Seniors, children spend time 'Getting to Know You'

JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff photoAmesbury Elementary School students Athena Noury, Hailey Woods and Madeline Taylor talk with seniors Jody Perkins and Sally Wood in their classroom Friday morning. The visit, which will continue on Fridays for the next six weeks, are part of the Bridges Together Intergenerational Program.

AMESBURY — Two very different generations met at Amesbury Elementary School Friday morning and found out they aren’t that different after all.

“It’s nice to see how open and comfortable everybody is,” Katrina Rioux said. “It is pretty natural. Especially with the kids. This is our program so we can run it every year now.”

As Amesbury Council on Aging program coordinator, Rioux was able to make use of the Bridges Together organization’s Growing Together intergenerational curriculum to help promote mutual respect, understanding, and friendship between roughly a dozen senior volunteers, Sheila Harney’s third-grade class and Cara Ripley’s fourth-grade class.

Spinning off into groups of six or seven seniors and students, each group spent Friday morning completing the Growing Together “Getting to Know You” session. Next, they’ll move on to other sessions that promise to help the students explore their family histories, discuss changes in the world over time and recognize how people are the same, regardless of age.

Jody Perkins, 85, helped to form the “Sweet Six” group Friday along with third-grader Noah Snyder. Perkins said she was happy to be working with the school children.

“We just kind of got to know each other,” Perkins said. “We wrote things down that we thought were appropriate and then we named our class. It was fabulous. I like children anyway, but they were really great.”

Having learned about Alaska from a senior volunteer, Noah said he was ready to do it all again next week.

“We talked about their favorite places to visit,” Noah said. “We also talked about some games, I don’t know what they were.”

Noah’s fellow third-grader, Summer Griffin, also learned about Alaska as well as the game of marbles and was one member of the uniquely named “Seven Patriot Cats” group.

“We did ‘Patriot’ for the veterans who honor our country and we really wanted to do ‘Cats’ too,” Summer said. “Then we put the ‘Seven’ in there because there are seven people.”

Saying only that she was “over 60,” Sally Wood was one senior member of the “Hopeful Group.”

“I adore children,” Wood said. “I absolutely adore children and I thought this would be a wonderful and fun thing to do. The children’s personalities are all entirely different and everyone thinks of something different. Then we put it all together and made it work for all of us.”

All of the students and seniors agreed they were looking forward to next Friday’s session when they will tackle another session, and Amesbury Elementary School Principal Walter Helliesen said he was “thrilled” with the reception.

“Both our seniors and the kids were a little bit nervous at the beginning, not quite sure what to do,” Helliesen said. “But there were hugs at the end and the goal of making those connections have already started. I look forward to seeing how this will grow over the next five weeks, and the sky is the limit.”

Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached on Twitter @ndnsully, via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145.

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