As rain falls outside the Victorian Retirement Home on Feltham Road, a corner of its spacious dining hall is buzzing as a group of Grade 8 students from St. Michaels University School mingle with a group of seniors living in the retirement home.
Despite their many differences, the many smiles and familiar exchanges suggest a genuine rapport between the two groups as they sat around a table and munched on chocolate chip cookies.
About two months ago, the students started to meet with the seniors, ostensibly to practise their interview skills. However, the residents did not know that the students were not merely trying to learn new skills. They were in fact preparing biographies and scrapbooks about the lives of their interview partners and Tuesday afternoon was the moment when the students presented their work.
“I think she made a beautiful job of it,” said Betty Ingram, as she received the mini-biography that Clara Pontefract had prepared off her. “It is a long life that she has to capture.”
For Pontefract, the experience was eye-opening. Ingram, said Pontefract, has inspired her to get the most of out of life. “Live every day one day at a time,” she said. “When you make a mistake, move on. There is always tomorrow.”
In that sense, the project has helped Pontefract gain perspective about her own experience.
“I can be sometimes a very negative person, so thinking about that, has helped,” she said.
It has also given her to learn writing, research and production skills. This was evident Tuesday, as several of the biographies looked like professionally prepared reports.
For Ingram, the experience has been a chance to socialize with members of today’s youth outside her circle of four grandchildren. She has also had a chance to reflect on her own life, while sharing her experiences.
“We have had half an hour each time and that went by so quickly, we had so much to say,” said Ingram.