When the pandemic changed daily life at Ovation Communities, school groups and volunteers were no longer able to visit in person, Julie Shlensky sprung into action. Shlensky, Posner Chair for Intergenerational Programming, had to pivot quickly and find new and creative ways to bring generations together in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways.
One initiative that really took off was Ovation’s Intergenerational Connections Program, which pairs young community volunteers with Ovation residents as pen pals, or in this case, phone pals. Through the reintroduction of this program, Chai Point resident Allen Koren first met youth volunteer Joey Arnstein in May of last year. They’ve been talking weekly via phone or video chat ever since.
Joey and Allen have found they have a lot in common; they both love sports and have an interest in current world events. They’ve had no shortage of things to talk about.
“We really enjoy each other’s company and conversation,” Allen said. “The program has filled a void during the pandemic and kept me busy. It’s been so interesting to learn and appreciate the perspective of an entirely different generation.”
The pair built such a strong bond that Joey and his family invited Allen to participate in his recent Zoom bar mitzvah, where they both spoke with admiration about each other.
“He’s become a really important part of my life.Joey said. “I was so excited that he could participate in my big day. We have a lot of similarities, and building this connection, especially during quarantine, has been amazing.”
As part of his bar mitzvah project Joey asked friends and family for donations that allowed Ovation to purchase iPad stands so residents can stay in touch with their loved ones. Joey and Allen plan to continue their weekly calls, even beyond the pandemic, and hope to meet in person sometime soon.
“It has been extremely rewarding for me to play matchmaker over the past year when many people were faced with increasing loneliness and social isolation,” Shlensky said. “Continuing to bring generations together in new ways has had countless positive benefits on the physical and mental health of not only our residents, but young people in the community as well.”
Eliana Karan Organizes Purim Baskets for Residents
Eliana Karan’s great-grandfather is a resident at Ovation Jewish Home. As part of her bat mitzvah project, Eliana rallied her family and friends to raise more than $2,000 on behalf of Ovation Communities.
With the funds raised Eliana and her friends put together more than 90 Purim baskets to spread joy to residents during the holiday. The colorful baskets included hamantashen pastries, groggers, Purim masks, fuzzy slippers and lottery tickets.
Inspired by her great-grandfather and her own love of the arts, Eliana also organized a virtual talent show. This video compilation of her friends singing, dancing, playing ukulele, and juggling fire, among a variety of other talents, will be streamed for Ovation residents.
“It made me really happy to be able to help our elders and share that happiness during Purim,” Eliana said. “I gained some wonderful new connections, and a few of my friends were even inspired to start their own service projects.”
As a result of Joey and Eliana’s Bnai Mitzvah projects, The Foundation’s Posner Intergen Program has launched a Bnai Mitzvah program to encourage and engage other community youth to celebrate their special milestone with Ovation residents in meaningful and creative ways.
For more information on the Bnai Mitzvah program, contact Julie Shlensky, Intergenerational Program Coordinator, 414.721.9253 or email JShlensky@ovation.org.