CEDAR RAPIDS — Jackson Duran, 6, has made a new friend at the public library this summer.
At a program at the Ladd Library Tuesday, he chatted eagerly with Lyle Krug, 65. The two shared stories about pets before decorating pet rocks together.
This was the second week Duran and Krug have meet up at the library, though a few weeks ago they had never met. Building friendships like this is the goal of “The More We Get Together,” a program the library started this summer to encourage intergenerational friendships.
The Ladd Library partnered with The Gardens of Cedar Rapids, a community with assisted living, memory care and nursing home care. Each Tuesday this summer, residents from The Gardens can sign up for an outing to the library, where they can participate in a weekly story time and craft with area children. Other older adults in the public are also welcome to attend, as are children and their families.
“I think it’s really important to expose different groups of people to one another. Oftentimes, both older adults and children aren’t visible in the community, and they both have so much to offer each other,” said librarian Meredith Crawford, who leads the program. “This can be for those looking to fulfill a grandparent role, if they’re missing kids in their own lives. It can be a great way to investigate their own memories, to share their stories. People don’t always have a chance to do that in their everyday lives.”
Krug said, since he doesn’t have grandchildren of his own, he’s enjoying the chance to connect with Duran and his mother Katie Duran, of Cedar Rapids.
“Some kids don’t have grandparents to be around,” he said. “It’s also a way for young people to learn how to interact with other people.”
Katie Duran agreed; she said the activity gives her son a chance to practice his conversational skills and meeting new people. The experience also goes deeper than that, she added.
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“One of my grandmas passed away at the end of March. I just want to give him some more grandparent experiences in his life,” she said. “It’s just nice for both of us to have some grandparent experiences, just to hear their stories and hear about their experiences.”
She said she and her son have enjoyed hearing about Krug’s life.
“We heard about growing up on a farm from him last week, and those conversations continued all week at home,” she said.
This week marked the third week of the program, which will continue each Tuesday at 10 a.m. through the end of July, with a different activity each week. The program is open to anyone, and registration is not required.
“It’s been part of our strategic plan to open up services to communities we haven’t reached before or who might not have access to services on a regular basis. We’re trying to better reach older adults,” Crawford said.
On Tuesday, the group started by listening to Crawford read the book “Children Make Terrible Pets” by Peter Brown before partnering up to share stories of their pets or imagine new pets. Then they created pet rocks, drawing pets onto rocks with permanent marker. At the end of the craft, each person gifted their pet rock to someone else.
Betty Keiper, 100, of Cedar Rapids, said she enjoys the program and plans to keep attending.
“I thought it was fun. You get out instead of being cooped up,” she said.
On Tuesday, she shared stories with Iris Ho, 19, of Cedar Rapids, who was there as a babysitter for a little girl who was busy chatting with others at her table as she colored her pet rock.
“I was looking for some activities, and the library is kind of the perfect place for it. She gets to meet a lot of people and make friends,” Ho said.
Meanwhile, Ho and Keiper were building a friendship of their own.
“We’re just enjoying each other,” Keiper said.
She told Ho how she raised four children with her husband on their rural Linn County farm. Now, she has 11 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren, ranging in ages from 1 to 25.
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Ho drew a puppy face with purple ears on a rock and at the end of the hour gave it to Keiper to take home.
“Thank you. I’ll put that on my desk,” Keiper said. “I’ve got a souvenir for today.”
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