The Moorings Arlington Heights residents and Willow Bend elementary students mingle during Moorings’ “Spread the Kindness” day

What happens when you put 70 second, fourth and sixth graders in a room with senior living residents? At The Moorings of Arlington Heights, a Presbyterian Homes life plan community in Arlington Heights, IL, it creates uncommon friendships during an event with a theme of kindness.

“These residents here have had this life experience of being kind, and they have their wisdom  to look back on, and I said ‘Why not have them share with the children and then also give the children the opportunity to share with us?’ ” said Tara DeLuca, Moorings director of community programs. She said she thought “[i]t would be a really nice educational experience but it would also be very wonderful for our residents to see children, because unless they have grandchildren or great-grandchildren coming, they don’t see children very often, and it’s a great joy to see young people.”

The week of Valentine’s Day, students from Willow Bend Elementary visited The Moorings for the community’s first intergenerational “Spread the Kindness” day. Students and residents participated in a variety of activities, from reading out loud to making arts and crafts with their new pals. Additionally, a “Kindness Tree” was decorated, with various acts of kindness shared by students and residents. With the help of DeLuca, residents in an “On the Bright Side” discussion group were integral to the organization and planning of the festivities. 

“Two residents, Sharon and Gwen, are retired elementary school teachers, so this was right up their alley. They really helped me lead the whole program,” DeLuca said. “The teachers told me how nice it was, because second, fourth and sixth graders don’t typically get the opportunity to spend time with each other.” 

The group read books about kindness aloud, and later the students took to the stage to share poems and quotes about positivity. Anyone who has ever been around a group of 70 elementary school-age children knows how rambunctious they can be, but Willow Bend Elementary School students not only were well-behaved but took an active interest in getting to know the residents, DeLuca said

“I wasn’t sure how engaged the children would be, but they were so enthusiastic, and they really enjoyed the program,” she said. “We had another part where the teachers and residents asked general questions about kindness, like ‘Can you name a time when you were kind to somebody?’ or  ‘How does it make you feel to be kind?’ and ‘Name times someone was kind to you.’ The hands just shot up all over the place. We could have been in there for a lot longer.”

It’s safe to say that the gathering was a huge success. The Moorings plans to hold this event annually and even may add on a pen pal program. It goes to show that spreading just a little bit of kindness can have an outsized effect.

“It’s so refreshing to be able to talk to people of different ages, because their main socialization is people their own age,” DeLuca said. “After the event, many residents came up to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, that was so much more than I thought it was going to be.’ ”

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