Students spread joy to seniors in West Island

Click to play video: 'Students spread joy to seniors in West Island'
Students spread joy to seniors in West Island
WATCH: A group of West Island seniors got an early Christmas treat Thursday when several high school students delivered some holiday cheer as part of a class project. But as Global’s Phil Carpenter reports, the exercise quickly became a lesson of mutual respect. – Dec 21, 2023

Planning activities for seniors is almost routine for Beverly Landry, community animator at John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire.

But for students like Selina Ugarte-Dahan it’s all new.

“Planning a party is difficult. It’s not as simple as it looks,” she told Global News, during a lunchtime Christmas party that she and other Grade 11 students held for seniors at the Wellesley seniors residence just blocks from the school. It was part of the students’ Adulting 101 class, to teach them how to plan an event.

“They take their time to come here,” laughed resident Wilma Job. “I think it’s wonderful and it gives me something to do.”

There were many things the students could have planned, but they and their teacher wanted to do something for seniors.

“It was really important that at this time of year we try to do something about the isolation that perhaps many seniors feel,” explained Landry.

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She says the pandemic taught many students what isolation feels like so they really looked forward to the activity and decided to give it their own spin.

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Elves for Seniors Montreal struggling with donations in biggest year yet

“We made a little twist which is Hawaiian Christmas because a lot of these people can’t travel anymore,” explained student Emma Henker.

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But for many of the elders and students, the time together became something deeper. Student Justin Grant, who says his grandmother died around this time last year, says being at the party brought back powerful memories.

“I’m talking to these people, they remind me of my grandmother, they remind me of the way they think,” he said.

Carol Gavin who lives at the residence says the main thrill for her was getting much more than she expected.

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“We hear so many negative things about teenagers,” she pointed out, “and then you come to this and it’s nothing what people expect from teenagers. It’s kind of nice for them to be talking to us as if we had something to say to them, they’re not screaming in our ear because they think we’re deaf, and that we can’t be articulate.”

The students, too, say they were surprised how much they had in common with the elders.  Their message: Treat seniors with respect.

“It’s not like with age you stop becoming a person,” Ugarte-Dahan stressed. “You’re a human all your life.”

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