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Program cultivates connections between Burlington seniors and youth

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 30, 2019 at 3:45 PM EDT
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A new program at the Ethan Allen Residence is cultivating connections between Burlington's oldest and youngest residents. Our Christina Guessferd reports on how the Intergenerational Farmer's Market is harvesting happiness.

"I never knew how garlic grew before, said 88- year-old Kathleen Francis, a resident of the Ethan Allen Residence.

"There was a lot to it, wasn't there. We did a lot," added Margaret Shaub, 99.

From picking garlic to planting seeds, gardening turns out to be the perfect recipe for flourishing friendships.

"It's really fun because we get to garden and we get to eat stuff and we also get to pick stuff," said Andrea Maldui, a participant with the Boys & Girls Club.

"I enjoy going to the nursing home across from my school, and I love my garden on the side of my house," added Nala Meyer, 9.

Kids from the Burlington Boys and Girls Club and interns from the Community Garden Network visit the Ethan Allen Residence every Tuesday morning to work with the residents.

"That sense of discovery, that sense of wonderment -- it's something that the children and the elders actually have in common," said Susan Herrick with the Ethan Allen Residence.

She says the activity allows both generations to blossom. "For children, one of the most important qualities of human connection is empathy. So, to see someone outside of their age group, to see someone who's in a wheelchair, that's going to translate as empathy rather than fear, rather than distrust, rather than they're different from me," Herrick said. "Many of these elders, because of the dementia, they have just the moment."

Herrick says she tries to make each moment as full of joy as possible.

"This is really a charming spot, I mean these flowers and the green grass and everything. It's a chance to get out and enjoy what we're surrounded with. It makes me glad to live in Vermont," Shaub said.

"It was just amazing," added Francis.

Tuesday afternoons the kids and seniors make their way to the Old North End Farmer's Market to sell the day's harvest. That money is then put back into the program to produce more personal connections.