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

Introduction to the Student Workbook

Hilary Hauptman visited with her first "granfriend" when she was in college. She described her experiences as follows:

When I was twenty years old I made my first "granfriend." In her eighties, she could still get around in her boarding home. Through our weekly visits, my eyes were opened to a larger view of life, aging, and perseverance. Over time she grew weaker, and eventually moved into a nursing home, which is where I last saw her on the day before she died. This experience instilled in me a life-long passion for working with older people, which continues to this day, some twenty years later...Forming a friendship with someone much older than yourself will open doors to a rich and magical combination of experiences.

Sharing your life and times with someone from a much older generation can be a very pleasant experience. It is like looking back in time to see where you are today. That is, you'll be visiting with someone who has lived through adolescence long ago, perhaps before the common usage of television or computers. Though they lived in a different world, they often faced the same kinds of questions when they were your age. As you compare their life to what you are going through, you may find comfort in learning how they handled similar moments of pain and joy. As you compare your "Good Old Days" with a person in his or her 90's you may be surprised at both the differences and the similarities. You can enjoy the companionship of someone from a different generation as a participant in the Granfriends Project.

Gunda's Story

In an earlier Granfriends Project students met Gunda, a lively and curious 90 year old woman. She had written short stories all her life about growing up in the early part of the 20th Century in the Pacific Northwest. Her children decided to collect her writings and publish them in a book called I Remember Mama. Gunda began her book musing about her past, wondering if she should call her childhood the "good ol' days," or not? Five of her observations are listed next.

I remember when…

  1. You went barefooted to school in the spring to help balance the family budget. There were always some who missed this experience because they had shoes.

  2. You saved your spare change and walked a mile or more to see the Chautauqua. This was a variety show traveling by train and hitting the smaller towns along the route. It was one of the highlights of the summer and talked about long after the tents had been folded and loaded for the next destination.

  3. Children were supposed to be seen and not heard. In some families the women and children ate after the menfolk had eaten their fill.

  4. When you traveled by horse and buggy. Some days the horse didn't feel like going very fast, but it was fun anyway.

  5. When the local butcher gave you a wiener just to be friendly. T'was worth the long trek to the market and back.

Gunda went on to describe how her parents settled in a small saw-mill town in Washington state. This was a time when people worked in the woods and traveled by horse and buggy or steam engine. People wore heavy dark underwear all the time because their houses lacked central heating and it was often cold. Men wore beards or mustaches and used a special mustache-cup to keep their whiskers dry. Most loggers chewed a tobacco they called "snoose." On days her family didn't have food, watching the men chew tobacco made Gunda hungry.

Gunda ends the list by asking, "Were those the good ol' days? I wonder."

How would you compare your times to Gunda's era? Will you someday speak about "Good Ol' Days?" Imagine being able to talk with someone like Gunda. What would you like to ask her? Would her stories change the way you feel about your life? What do you think she'd like to know about you?

A Rich and Magical Experience Awaits You

Your granfriends will look forward to your visits. Many of them have only a few visitors because their families live so far away. You are providing a very important service-friendship. While you have stories to share about your past, you can also talk to them about what is happening today and discuss your thoughts and hopes for tomorrow. In this way, you let the world know that today's young people care, and can make important contributions to the community. The exchange between young and old people and the sharing of stories across the generations can prove to be a very rewarding experience. In the end, you'll not only learn about people like Gunda-more importantly, you'll know more about yourself.

Perhaps, someday far in the future, when you are much older…you'll yearn for a visitor. If you're lucky, another young adult-with a heart as big as yours- will come and be your granfriend.

You May Be Wondering…

You may be wondering what it will be like to visit a nursing home or convalescent center. Don't worry. You won't go unprepared. In fact, you'll receive lots of helpful training, which begins in the first chapter. In this program you'll learn how to move wheelchairs safely and how to use proper hygiene habits when visiting nursing homes. You'll also become aware of ageism or the stereotyping of older people. You'll be asked to collect your thoughts in a journal and perhaps write up a report about your experiences which can be shared with others. In this way, you'll form some new opinions about what it means to grow older, and perhaps you'll shape an opinion of what you hope to be like when you grow old. If you'd like to glimpse at what it might be like, read John Brantley's report about his Granfriends Project experience. At the time, John was a junior at River Ridge High School in Lacey, Washington. His journals, research assignments, and final report became part of a social studies class credit at his school. His report may answer some of your questions.

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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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