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“Grand Friends” Connect Young With Young At Heart

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    MIAMI, FL (WFOR) — It’s the day they all look forward to, every other week 4 year olds and seniors the Alper Jewish Community Center in Kendall come together.

“Bonding, connection, and that one-on-one time,” said Sandra Blasberg, Director of Early Childhood Development.

It’s part of the program they call “Grand Friends” and it was the brainchild of Blasberg who modeled it after a program she saw in Chicago.

Together with their “Grand Friends,” children sing, play, and do activities. Monday making trees in honor of Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the birthday of trees.

Every week the same senior is paired with the same child.

“My children are all grown so I have forgotten how very special a 4-year-old can be,” said Barbara Zohlman.

For Zohlman and the boy who she calls “her” Kellar, they really do talk.

“He’s very smart about anything having to do with the ocean, so we listen to shells and we talk about what we think the shells are saying to us,” she said

At the heart of it, there is healing.

“There are clinical studies that show what it can do. Many times seniors feel isolated or alone and those that don’t have a lot of family and friends. They come here and they get support and find it uplifting to meet with the children,” said Adult Program Director Ilene Primack.

Blasberg sees the change in the children too.

“One of the children just made a picture of their family and included the grand friend, that was day one,” she said.

The hope is that the old and the young can learn and benefit from each other.

“The connection with the grand friends was something amazing to watch,” said Blasberg.

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