interact with people. Seeing the smiles on residents’ faces is really heartwarming.”
Resident Romaine Redd shared how participating in the social hour brought back memories of her 40 years as a teacher and administrator in Detroit Public Schools.
In proposing the intergenerational program, Morabito set up several goals for both children and residents. For children, the goals included gaining new friends, learning how to socialize in a group setting, receiving individualized attention, and developing awareness and understanding of the aging process.
For residents, some of the goals included developing new friendships, enhancing the growth of children, sharing their knowledge and talents with others, and having children infuse their lives with energy and zest.
The goals were achieved, Morabito said. Baker added that the response from everyone who participated in the social hours has been extremely positive.”
“We’re already talking about ways we can continue to hold social hours and are discussing having holiday parties together,” Morabito said.