Once upon a time, a story brought young and old together

Elie Bergeron, 93, hangs on to 11-month-old Andrew Jeffrey during Storytime at Vision Nursing Home. 
Tara JeffreyElie Bergeron, 93, hangs on to 11-month-old Andrew Jeffrey during Storytime at Vision Nursing Home. Tara Jeffrey

Tara Jeffrey

There’s a little bit of magic happening on Fridays at Vision Nursing and Rest Home.

Each week, my two littlest and I pack up and head to Storytime, a popular new program at the facility that joins seniors and toddlers for weekly singsongs, stories and interaction.

We stop for coffee and cookies and three-year-old Hallie insists we bring one for 92-year-old Sally Dunn, her new best friend.

We arrive promptly at 10 a.m., along with the other toddlers and babies, and the residents who are wheeled into a large community room, accompanied by acoustic guitar music from “Big Kenny” — a well-known former fixture from the Bridge Tavern in Point Edward.

Hallie bashfully makes her way over to Sally (though she’s already eaten both their cookies) while her 11-month-old brother Andrew slowly warms up to “Grandpa Elie.”

The 93-year-old resident is the program’s most dedicated member, and his bellowing French laugh lights up the entire room.

“I call my dad every day, but not Fridays; he says that’s the baby day,” says Diane Steinman, daughter of Elie and his wife Jeanne, 92. The pair — though living in separate ends of the facility due to Jeanne’s health — meet up every week for the program.

“He always talks about the baby boy,” Steinman says, pointing to Andrew, squirming in my arms to get into Elie’s lap (five month’s ago, he wouldn’t let me put him down). “He says, ‘he knows me now, he loves me.’”

And boy, is he right.

Research shows that intergenerational programs are significantly beneficial to the physical and mental health of the elderly, and play a positive role in the personal and social development of children.

And that’s exactly what Bevin Perdu was going for when she came up with the idea last fall.

“I thought, there’s nothing better than kids and seniors being together, learning from each other,” said the mother of two, who collaborated with Vision’s Kerri Hill to launch the program, along with help from her friends Erin Canino, Melody Gibson, and in-laws Harold and Dini Taylor and Stefany Jamieson,who successfully applied for a $1,000 Awesome Foundation Grant to help buy supplies.

Since then, she’s held a couple of ‘pop-up’ storytime events at Landmark Village and even invited a kindergarten class from Sir John Moore to take part. Another pop-up event is planned at Residence on the St. Clair this summer.

The regular program resumes in the fall, and if you’d like to get involved, search for Storytime at Vision Nursing Home on Facebook.