Embrace Living Program Partners with Latin School of Chicago

Latin students gather with residents of North Orchard Place.

In 2022, Embrace Living, and affordable housing CHHSM ministry based in Oak Brook, Ill., began an intergenerational program called Embracing Generations that promotes relationship-building and mutual learning between students from local schools and its senior residents. During and after school,  participating students visit Embrace Living residents and participate in mutually beneficial activities related to health and wellness, education, creativity, and socialization.

This program has taken hold at Latin School of Chicago, thanks to high school seniors Madison Gaines and Charlotte Dann, who started the first official chapter of Embracing Generations at the school.

A Spirit of Community through Service

Gaines had the initial idea for the program, and she proposed it to Dann because they’re both passionate about community service, specifically serving older adults at risk of loneliness. They took their idea to a potential faculty sponsor, who was immediately on board. Then, the two teens they participated in their school’s clubs fair, where 80 applicants signed up.

“I think we were most surprised by the amount of students in our community who wanted to participate and be a part of our club,” says Gaines. “Also, how many students were willing to give up their free periods to visit the residents with us, because we visit in the middle of the school day, and that’s lunch for a lot of students.”

Two or three times a month, students at Latin School of Chicago visit seniors at Embrace Living’s North Orchard Place community, located near Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

“I think this program has highlighted how much Latin students value community service,” says Dann. “Latin has an aim to be a really community service-oriented school, so especially post-COVID, we’ve been able to bring back a sense of community through service, and a great sense of community between generations.”

Fun Activities for Everyone

During the visits, students and seniors participate in a variety of activities. The first activity they ever participated in was handing out turkeys and other food around Thanksgiving. They also have participated in such activities as bingo, art therapy, music therapy, and tech assistance.

One particular activity that stands out to Gaines and Dann took place in December 2022, when students sang Christmas carols for residents. One resident was so excited about the caroling that she joined them in singing as they traveled through the rest of the building. It was a high-energy activity that lifted the spirits of residents and students alike.

“We definitely think this program has uplifted the seniors, especially after COVID, being able to have outside people come in and do activities with them,“ says Gaines. “It’s a great way to put a smile on their faces and connect with outside people. The activities are not only fun for seniors, but also for students.”

Expanding the Program

“I think that our community has been very open and excited to engage with our club,” says Gaines. “Every time we’ve gone, we’ve gotten great feedback that students are getting to know the residents better.”

In the future, Gaines and Dann are looking to expand the program to facilitate visits every other week, or even every week as the holidays gear up, and they can do more activities such as caroling or handing out food. They also would love if seniors could visit them at Latin School of Chicago and see sporting events, plays and other activities.

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