The passing of Steve Jobs got me thinking about using creativity, intuition and courage to live an authentic life. He was also passionate about connecting people.
Well, how about pairing up elderly people with kids, all of whom live in state-run institutions? Well, my friend Marina came up with that creative idea for connecting people, and I volunteered to take them to Orczy Adventure Park, the ropes and zipline course in a green oasis in deeper Pest.
We weren’t sure what to expect – how could the “oldies,” who aren’t very mobile, connect with the kids, who were climbing in the trees? Well, give someone a good reason to go for a walk and they will. Soon the “oldies” were walking, with a cane or arm-in-arm with a helper, around the shady course to cheer on their “grandchild,” who was carefully making his or her way along the course, attaching their carabiners to each marked spot. Two of the elderly men were even caught climbing the first few rungs of a ladder (for a photo at least), and Zoltán-bácsi said next time he planned to climb too.
The kids had a great time, too, of course. The ropes course isn’t easy – first, you go through a three-step practice course to learn how to stay safe, and the park staff are strict, with good reason. Based on the kids’ performance, they were directed to the Bee, Wasp or Jay climbing course, each with a different level of difficulty, and height! They quickly got the hang of it, literally, and were making their way past all kinds of obstacles on their way to sliding down the zip-line that finishes each course.
Pairing “oldies” and kiddos isn’t a new idea – Marina came up with this almost a decade ago, and called it Adopt-a-Granny. Some of the relationships between the “grandparents” and “grandkids” have blossomed into years of companionship that’s rare in the institutional settings where they live. The pairs meet through the program’s outings, which have included trips to the circus and the zoo.
After the climb, we had a picnic lunch under the trees, with a memory game and a trivia quiz that combined the skills of the oldies and the kids, who played on teams together, and won boxes of chocolates for their efforts. I clowned around as I played the emcee role, and other North American Women’s Association members, Marina, Marilena, Susan, Debra and Gaya, did all the behind-the-scenes work to make sure everyone had a great time.
For more on Orczy Adventure Park, run by my good friend Tibor Balog, see www.orczykalandpark.hu. For more about NAWA and opportunities to participate in the Adopt-a-Granny program, see www.nawabudapest.com. These links, like every other one you see on my blog or FB page, are not sponsored.