of several programs in Alberta that
bring seniors and children together
for their mutual benefit. It encourages
seniors over 50 to choose a school
where the program takes place and
to spend from one to three hours a
week with a student. While the society
continues to recruit seniors (currently
more than 40 are involved), the
program is so popular that students are
waiting to get onboard.
Program coordinator Lynn Noble
says: “I think because our senior
mentors are volunteers, they are non-
judgmental and provide unconditional
attention that the kids need. For the
seniors, this is a program that I believe
can help keep their golden years staying
golden. By participating, seniors can
feel purposeful and rewarded.”
These kinds of increasingly
popular programs help to fill in gaps,
considering the notion that it takes a
village to raise a child.
Experts say caring adults make a
Nicole Letourneau of Calgary is
the author of the new book Scientific
Parenting (co-authored by Justin
Joschko), which explores the risks
and benefits of stress and adversity in
childhood. She says pairing seniors
with children and youth can yield
“There is a ton of evidence showing
how valuable generational transfer is,”
says Letourneau, who is the Norlien/
Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation
chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health.
“Someone who cares about a child can
make a world of difference. The more
caring adult time that children can
have in their lives, the better off they
Letourneau, a mother of two, says
children who have prolonged exposure
to stress and adversity (toxic stress)
without caring adults to support them
have a greater risk of addiction and
illness (everything from mental illness
to certain cancers and heart attacks)
when they grow up. But a caring adult
can make a difference.
“The people who do the mentoring
get a lot of benefit, too. They are valued
Connecting kids and seniors
These Alberta programs promote generational transfer.
The Seniors for Kids Society, Cochrane ( Seniorsforkids.ca. 403-861-4558)
• Promotes intergenerational relationships and has a number of programs to unite senior
volunteers with children and youth, including one involving Nakoda Stoney elders.
The Crowfoot Public Library, Calgary (403-260-2600)
• Grandparents Family Storytime lets kids share stories, songs and plays with older adults.
LINKages Society of Alberta ( Link-ages.ca; 403-249-0853)
• A United Way-supported organization founded in 1994 that connects young people with
seniors through school programs and community initiatives.
The Alberta Mentoring Partnership ( AlbertaMentors.ca; 780-680-4195 or toll free
• The partnership works to connect children and youth who need a mentor to provide advice,
friendship, reinforcement and constructive role modelling over time.
No two days are the same.
It’s as worthwhile for the
senior as it is for the student.
and appreciated. One of the worst
things for people’s health is social
isolation,” Letourneau says.
Friendships last forever
Wills and Clubb are one of
many successful intergenerational
partnerships. Such relationships are
becoming a growing trend. In some
cases, the mentorship blossoms into
what may be its greatest success, an
“At first, it was all quite scary for
me,” Wills says. “But after a while we
got to laughing about things and sort
of gradually worked into looking at
what Luke might want to do when he
finishes school. I have been part of that
road with him, from middle school
through high school and seeing
to beyond, and it has been a super
journey, very rewarding.
“But sometimes I know he is busy
and I tell him if he doesn’t have time
this week for our hour together, that is
okay, just please, always let me know
that you are okay.”
When asked what he has given to
Wills, Clubb pauses. “I am not 100 per
cent sure about that. But I do know that
I have been her friend. And I expect to