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Mutual admiration society

Intergenerational fun a sure bet at Wind Crest

Created date

February 22nd, 2011

The lively presence of dozens of teenagers takes place every day in the dining room and kitchen at Wind Crest, an Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo. A common thread amongst all Erickson Living communities, the collective voices all ring as one as they work together for one purpose to serve the residents. We asked the residents what they wanted from our staff, and they said friendly and efficient service, says Carlie Thomas, staff development manager at Wind Crest. Thomas recruits students to be part of the staff because the residents want to have intergenerational conversations and relationships with the younger generation. I think the fact that they re hiring students instead of just adults is one of Erickson Living s many strengths, says community member Jim Murphy, who serves on the Dining Committee. The interaction between us and the students really makes a difference in our lives, and we make a difference in theirs.

Giving back with Casino Night

Since Wind Crest opened, the community has honored the students every year with a staff appreciation party. As long as the students rank high on the resident survey, we give them a party as a reward, Thomas says. They ve ranked high every year, and we don t anticipate this year being any different. When asked what type of party they wanted, for the last two years, students have suggested a casino theme. The residents volunteered to be dealers at the tables and learned the rules for Texas Hold em, roulette, and blackjack. Everyone had so much fun the first time that the students decided to put on a casino night and be the dealers for the residents. These kinds of things just strengthen the relationships between residents and staff, Mr. Murphy says. His wife adds: The kids are like family to us, and we just adore them.

Reciprocal relationships

The young work at Wind Crest because they want to make a difference like Tara Collins, who started when she was 14 because her brother worked there. Now 16, Tara trains new employees. We get really close to the residents. It s almost like we gain a third and fourth set of grandparents, she says. Some of the students work at Wind Crest because they lost their grandparents before they had a chance to get to know them. So many times I hear the kids say they have 700 new grandparents, and the residents say they have over 100 new grandkids, Thomas says. It makes me feel good when the students and residents make these kinds of emotional connections. While the students and residents are invested in each other s lives, there are also practical things the students gain from working at Wind Crest. Tara, for example, has learned important life lessons about time management. She s involved with the Future Business Leaders of America, DECA a national organization for emerging leaders, Spanish National Honor Society, National Honor Society, field hockey, and she maintains a 4.0 grade point average. A full schedule like that wouldn t leave much time for work, but Tara wants to be at Wind Crest. Seeing how much the residents give to the community makes me want to give to the community, she says. She finds inspiration from both the residents and her fellow students. It s a reciprocal relationship, and we have such a camaraderie, Mr. Murphy says.