Kids Plus Program

Bigfork-Itasca Area AGE to age Summer Fellows

Joey Jacobson has lived all her life in the rural Itasca County town of Bigfork. She spent 40 of those years, busy and filled with purpose, working as a nurse. After retirement, she needed something to do—something meaningful. She explained, “I didn’t have a plan for what to do with my time. AGE to age helped. Now, I’m busy.”

Bigfork, population 446, joined the Northland Foundation’s AGE to age: bringing generations together program in 2019. They were off to a great start, then COVID hit. Local coordinator Sandra LeBlanc-Boland got creative and, despite the challenges, community interest and participation have been strong.

This past summer, Bigfork was one of 12 AGE to age sites in the region to create intergenerational Fellows Teams. Sandra recruited two older adults, Joey and Nanci Zeine, and two students, Desiree Kobal and Gabby Rahier. The team members range in age from 18 to 72.

This diverse group kept busy throughout the summer learning from one another and working together, with Sandra, to create opportunities for people of every age.

Asked about favorite experiences, Joey, Desiree, Gabby and Nanci reel off an impressive list of fun activities including community BINGO, a Color Run, Take a Kid Fishing Day, and a special gardening project. The group brought in children from the child care center to help older adults plant flowers in raised beds built by the high school shop class and placed on the Bigfork Valley long-term care and assisted living campus.

“The elders absolutely love having children around. Their interaction was beautiful to see,” said Nancy.

“There was a root beer float party afterwards, too,” added Desiree, with a smile. “We can’t forget the root beer float party.”

The elders absolutely love having children around. Their interaction was beautiful to see.

Youth brings energy and fresh ideas. Age offers knowledge and experience. Join them together with intention and vision, as in Bigfork, and you have a powerful, multi-generation combination. And don’t forget the fun things like root beer floats!