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Bringing together the young and the old

Rosemount middle school students play games with residents of The Rosemount, one of several intergenerational programs at the facility.

When Mark Appelbaum first envisioned a new senior living facility in Rosemount, he knew its standout feature would be its integration into the fabric of the city. He wanted The Rosemount’s placement in the heart of downtown to fully connect its residents to the greater community.

As activities director for the newly opened senior housing development, Augustana Care’s Vicki Peterson is there to make sure that vision becomes reality.

Peterson has been busy reaching out to nearby schools, and as a result, a variety of new intergenerational programs are getting underway. From preschool to high school, she’s got something in the works for everybody. Though most of the programs she has planned are still in their infancy stage, Peterson sees the potential for great growth down the road.

Peterson recently had two students from Rosemount Middle School volunteer at The Rosemount after school, and they enjoyed it so much, they plan to return on a regular basis.

“The girls loved it,” Peterson said. “They were so sweet, so polite and so positive. We are really looking forward to having them back.”

The girls got to visit with some of the independent living residents and helped set up the dining room for The Rosemount’s monthly birthday celebration. Peterson said some of the independent living residents don’t see their families as often as they would like and really appreciate having someone to talk to from time to time.

The interest goes both ways.

“The girls enjoyed being able to sit back and visit with them. They especially enjoyed one resident in particular and hearing about her life growing up on a North Dakota farm,” Peterson said.

The volunteers were back on Wednesday to accompany residents to a preview of Rosemount Middle School’s spring musical, Bye Bye Birdie, and both Peterson and housing director Bill Peters have met with RMS staff to discuss ways to get more middle school students involved.

The middle schoolers were not the only ones to visit with residents on Wednesday. A group of preschoolers from Crystal’s Cuddle Bugs Childcare Center, located just down the road, visited The Rosemount to participate in the memory care unit’s music hour. The children and seniors were able to work with a music therapist, singing and playing musical instruments side by side.

Like the middle school volunteer program, Peterson hopes to see interactions with the preschoolers become a regular thing.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing what it all becomes,” she said.

Further down the road at Rosemount High School, a group of student leaders is brainstorming ways they can become involved as well. Senior Madison Morehouse visited with Peterson recently to discuss opportunities for groups such as the National Honor Society, Group of Active Teens and the student council to volunteer their time.

Peterson said she sees a great opportunity for high school students to volunteer in The Rosemount’s memory care unit, which opened March 1 and has six residents so far.

“We do a lot of one-on-one things there,” Peterson said. “A lot of it is just talking to the residents. They love to share their memories and it is so good for them to be able to do that. It is good for them cognitively and good for them emotionally, too.”

She said the facility has many books and card games designed to help stimulate conversation and encourage talking, which can be difficult for students who have not dealt with dementia patients before.

Peterson’s next goal is to connect with staff at Rosemount Elementary School to create some new opportunities for students there. She envisions kids singing to residents and pairing up to read stories or look at picture books together.

“That’s just joyful for everyone,” she said.