An Impact Across Generations: Respite Pilot Connects Older Adults And Students, Giving Caregivers A Chance To Exhale

At the Health Foundation, we prioritize highlighting our grantee partners and the amazing work that they do. Here is a spotlight from our 2021 annual report: Connections.

Family caregivers need respite. The role of family caregiver is rewarding and important, but the stress of these responsibilities can have an impact on the caregiver’s physical, emotional, or financial well-being. Respite can come in many forms—an afternoon off, an outing with their loved one, or support from a care worker—but accessing these opportunities can be difficult. That’s why the Health Foundation’s work includes a mid-term goal that family caregivers of older adults are valued and supported.

A new collaboration in western New York’s Southern Tier is offering an innovative approach to respite, in a way that benefits not only the caregiver and their loved one, but also students and teachers in the community.

As part of Exhale, the Family Caregiver Initiative—a respite pilot program funded by the Health Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation—Ardent Solutions, Genesee Valley Central School, and the Allegany County Office for the Aging are collaborating on Forever Young Intergenerational Respite and Socialization. This pilot program, developed in 2020, offers older adults the opportunity to visit classrooms to spend time with students and take part in activities.

“Forever Young is intended to be very flexible and person-centered—meeting the needs of everyone who participates,” said Danielle Delong, Ardent Solutions Age-Friendly Communities Coordinator, who directs the program. “The caregiver and the teachers get a break, and the older adult and students have an enriching and fun experience together.”

During a time when ageism has serious consequences for both older and younger people, Forever Young gives participants the chance to gain a new perspective—and some new friends.

One participant, lovingly known as Grandma Kemp, meets frequently with students to read books—always using different voices for each book character—or to do arts and crafts. Danielle noted Grandma Kemp can count on smiles and hugs from the students, no matter their age, every visit.

“This isn’t just fun—it’s satisfying to do something that gives young people a lift and encouragement,” said Grandma Kemp, who has 26 great-grandchildren and says she learned from interacting with her own family how important a kind word can be to young people. “They’re making an impact on me too, and giving me a sense of purpose. I try to teach the kids that we’re all different, but we’re the same too. Our lives are important and have value, and the things we do are important.”

Click here to learn more about Exhale, The Family Caregiver Initiative.

Click here to learn more about and hear from Grandma Kemp.