Walking down the hallway of a long-term care home often triggers an urge to whisper for fear of a “shhhhh” from nurses. But that’s not the case at the Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon.
Twenty-five Grade 6 students roam the halls, throwing out waves, hugs and high-fives to residents.
They are taking part in a unique intergenerational program — known as iGen — that embeds an elementary class inside an advanced care home for the entire school year. The Saskatoon program is a first in Canada.
And over the past year, it’s changed lives and saved lives.
“It gave me a reason to get up in the morning, and an enthusiasm for life that I hadn’t had,” care home resident Jodi Grant told CBC News.
In fact, the 69-year-old is blunt about the fact that just a few years ago, she wanted to die.
For decades, Grant taught literacy in schools. She earned a PhD and became a professor, first at the University of Saskatchewan and then the University of West Indies in Jamaica.
She was living the life of her dreams until a horrific vehicle accident in 2007 fractured her spine and left her in excruciating pain, unable to get out of bed alone or bathe herself.
“I was completely depressed. All I wanted to do, really, was die,” Grant said.
When the accident first happened, she remembers begging her son for his eyeglasses. “I wanted to break them and cut my jugular. I just wanted to die.”
Grant spent two years in a Saskatoon hospital, then moved into Sherbrooke for full-time medical assistance. The facility has 260 residents, including seniors and people with acquired brain injuries. Sherbrooke likens itself to a “small town” that helps residents stay active with a greenhouse, art studio, dance hall, swimming pool, pets and more.