Red bell in hand, Sandra King smiled as she sang along to “Jingle Bells,” her voice one of many young and old that filled the fireplace room at Towne Club Windermere.
“Children are the spice of life,” she said to the woman beside her, laughing as the song ended and four and five year olds began to hand the seniors homemade Christmas cards.
On Wednesday, students from Carrington Academy, a private preschool and kindergarten on Windermere Parkway in south Forsyth, brought an early Christmas to the south Forsyth retirees as part of a monthly program to bring together the students and seniors.
“In years past, we have done events with Towne Club Windermere. When they first came into the community, we wanted to have that partnership there,” said Carrington Academy Principal Tiffany Batts. “We did one single event in years prior and what we noticed with that is the children were a little bit quieter and a little bit more reserved and there was less interaction, so what we wanted to see this year is more opportunities for them to interact.”
The interactions benefit both the students — socially, academically and emotionally — and the Towne Club residents, Batts said.
“We definitely see a difference in [the kids] this year,” she said. “They are more comfortable talking to each other, giving hugs and [we’ve seen] a lot more sweet interactions. The [seniors] love it and it’s just so fun to watch them engage with the students and watch their faces light up. We don’t know each person’s situation and some of them may just not have family here, so they love those interactions.”
Allawee Gaggstatter, one of Towne Club’s residents, hugged a Carrington Academy student, who had just given her a Christmas card.
“I used to teach school and I had sweet children just like you,” Gaggstatter said. “Children make the world go round.”
King agreed as several students surrounded her.
“I love the kids — they make us feel good,” she said. “Once upon a time, we were that size, though it was a long, long time ago. They’re young and they don’t know what we’ve been through, and I look at them and say, ‘oh boy, do you have a long way to go, so enjoy it now.’ But their aura is so sweet; it’s wonderful.”
Batts said for the teachers at Carrington Academy, the monthly visits between the seniors and the children are just as rewarding an experience.
“I just really love watching them give hugs and having them tell stories,” she said. “I just had a little student and I said, ‘get your coat, it’s time to go,’ and she said, ‘I’m not ready to go.’ That’s really my favorite part.”
As the children filed out Towne Club’s doors onto their school bus, smiles lingered on residents’ faces.
“The kids are so young and fresh and adorable,” King said. “We’re old and we’ve been through life. We’ve raised them all and sent them away and we have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so it’s just so much fun to see them laughing. I can see the years that they [will] have that I’ve had and their lives are just going to be great. They make us feel good because they’re just starting out on their journey and we’re moving towards the end of our journey.”