, Salem, MA

Local News

August 17, 2013

Young meet young-at-heart

Seniors bridge generations with preschoolers on Peabody campus


“The whole experience was wonderful,” said Michael Forman, who received a booklet made of construction paper that included drawings and thoughts about his father, who liked to play harmonica and entertain the children with songs.

The intergenerational program was made possible when the JCC moved to the retirement center’s campus last September. Directors of the two programs came up with the idea of having seniors residing in the assisted-living building volunteer with the preschool kids.

“From the beginning, having the generations participate together in activities and holidays has been a goal,” said Liz Polay-Wettengel, communications director for the facility.

They celebrate Jewish holidays like Purim, in addition to secular ones like Flag Day and Halloween.

In class, Lawson does projects with the kids and plays outdoors whenever possible. He plans to continue volunteering this fall.

“When I’m in here, I’m one of them,” said Lawson, who likes the variety the program brings to his life. He tries to imagine what the children will be like when they grow up, he said. Lawson, too, received a construction paper booklet from the students. On one page, it reads: “Thank you for sharing the money with us” — a reference to the time he brought pennies to class for show-and-tell.

It’s an object that some students nowadays may not be familiar with, given how society has moved away from cash and coins. He also noted the penny does not buy what it used to when he was young.

Lawson said he is amazed by the kids’ smarts. One time, he brought in his electronic book reader for the kids to see.

“When I brought out my Kindle, these kids showed me things I didn’t know,” he marveled.

This week he brought along pictures of himself — one “in crib stage” when he was a baby; another with his late wife, Eleanor “Tybie,” to whom he was married for 68 years; and another in his Navy uniform during World War II. He and his wife, who died in July 2012, have three grown children and three grandchildren. Lawson ran a wholesale camera supply business before the Internet did that in, he said.

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