Forever Friends


“Forever Friends,” founded in 1986 by Sherry Power, M.Ed., is a program model for intergenerational connections. Power, an educator and nationally recognized leader in intergenerational topics, feels by bringing children and elders together in an academic environment, the learning is enriching and invaluable for both groups. By forming friendships across generational lines, children learn about the aging process and gain an enhanced appreciation for the wisdom and experience offered by their elder friends. These intergenerational friendships also expose elders to the life of a child in today’s world.

In Power’s program model, “Forever Friends,” her second-grade students at Hillside Elementary School in Brookfield, Wisconsin, meet their elder friends at the beginning of the school year after initial preparation in the classroom. The elders who join Power’s class are residents of an independent living facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – St. John’s on the Lake. Throughout the year, the children meet with their elder friends approximately once a month, exchanging letters and phone calls between meetings. The elders participate in selected classroom activities, accompany the children on field trips, participate in holiday and spring musical programs, and join in a variety of creative writing projects.

For example, a culminating activity in social studies is an “African Safari,” where students and elders play African games and watch a slideshow presented by an elder who once lived in Africa. After an art unit, the students act as docents for a “Gallery Opening,” where elders and students share their thoughts on the artists studied. An annual highlight is a trip to a one-room schoolhouse where elders and students compare school life 70 years ago with today.

Regardless of a teacher’s classroom curriculum, goals, objectives, or grade level, by including intergenerational programming, teachers widen the circle of learning not only for their students but for the elders as well.

Below are examples of intergenerational programs being used across the country and supported by FOREVER FRIENDS Inc.:

  • elder nuns tutoring students in reading and math
  • partner reading, where small children read to elders and vice versa
  • intergenerational chorus programs
  • “phone a friend,” where children who return after school to an empty home give a call to their elder friend
  • high school art class visiting a nursing home to do hand massage and clay pottery
  • laptop gardening and planting
  • elders giving oral histories reflecting their life experiences

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