Devon Gauthier and Nick Nieves

MediLodge resident Nick Nieves shares a story with Devon Gauthier, 10. (Alan Neushwander | Spectrum Health Beat)

Jacqueline White and Sydney Kiessel

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Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital and MediLodge of Ludington co-sponsored a recent event to connect people across generations. Sydney Kiessel, 10, writes an answer to a question she asked Jacqueline White, who explained what life had been like growing up. (Alan Neushwander | Spectrum Health Beat)

Linda Strong with Addie Malburg

Addie Malburg, 10, asks Linda Strong a question during an intergenerational event hosted by Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital’s Win With Wellness program. (Alan Neushwander | Spectrum Health Beat)

Maylan Sanders, Aiden Wood and Leesa Shereda

Maylan Sanders, 9, Aiden Wood, 10, and Leesa Shereda, 9, take notes as they speak to a resident of MediLodge of Ludington during an intergenerational event. (Alan Neushwander | Spectrum Health Beat)

On a recent afternoon, a group of elementary students gathered at a skilled nursing facility to share stories with seniors and learn what life had been like for those among the Greatest Generation.

Sipping on hot chocolate, children asked residents of MediLodge of Ludington about the traditions they had as children, what their favorite toys were and what meals they ate growing up.

“The children learned that times have changed, but a lot has also stayed the same,” said Leona Ashley, a health educator for the Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital Win With Wellness Fit Club, which hosted the intergenerational event.

“Today’s youth are much more savvy and dependent on electronics and technology than older generations,” Ashley said. “But things like family and friends have always been important for every generation.”

Intergenerational health

Bringing generations together is an important part of the overall mission of the Ludington Hospital Win With Wellness program.

“We’re trying to offer intergenerational events as part of our community benefit programming,” said Kaley Petersen, director of foundation and community services at Ludington Hospital. “The relationships created between generations have a positive impact on health for both children and seniors.”

There’s plenty of research to suggest multigenerational interaction gives seniors a greater sense of fulfillment and reduces the likelihood of depression, Petersen said.

As part of the Win With Wellness program, Ludington Hospital also established Fit Club to foster a love of health and fitness in elementary students, so their behaviors and choices will sustain them for a lifetime of wellness.

Another component of the program is the senior life committee, which develops programs that promote active and healthy lifestyles for older adults.

Beth Smith, marketing manager at MediLodge of Ludington and a member of the committee, said it’s important for residents of the assisted living facility to have children visit.

“Some of our residents don’t get visitors very often,” Smith said. “Children are very important to our residents and you can see how they light up when kids come to visit. It brings them a lot of joy.”

Finding new friends

As the children said their goodbyes to the residents of MediLodge, they left knowing they had expanded their circle of friends.

“It doesn’t matter what generation you belong to,” Ashley said. “You can be friends with any age groups.”

“Going into life, it’s important to know that you don’t have to be friends with people who are only your age,” Ashley said. “It’s okay to be friends with a 60-year-old or a 90-year-old.”

That’s all part of the overall focus of Win With Wellness.

“We take a whole approach to health, which includes bridging the gap between generations,” Ashley said.