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A medical student from the University of Western Ontario dances with a resident of Grand Wood Park Retirement Residence

Grand Wood Park Gala Brings Med Students and Seniors Together

What happens when you bring together university students and seniors? Well, if there’s a DJ in the room, and dance floor large enough to fit more than 140 people, then you’ve got quite the party.
“These aren’t people sitting around in rocking chairs. They’re full of life.”
That was the scene at the 13th annual Grand Wood Park Gala, held recently at the Four Points Sheraton, in London. Here, Grand Wood retirement community residents meet up with their dates – medical students from nearby Western University. After pinning a corsage, the couples enter the gala for a night of food, drink and dancing, including a live choir.

“It’s so much fun, especially when you see the residents rocking with the students, teaching each other dance moves,” says Grand Wood Park Executive Director, Tanis Siddique. “Everyone was mingling, professors and seniors and students; the mayor gave a speech. It was a lot of fun.”

But there was more than dancing and a good time going on. For the Grand Wood residents, it’s a chance to connect with the larger London community. “They see it as sitting down with the future of medicine,” says Siddique. “Some form friendships that last well beyond the gala. They go out to the theatre, visit restaurants and just enjoy one another’s company.”

Indeed, this is the true value of the gala: a shattering of ageism. By coming together in a social setting, the students have discovered something truly important ­– that “old people” are as diverse as the young, with opinions, ideas and interests that are unique to each individual. “The gala made a big difference in how they saw seniors,” says Siddique. “These aren’t people sitting around in rocking chairs. They’re full of life.”

This insight has had a profound effect on the study of geriatrics, including an article about Grand Wood’s gala in the Canadian Geriatrics Journal. Written by Andrea Dumbrell, “More to life than MacGyver and Crocheting” outlines the positive results of bridging students and seniors in a social – rather than a clinical – setting. Indeed, this was the reason the gala first came to be, 13 years ago, when a professor at Western approached Grand Wood about ways to bring together seniors and students. “They suggested meeting for coffee. But we thought, Why not make it something bigger?”

The Grand Wood Park Gala is one of many initiatives at Revera residences meant to bridge the gap between generations and break the barriers of ageism. Because when it comes down to it, age is just a number.

See how Revera is combating ageism at Age Is More.