SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 17, 2013

Young meet young-at-heart

Seniors bridge generations with preschoolers on Peabody campus

PEABODY — A few days shy of his 92nd birthday in March, Max Forman donned a homemade crown with the number 100 on it.

The crown was meant to mark the 100th day of school at the North Suburban Jewish Community Center, which is located on the campus of the Aviv Centers for Living, a senior care facility on Lynnfield Street where Forman was a resident.

Since the start of the last school year, Forman had been volunteering as part of a new intergenerational program meant to bring seniors and young children together. The program gives kids who do not have grandparents a chance to interact with an older adult, while also giving elders who do not have grandchildren nearby a chance to be around young kids.

“It was fantastic,” teacher Paula Andruskiewicz said. “The kids were always excited on Monday morning.” She is already preparing for the start of a new year in a few weeks.

One year in, the program is getting raves from all involved — seniors and kids alike.

“I’m sort of like a surrogate grandfather,” said Marty Lawson, 92, another volunteer, “but at this age, it’s sort of like a great-great grandfather.”

Some parents said their children loved having the older gentlemen in class.

“For Aidan, he just expected to see them on Monday,” said Randi Brown, a Middleton mother whose son participated. Aidan, 5, gives a big nod “yes” when asked if the men were his friends.

But it’s also been a blessing for the volunteers.

When Forman became ill, the children drew cards for him, and staff brought them to the hospital. He died a short time later, on March 13. Forman’s son, Michael Forman of Florida, was so moved by the outpouring from the children, he had his father buried with the cards. His father often spoke to him about spending time with the kids, he said.

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