Campbell River may soon lead the entire country in bridging the gap between the generations.
The city is slated to become the first beneficiary of a pilot project to foster intergenerational relations within the next six months, dependent on funding.
The project will serve to connect the different generations within the community through different activities and thought processes.
“The project will help people see that no matter what their age, they can do things together, and it will encourage people to think about crossing the generations in everything they do. And the activities build resiliency and depth in their community,” says Sharon MacKenzie, executive director and found of i2i Intergenerational Society which exists to reconnect the generations at a community level.
MacKenzie, a former teacher, moved her intermediate class in Vernon into a senior care facility for two months to help teens and seniors bond and better understand eachother. From that, came the idea for a community-wide intergenerational project in five cities – Campbell River being the first followed by Fort Saint John, Sidney, Squamish and Summerland.
The project is based on three principles, all of which will be led be one, full-time, paid local co-ordinator. The first idea is to do an inventory of all the intergenerational activities currently happening in the community, such as the elders of local First Nation groups sharing their culture with the youth of their tribe.
The second is to look into why intergenerational activities that used to exist have folded. MacKenzie says a Grade 9 class from Phoenix used to visit Yucalta Lodge for half a day, once a week and she would like to see that going again.
The third part is working with interested groups, whether they be social justice, school, First Nation or faith-based groups, to get them started with projects that will re-connect the generations.
The facilitator will aide Campbell River in how to get all generations working together, whether it be through “Baby Steps” (a one-time thing such as seniors and school kids planting bulbs together once a year); “Mamma Steps” (more regular, such as the Girl Guide troop holding their meetings in a senior centre); or “Giant Steps” (a consistent connection between the generations, such as re-locating a classroom to a seniors facility).
MacKenzie already has support in kind from city council, School District 72, RCMP, several health interests and representative First Nations.
The project would be at no cost to the community and the facilitator would be in place for three years, depending on funding. MacKenzie is asking for $500,000 for all five community pilot projects. She met with the federal Minister of State for Seniors Julian Fantino on Monday and is waiting for a response.
MacKenzie wants Campbell River to be a leader for the rest of Canada.
“We want to make a repository of all the ideas and activities happening in Campbell River and share it on our website. We want Campbell River to be a model for Canada on how to create an intergenerational community,” says MacKenzie.
She chose Campbell River because of its size and the “tremendous” support she received from council and the school district as well as its demographics.
MacKenzie says after the three years are up, the plan is for the facilitator to step away and for the community to carry on the project itself.
She suggests re-orienting ourselves to the way in which we do things. If the Lions Club secures a grant to improve the community, instead of club members putting up signage in the park themselves, invite a local minor hockey team to help, says MacKenzie.
“Hopefully by the end the community will have learned how to think intergenerationally. It’s not a package but a process to change our way of thinking.”