Chicago Junior High Student Council Leads Special Project for Older Adults

Chicago, IL- February 23, 2005- Mather’s—More Than a Café on Neva Avenue announces it has been chosen as a Special Education Project and venue for the 3 rd annual St. William Dance. The Jr. High School Student Council plans and project manages one big event annually, and has chosen for a third year to hold an intergenerational dance between the students and the older adults in the community. Previously, the dance has provided ways to bridge the two age groups, last year bringing together 75 older adults and junior high school students.

The students handle many aspects of the event from conducting event planning meetings with the manager of Mather’s to selling tickets to the dance and raising budget money to hiring the DJ for the event, even decorating Mather’s with the theme “Blast from the Past,” with an emphasis on the 1920’s. “Once the students starting spending time with the older adults, they really started to enjoy it and get really involved with the project,” says Karen Zaccaria, a teacher at St. William School who has been working with the students for three years on the dance. “They were surprised at how much fun working with older adults is.”

Ice breakers planned for the event include pairing students with older adults to identify top things shared in common; followed by another creative idea for the event that brings some perspective to the attendees — lining up by age, youngest to oldest according to birth year. The students and older adults then move onto the dance floor, dancing together to DJ’s top music choices that span the decades, where an exchange of dancing expertise is completed. “The older adults have developed a new found love for the Cha-Cha- Slide, an updated version of the original,” says Mather’s manager Kate Schreiber, who has also worked with the student council for three years. “The students are also learning something new- Ballroom Dancing.” The students deepen their knowledge and understanding of the experiences of another generation, and in turn gain a greater perspective about their own lives, while the older adults enjoy the vigor and youthful enthusiasm of the students.

The relationships forged during the dance in the past have remained fruitful, as the students return in December to create holiday crafts at Mather’s with the older adults. All of the crafts created are donated to the Shriner’s Hospital, brightening up the hospital during the winter months. In the Spring, a popular school project for the students is to interview an older adult in their lives, and many of the dance attendees choose the friends they have made at the Mather’s.

Mather’s—More Than a Cafés are a trendy, modern and unique place for older adults living at home to convene, socialize and stay connected to the community. With four Mather’s in Chicago, and another slated to open in April in Des Plaines , connections and relationships grow locally. With over 300 classes a month, social and fitness programs, dining, and cultural seminars available to the community, Mather’s not only connect older adults with similar interests, they often spark friendships and love relationships.

The dance is planned for Friday, March 11 th , and tickets are on sale for $3 at Mather’s—More Than a Café at 2367 N. Neva Avenue , Chicago , IL 60607 , 773-622-9770.

Who is Mather LifeWays?

Mather LifeWays is a 50+-year-old, not-for-profit organization committed to helping older adults age well. Mather LifeWays demonstrates its commitment to promoting the vitality and well-being of older adults by providing a variety of experiences and services to meet this diverse group’s lifestyle preferences. These offerings include senior living communities, Institute on Aging, and community programs. Mather LifeWays’ senior living communities offer choices and flexibility, from independent living to assisted living and skilled care. The Institute on Aging plays a leading role in enhancing the lives of older adults in today’s society through numerous collaborative and applied research and education projects. Mather LifeWays’ Community Initiatives programs, including the successful Mather’s – More Than a Café concept, enable Mather LifeWays to act as a point of contact for older adults who seek access to community resources. These accomplishments, and more, make Mather LifeWays unique in its goal to advance the possibilities for a lifetime of active living. The organization is based in Evanston , Ill. More information is available at .