There may be some individuals out there who have had the unfortunate reality of never developing a relationship with a grandparent, whether it’s due to distance or death. In this case, one is missing out on all the benefits a grandparent can offer.
A grandparent provides you with endless tales about their past lives, tales set as far back as the 1930s in some cases. Not only are the stories a verbal time machine when one listens to them, but they also provide perspectives from times our generation never experienced, which in some way a grandparent can use as an answer to an issue one may be dealing with at the time.
A grandparent knows which foods to make when their grandchild is feeling low, and they know exactly what to say to their grandchild, when the parents just don’t understand. A grandparent is a true gift. So one Georgia State organization made it their mission, for those who were short a grandparent in their lives, to be able to form substitute relationships with older adults within the Atlanta area.
Adopt-A-Grandparent (AGP) allows students and elder individuals living in retirement homes to connect on a deeper level through activities and programs. Calina Clark, Adopt-A-Grandparent President at Georgia State, and faculty advisor Jennifer Craft Morgan, provided The Signal with insight on how AGP functions and develops intergenerational bonds.
What is AGP ultimately, and what influenced the creation of this organization?
Morgan: The Adopt-A-Grandparent Program at Georgia State University is a unique and exciting student organization. Our mission is to promote intergenerational communication and relationships through the Arts. In order to do so, we engage Georgia State students and older adults through weekly visits and special events. We are currently partnered with Atria Buckhead which gives opportunities for our members to interact and build friendships with residents in long-term care. In 2012, Adopt-a-Grandparent was founded by Georgia State Gerontology student, now alumni, Meagan Jain. She has graduated with her Master’s of Arts in Gerontology and has gone on to found a non-profit in our community with similar aims of fostering intergenerational social connections through the arts called Ageless Interaction.
What activities and programs does the organization do with the grandparents?
Clark: Every Sunday, we encourage the “grandparents” to participate in arts & crafts activities. Student leaders are encouraged to put their own stamp on the type of activities they plan and to partner with the organizations and residents they engage. Right now, we alternate painting and coloring every Sunday. Usually, AGP students provide them with a picture or stencils to guide their artwork, but they are also free to paint whatever comes to mind. Relationships are built by consistency and genuine interest in each other’s lives. Some older adults are easier to engage and some may be reluctant to open up, so patience and persistence are very important.
What is the main goal the organization has for its students with what it practices?
Clark: The main goal of the organization is to provide students with the opportunity to be exposed to the world of older adults, particularly those residing in long-term care. Students get a chance to observe the similarities and differences in their lives and the older adults’ lives. Because many of the older adults in this community do not have grandchildren, the students fill a void for them or just provide them with some engagement for the afternoon.
What place does the organization work with specifically?
Clark: Currently, we do all of our volunteering at Atria Buckhead Retirement Home. In the past, we have also partnered with A.G. Rhodes.
What do you personally think is the benefit of being involved with this organization?
Clark: I think being involved with older adults in their community provides students with patience, compassion and understanding of older adults’ lives. For me personally, I benefit every time I volunteer with them. Just seeing their faces, lights up my own. They are so witty and some have an interesting sense of humor. Our “grandparents” teach us a lot about resilience and being appreciative of the simple things in life. Being appreciative is perhaps the most important lesson that I have learned from my experiences with AGP. Also, hearing how they are appreciative of the opportunity to wake up in the morning and survive another year, is very rewarding. It reminds you to count your blessings.
What were some significant memories that you gave with working in this organization, one that stuck with you?
Clark: One significant memory that has stuck with me has to be Casino Night. We volunteered at Atria’s annual Casino Night last fall and it was a great experience. I ran the Blackjack table and the other volunteers ran poker, craps and roulette. I remember I had to explain the rules 50 times to the same people, but we had such a good time. The “grandparents” expressed how much fun they had, and countlessly thanked me for teaching them how to play. The residents who knew how to play were thankful to be able to revisit a fun time of their past. At the end of the night, they collected tickets and could win prizes. They were the happiest I had ever seen them on this night. Also, we had our biggest volunteer turnout of (15 students) on this night.
Themed events and weekly fun
- Every week: Arts & Crafts every Sunday from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Past events: Root Beer Float Party, Casino Night, Halloween Party, Snowflake Ball and annual dinners for the Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Upcoming event: Speed Dating activity for Valentine’s Day
- Contact the Faculty Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact the AGP Organization at email@example.com
- Visit their facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/agpgsu/