Ethan Allen Residence’s innovative “Intergenerational Farmers Market Program” generates local media buzz

It’s been a year of innovation at Ethan Allen Residence including a “Community Meal Program” serving meals to Burlington elders at the Heineberg Community Senior Center, Vermont’s first “Cycling Without Age Program” bringing residents out into the community on an electric trishaw, a traveling resident-choir, and Vermont’s first “Intergenerational Farmers Market Program”.

The “Intergenerational Farmers Market Program” is a collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club, Vermont Community Garden Network, and HANDS (Helping And Nurturing Diverse Seniors). Building on an existing gardening collaboration with VCGN and HANDS, program directors at Ethan Allen Residence reached out to the Boys & Girls Club to see if they were interested in joining together to develop a consistent program.

Directors at Ethan Allen Residence, Boys & Girls Club, VCGN, and HANDS decided that bringing children from the Boys & Girls Club to work and visit with residents at Ethan Allen during VCGN’s gardening class would be beneficial to all involved. The collaboration grew to include both residents from Ethan Allen and children from the Boys & Girls Club operating a booth at the Old North End Farmers Market, selling produce and baked goods.

Our great new program has generated local buzz at FOX, ABC, CBS, Seven Days, and the Burlington Free Press. Check out the stories below!

Burlington Free Press story: “How a new program at the Old North End Farmers Market brings elders and youth together” by Maleeha Syed

Burlington’s Old North End Farmers Market quietly bustles on a weekday afternoon. Visitors browse the variety of offerings at each tent, one of which belongs to the Ethan Allen Residence, a home for elderly people. The people taking orders behind the table, however, just started the fourth grade.

Two residents of Ethan Allen sit in chairs underneath the tent and wait for children from the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington to show up. They rise to meet a small group of energetic youngsters, a little after 4 p.m.

This scene is one of many made possible by the Intergenerational Famers Market Program, which launched this summer. The program is a collaboration between the Boys & Girls Club, Living Well Group’s Ethan Allen Residence, HANDS VT, and Vermont Community Garden Network, according to Cameron Segal, the external affairs director for Living Well Group.

“I don’t know who it’s better for,” Susan Herrick, program coordinator with Ethan Allen Residence, said. “The kids or the elders. I think there’s equal benefits.”

The premise is simple: The kids show up to the Ethan Allen Residence on a Tuesday, helping to harvest veggies and package treats. The collective group then heads to the market to show off their teamwork and sell the goods.

Herrick said the residents come to life when the children are around. As for their young counterparts, they exhibit compassion, equipped with the desire to help out and connect.

A day at the intergenerational farmers market

The two age groups meet up in the afternoon when the kids get out of school and have free time to help at the market.

The dynamic between the two groups can be serendipitous. Elders can guide and welcome their younger companions, while the children are able to help
with physical activities like pulling up plants, Herrick said.

Consequently: “People are purposed.”

Children typically live in the moment, she said. For elders, sometimes these moments are all they have, not remembering events that transpired only minutes prior. Elders may feel a sense of nostalgia seeing the children. Conversely, the children are curious about their older partners.

“It can be a very vibrant time,” for the elders, Herrick said. “There’s a lot of wisdom there.”

Some of these individuals might only be able to share that wisdom once a year with their grandchildren: Herrick noted plenty of children don’t live near their grandparents. This isn’t the case for Dora Jackson, one of the Ethan Allen residents, who has two grandsons in the area. Still, she enjoys seeing the kiddos come around.

“We have a good time when they get there,” Jackson said. “All of them are really, really wonderful.”

A couple of kids were singing while hanging out at the market, using cups as instruments. Herrick encouraged them to perform for the residents. One of the girls, Zola, has been with the Boys & Girls Club for a few years now. She thought it was fun to see the different age groups hang out together.

“Seeing the difference between us,” she said. “How we’re more energetic.”

The girls kept up that energy until they left close to 5 p.m. In addition to musical performances, they pretended to take orders from Herrick, excitedly ran off to grab lemonade at a nearby stand, snacked on some cherry tomatoes and explored some of the other offerings.

One of the children held up a salve ointment and said she wanted it. “Well, it’s three dollars,” Herrick said.
That got the group laughing fast. Including Jackson.

What’s the benefit of intergenerational relationships?

The term “intergenerational” typically refers to a skipped generation between two age groups and doesn’t necessarily mean the polar opposite ends of the age spectrum, Joann Montepare said.

Montepare is the director for the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies at Lasell College. She’s observed some of the many benefits of intergenerational interactions.

One is knowledge exchange: Those with experience can transmit information to younger individuals. But this isn’t a one-way street: Those who are younger can also send their knowledge back up the chain.

“Because you’re bringing together a diversity of perspectives and ideas,” Montepare said.

Socially, these connections are important, particularly for groups who could feel isolated such as older generations. Montepare said younger groups might carry that same sense of isolation, too.

Joining together around common interests that both groups share is a good way to address these issues. Montepare considered the specific demographics at play at the new Intergenerational Farmers Market program: “To have people who are very accepting… I would say that’s an opportunity for a young person to learn how to shine,” she said.

On the flip side, elders could have children of their own, or perhaps they worked as a teacher in the past. They might miss those connections, which can offer “a sense of value and worth.” She acknowledged there are instances in which the connection might not always work — “glitches,” as she described them. But there’s often potential.

In these interactions, the energy, cute-factor and acceptance from the children often come to life. She said youngsters often have the ability to change the atmosphere.

“And everybody needs that change of pace.”

Full story here by Maleeha Syed, Burlington Free Press morning reporter

WFFF/WVNY story by Caroline Tobin

WCAX story by Christina Guessferd

Seven Days story: “Old North End Farmers Market Sets Up Intergenerational Program” by Jordan Barry

The Old North End Farmers Market has a new booth, and it’s staffed by some of the market’s youngest — and oldest — vendors.

The Ethan Allen Residence‘s Intergenerational Farmers Market program is a collaboration of residents and local children from the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, with help from the Vermont Community Garden Network and HANDS (Helping and Nurturing Diverse Seniors).

Since early July, children from the Boys & Girls Club have been joining the Ethan Allen residents to harvest vegetables grown in the eldercare facility’s backyard, package baked goods made by the residence’s head chef, Pam Scanlon, and sell it all at a booth at the Tuesday evening market in Dewey Park.

“There are huge benefits in connecting the generations,” said Cameron Segal, external affairs director at the Living Well Group, of which the Ethan Allen Residence is part. “It helps kids see value in their elders, and our residents absolutely light up when they see the kids.”

The Burlington-based Living Well Group is a nonprofit that runs three residential-care assisted-living homes for low-income older Vermonters living with dementia. Although it was initially difficult to find a children’s organization to partner with, Segal said, the Boys & Girls Club saw the value the collaboration would bring to its young participants, and the two have been a perfect fit.

With its established presence in the community, the Boys & Girls Club has helped spread the word about the program. “Seeing elders handling the cash box and children handing out the baked goods gets people excited,” Segal said.

Profits from the booth’s sales are used to fund engagement programs at the Ethan Allen Residence. “But it’s not about selling things and making money,” said Segal. “It’s about bringing generations together and bringing our residents out into the community every week.”

Full story here by Jordan Barry, Seven Days food writer

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