WEST BLOOMFIELD — Hillel Day School sixth-grade student Eden Joyrich thinks differently about seniors after participating in Dor L’Dor, an intergenerational program that connects Jewish Senior Life residents and sixth-grade students at Hillel.
“We have a lot in common,” Joyrich told the Beacon recently, “more than we would realize. A lot of us like to read and do art or make jewelry. Things you wouldn’t think they can do, they can do.”
Joyrich, who first participated in the program around January, said that before, she didn’t think seniors exercised much or liked sports.
“At Dor L’Dor, some of the seniors I talked to do exercise and like to go swimming, and things like that.”
Dor L’Dor, “generation to generation” in French, is a 20-year-old program that started off as an intergenerational choir, Jewish Senior Life Director Carol Rosenberg said.
“Dor L’Dor started (because of) the need for intergenerational programming,” Rosenberg said. “There weren’t a lot of intergenerational programs in the city, and Hillel Day School and Jewish Senior Life came together.”
Jewish Senior Life has assisted living apartments throughout metro Detroit; its main office is at 15000 W. 10 Mile Road in Oak Park.
Rosenberg, who took over the program after its founder, Helen Naimark, retired about 20 years ago, said the choir put on concerts at local synagogues.
“That lasted for 10 years,” Rosenberg said. “Then we realized the people were getting older and Hillel Day School thought it was so important, they have it in their curriculum … which allows children to listen to older adults’ stories, legacies and journeys in life.”
Joyrich goes on a journey every time she interacts with residents at Jewish Senior Life, but the learning experience is two-fold.
“The different generations are different and the same,” she said. “The younger generation can do some things more, and the seniors can also do some things different than us.”
Finding common ground is not even the best part of the program, Rosenberg said.
“The most beautiful part is our older adults teach the young person they are partnered with (about) knitting or gin rummy, old-world hobby crafts and games, and children get a kick out of it,” Rosenberg said. “Even though they have high-tech iPhones and games. And the younger kids take them into the computer room and show them how to use computers.”
On April 18, the students visited one of the center’s residences, Fleischman Residence, 6710 W. Maple Road, and the group made cards and baked dog biscuits to take to Southfield-based no-kill shelter Almost Home Animal Rescue League — one of many activities the group participates in throughout the school year, Margery Jablin, Dor L’Dor coordinator and sixth-grade Hillel Day School teacher, said recently.
“By sixth grade, they can handle going into the community and seeing people a little different than what they are,” Jablin said.
Jablin said the students are first introduced into the program through orientation and sensitivity training from Rosenberg and a colleague.
The students learn to walk with kernels in their shoes, wear limited-vision glasses and dress with one arm, among other activities, which help them relate to seniors who may have to limit their physical activities because of ailments, Jablin said.
“We are doing a whole unit on seniors,” she said. “We read picture books. We (discuss) their vision of seniors, other peoples’ visions and how the media portrays seniors.”
The program runs January through June. All Hillel sixth-grade students, about 50, participate in the program, including 22 students in Jablin’s class.
Jack Adelman, an 88-year-old Fleischman resident, said he thinks the program has a positive effect on the youth.
“It is a wonderful thing for the young kids to come here and see what is going on, and see how older people live,” he said. “They are great kids and learn fast. I am very interested in the Jewish religion to keep continuing, and it is wonderful they come here and see a lot of people here who are from the Holocaust. ... They went through a lot. I want them to learn what happened.”
Sixth-grade student Jonah Weinbaum’s favorite part of the program is getting to know the seniors and their stories.
“They’ve had so much experience and they have a lot of interesting stories,” he said. “They had experiences, and we’ll have experiences with them, by them teaching us about theirs.”