The program is being introduced in partnership with Lee University, where nursing home chaplain and pastor Carl J. Caffrey teaches. Through the program, students will commit to spending time with seniors at the nursing home, as well as other elders who live in the community on a regular basis.
Caffrey said, “Not only do I believe a student is powerfully impacted in wonderful ways through this exposure and experience, I believe, as a chaplain, that God’s heart is delighted when the hearts of the generations collide. Our elders are honored, younger folks are blessed and our community is unified and strengthened by such bonds.”
Alex Kees, a Lee student and president of the AAGP Club, has assembled officers, a constitution and logo, all in preparation for the club’s official opening to Lee students in the coming fall. The membership of the Adopt-A-Grandparent Club is open to any Lee University student who has a heart for the elderly. In order to be considered a member, one must attend and participate in meetings and commit to visiting a particular resident on a regular basis.
Explaining how the concept came about, Kees said, “In my sophomore year of college I visited Signature Healthcare under the instruction of my theology professor Carl Caffrey. On that day I met Ms. Virginia. We hit it off immediately. When I got ready to leave she asked me if I would be back the next day. Without any hesitation I quickly said yes. My visits to Signature Healthcare became a weekly occurrence and I went on to begin visiting Ms. Edna. At the end of my Benevolence class, which I took the semester after theology, my lab professor asked how we wanted to continue serving others in the Cleveland community. As we went around the room I had no idea what I was going to say, but as it became my turn I found myself saying that I was going to start a club, Adopt-A-Grandparent.
“I have two adopted grandmothers that I am entirely committed to. It is my hope that future Lee students will find adopted grandparents that they can minister to and love. I graduate next spring, so my primary goal right now is to see a firm foundation be laid down for this club so that others may lead in my place.”
A university-sanctioned Adopt a Grandparent program will be fully launched during the fall 2013 semester, according to Caffrey.
“I am so proud of these students — their hearts and dedication are inspiring,” he said. “I am so grateful for the life and love they bring to the elders of our community, and I’m excited for them as well. What an awesome journey the students are entering as they pour themselves into this divine endeavor.”
According to Caffrey, the goal of having Lee students visit residents and the staff at Signature HealthCare of Cleveland has been threefold: Exposure, Experience and Excellence.
“Exposure is the primary task,” he said. “Getting over the roadblocks and stigmas is the first step. The stigma of nursing homes being ominous and depressing comes to mind as a first thought for many students. I can just see it on their faces when I make the first announcement in Theology Class that one day in the semester we will meet at the nursing home for our class time. Nothing impacts students more than to come to the building and take the tour with me, experiencing the people and the culture of the building.
“As the students engage the first phase of this strategy the hope is that they will experience the culture of SHC and the care being exhibited to these precious people of age, to meet and connect with at least one resident. This exposure — and it doesn’t need to be lengthy to be mighty — yields an experience, a personalized encounter for students to ponder and reflect upon for themselves. The textbooks alone cannot take us to this place.”
Caffrey, who is also the director of the Spirituality Department of Signature Healthcare of Cleveland, said, “Our elders are honored and younger folks are blessed, and our community unified and strengthened by such bonds. The next phase is more experiences and engagements, interactions and time with our elders. We have had students who have come through this process and give 30, 50 even 150 hours of volunteer time and youthful energy to serve our beloved people.”
Kees admits, “My interaction with two residents — Ms. Edna and Ms. Virginia — has changed my life. I used to feel uncomfortable visiting nursing homes but now if I haven’t gone by the end of the week I have the sense that something is missing. I hope that my time with them has blessed them and given them encouragement and strength. It certainly has blessed me in unimaginable ways. I would love to see youths and the community as a whole recognize the value of the elderly.”
As a part-time teacher at Lee and full-time chaplain at Signature HealthCare, Caffrey said, “I get to live out my heart’s passion and life’s verse of Malachi 4:6 every day as I turn my heart to the elders of our community and the youth of the university and community.”
Starting in the fall, the Adopt-A-Grandparent program will begin having meetings on a monthly basis. Students will begin with an orientation session and will go on to be paired with a grandparent. From there they will commit to visiting their grandparent on a weekly basis. We will hold one or two events a semester in which the club will work as a whole to brighten the days of our grandparents. We would welcome not only students but the community to be involved in this endeavor.
The primary focus is residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. However, Caffrey emphasized that seniors who live independently in the community are also eligible.
“The idea of ‘adopting’ a grandparent is to build relationships, spending quality time on a regular, consistent basis,” he said. “The student will endeavor to listen, love, honor, encourage and pray for their adopted grandparent. And, as Alex and many are already experiencing, the students receive so much more joy and fulfillment than they ever expected!”
For further information on the Adopt-A-Grandparent program, contact Carl Caffrey at 423-457-0947 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Alex Kees at 423-367-4376 or via email at: email@example.com or visit Facebook @Adopt-A-Grandparent.