Intergenerational Index
The Grandfriends Project -- A Program Creating Friendships Across the Generations Martin Kimeldorf, the author

About the Grandfriend Project

In 1990 I began taking my students on regular visits to a local retirement and nursing home facility. We called it the Grandfriend Project. Unlike the more typical community service programs we wanted to go far beyond showing up to decorate the cafeteria for Thanksgiving or singing carols at Christmas time. Instead, our focus was to develop a deep relationship between students and seniors.

The design of my program was greatly influenced by working with local experts and social service agencies devoted to serving the "aging" segment in our community. I had input from Dan Casey (director of RSVP, Retired Senior Volunteer Program), Hilary Hauptman a program manager in Washington State's Aging and Adult Services Department, and various staff from local retirement and care facilities. Grandfriend Project took shape out of my personal research, visits, and advisor's input. I set the following goals for the program:
  1. Create opportunities for bridging the generation gap
  2. Enhance students awareness of the aging process
  3. Expand student awareness of career opportunities in field related to geriatric care
  4. Establish opportunities for community building based on service-learning.

We reached these goals and many more.

I began the project with special education students. They already knew that they had special learning needs. Soon they would discover that their talents were needed by others. The benefits to both the younger and older grandfriends remains memorable. When the students presented their "memory books" to their grandfriends we heard "ooh's" and "ahs." In June of this year I saw tears of sadness flowing during our good-bye banquets. And at the end of the course my credit-shy student sighed a relief, knowing they had earned alternative social studies credit for participating in the project.

Eventually I wrote two books so that others could easily replicate the entire program. One is the student workbook, entitled: THE GRANDFRIENDS PROJECT, A Program Creating Friendships Across The Generations. The companion piece is a program guide for teachers and residential care staff members, entitled: PROJECT LEADER'S GUIDE FOR THE GRANDFRIENDS PROJECT, A Program Creating Friendships Across The Generations. These will be published by Fairview Press in the fall of 1998.

Publisher Lane Stiles is a forward thinking leader at Fairview Press. He has given me permission to make material available from various chapters in both books. The beginning chapters and later units on careers and online research will give you plenty to get started on your own project. Should you want the complete printed books please call Fairview Press in Minnesota at 1-800-544-8207. If you appreciate Fairview's generosity you might also write to Lane Stiles at:


In my home state, the number of people over 65 will double by the year 2020. This graying of America is going to effect everyone in different ways. It is incumbent that we all do what we can to build bridges between the "age ghettos" becoming increasingly isolated in our schools (youth adults) and our residential care facilities (elder adults).

Many times young people feel dispossessed, lacking a measure of privacy, independence, and status. It is a chronological irony that older citizens often feel the same way, identifying with the need for transportation and bereft of the greater independence they once enjoyed. Through discussion and visits we can help these two disparate groups discover a common ground. We need to offer our young people a chance to penetrate the age-gap as they study first hand the effects ageism. They can reach the "other side" once we invite them to participate in a program fostering social responsibility. In this way, we prepare the next generation to understand and cope with the shifting demographics created by the last generation.

When my students are called upon to serve others in their community they initially respond with a cautious interest. This later evolves into a passionate commitment in most of my volunteers. Our first games of bingo begin as tentative events until the first student wins a prize. On our next trip we might begin personal interviews with seniors. By the third visit students begin bringing items to share from home such as photos, recipes, music, models they have built, videotapes, and books. The senior residents catch the wave and also share things from their apartments.

Many times we end our project with a final lunch visit at a local restaurant. I'm told that the residents are lined up for the lift-bus an hour early. Similarly my students spend a week debating what they will order. As the seniors become more invested in their young protégés and as the students draw closer to their grandfriends, we abandon our roles of volunteer and simply adopt the role of friends.


Grandfriend (Grand'frend) n. [based on root words Grand + Friend]
1. A young and older person who befriend each other. 2. A person you know well or are fond of. 3. A volunteer or mentor to another generation

The Grandfriends Project describes a program which creates friendship links across the generations. A grandfriend is someone of any age who participates in the project. The goal is to create an awareness of aging, interdependence, and the value of service to one another.

Please note that the original name was "granfriend" and that you may see the word spelled with and without a "d" throughout these excerpts.

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Martin Kimeldorf,
© 1999
All Rights Reserved.
Amby Duncan-Carr,
page designer
Material from both THE GRANDFRIENDS PROJECT, A Program Creating Friendships Across The Generations and the companion piece, PROJECT LEADER'S GUIDE FOR THE GRANDFRIENDS PROJECT, A Program Creating Friendships Across The Generations is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher, Fairview Press. Printing or downloading a single copy of this document for personal use is permitted; teachers may reproduce this document for use in a single classroom, only. Transmission in any form or further duplication is prohibited without the express written consent of the author. In addition, any use of the document code, itself, requires the written permission of the web page designer.

Kimeldorf Bibliography
Amby's Resources
Kimeldorf Autobiography

© 1999   Amby Duncan-Carr   All Rights Reserved.

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