Intergenerational Joy at The Little Red House
One morning each week during the academic year, The Little Red House becomes a lively off-campus learning laboratory for a small but mighty group of Spring Lake High School students. For an hour or so every Wednesday, seven students and their faculty mentor make the short drive to The Little Red House to play games, exercise and interact with participants at the community’s preeminent adult day care service.
The students provide a cheerful burst of youthful energy to The Little Red House, and it offers an abundance of life lessons for young and old alike as the space is transformed into an intergenerational enclave and a joy-filled, judgment-free zone.
The seven students are part of Spring Lake High School’s Community Work-Based Learning Program, a training initiative that collaborates with local businesses and organizations such as The Little Red House to help students acquire skills needed for adulthood and employment.
“The students have heard so many terrific stories from participants at The Little Red House, and they’ve learned so much,” said Alison Klynstra, Community Based Training Coordinator for Spring Lake High School. “I’ve seen tremendous strides as our students learn social skills, practice being leaders in an environment where they feel comfortable, and focus on listening carefully and patiently to their elders.”
For 17-year-old Juni C., a 10th grader, the weekly visit to engage with participants at The Little Red House is one of her favorite hours of the school week.
“I like it a lot,” she said. “As I get older, it teaches me how to interact with people. It teaches me to always be positive, to have fun—even if you’re struggling.”
Her 10th grade classmate, 16-year-old Trenton B., concurred with that assessment. “I have fun here,” he said. “It’s good to teach the older people how to use their hand motions when we’re doing exercises. It’s also teaching me more about being a helpful person. Right from the first day we came here, looking at those smiles made me get really emotional.”
The Little Red House has been one of Spring Lake High School’s “Partners in Education” for the past half-dozen or so years, and the collaboration gets high marks from the leadership at the adult day care service.
“It truly is one of the best hours of the week here,” said Executive Director Jody Herrelko. “To see the interaction deepen with each passing week, and to hear the laughter and see the loving friendships develop, it’s a beautiful thing to witness. I wish the students could visit us every day.”
The Little Red House is non-profit and provides a much-needed option between independent living and assisted living or foster care. Its services engage and stimulate aging adults to live more fully while supporting their caregivers with respite and time for their other responsibilities. Buses provide door-to-door round-trip transportation for participants, enabling them to enjoy a day of exercise, nutritious meals, purposeful activities, personal grooming, entertainment and more, while in the care of licensed and compassionate staff.