The Gleaner

The JOY project returns to Ormstown

On Wednesday, January 31, 18 students from Ormstown Elementary School (OES), along with their teacher and support staff, headed out across town for a special visit. Their destination was a short walk from school, and they soon arrived at the Village Church on Lambton Street. Waiting by the door to greet them were Lisa Hewer, Brenda Barrington, and Alison Boyle, organizers of the church’s weekly “coffee, conversation, and muffins” get-together. OES teacher, Don Rosenbaum, had arranged for his students to visit the group every second week as part of the JOY project.

The project, whose name is an acronym of Joining Oldsters and Youngsters, was first launched in Chateauguay, with St. Willibrord students visiting seniors at a residence near the school. The pandemic shut down the project for four years, but Rosenbaum saw the opportunity to restart the initiative. In the early days of the project, he was affiliated with the Montérégie West Community Network (MWCN) and had been instrumental in getting JOY up and running.

Rosenbaum realized early on the benefits of promoting connections between the generations. Students mingle with seniors and participate in “intergenerational conversations, presentations, and play games,” he says. “There is ample evidence that programs connecting young people and seniors are hugely beneficial, not only for the participants, but also in building community.”


Seniors enjoy a game of Snakes and Ladders with two young students from OES who are participating in the JOY Project PHOTO Yvonne Lewis Langlois


The JOY project was inspired by Senior and Kids Intergenerational Programs (SKIP), an initiative that operates in Brantford, Ontario. Since 2014, this program has branched out to develop new ways to make intergenerational connections. When the winter months made it difficult for seniors to physically move outdoors, “SKIP Streams” was created to add an online dimension to the program. Here, “live-stream visits” take place between schools and residences that have broadband capabilities. During the pandemic, this program was essential to help with the problem of social isolation. Liz Martorano, co-founder of SKIP, invites schools across Canada and beyond to reach out and make these connections. “Intergenerational living is natural for many cultures, and it enriches the shaping of the younger generations,” she writes on her blog.

“It’s not a church thing, it’s a community thing,” says Alison Boyle of the Village Church, “And it’s not an ‘old people’ thing,” she adds. Everyone is invited to come and share a coffee, tea, juice and a dessert, no matter what their age. She points out that even mums who are home with young children are welcome. “Bring your child!” she says.


Kids share conversation cards with seniors during a first meeting on January 31 at the Village Church in Ormstown PHOTO Yvonne Lewis Langlois


The January 31 event was the first JOY meeting hosted by the Village Church, and those assembled were of all ages. As the students entered the church hall, they were nervous as they were out of their usual element, and the regular visitors to the “muffin get-together” were surprised to see a group of elementary school children. “Am I in the right place?” asked John Anderson as he entered the hall.

But it didn’t take long for the two groups to mingle – sharing games of cribbage, cards, and other activities. Conversation cards were placed on each table by Rosenbaum, and the group members laughed as they posed each other questions. Barbara Whyte drew a card from the deck and read, “Have you ever felt welcome in a new place?” 10-year-old Brendyn Lafleur answered, “This place!” and those around the table laughed together.

The JOY Project meets every two weeks, on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. in Ormstown’s Village Church opposite the CIBC. The next gathering is on February 28; everyone is invited to come and share some conversations that bridge the generations.

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