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Haebaru senior citizens bond with youngsters

Date Posted: 2007-11-01

Senior citizens across Okinawa tend to be spry and active, forming groups, getting involved in community events, and even publishing their own newspapers.

A Haebaru Town seniors group, Gajimaru Kai, has taken their energetic approach to life a step farther. Gajimaru Kai means banyan tree, synonymous with longevity, and the men and women of the group don’t sit idly by talking about the weather. Every member of Gajimaru Kai is over 80 years old, and they’re all healthy. And they love to talk.

Their most recent adventure was visiting an elementary school and spending time with their great grandchildren, sharing lunch and participating in a friendship exchange. The 21 senior citizens linked up with the 30 children in a second grade class. The talk never stopped!

Sitting around the cafeteria, the older citizens expressed surprise at the voluminous amount of food offered the kids, professing it to be “gorgeous, good looking, and…a lot!” Puzzled, the children fired back, asking “Didn’t you have this kind of food?” “Nope,” was the reply. “We didn’t have food at school. Nothing. Not even at home was there this much food.”

Another explained to the youngsters “we had only sweet potatoes when were were growing up. Nothing else.” Changing the subject from food to the ‘good old days’ the older guests told how “we didn’t have any shoes when going to school. No bags, and no notebooks.” The kids were filled with questions about how they walked without shoes, and how they could study. Both sides were filled with curiousity.

Computers were a center of attraction, with the kids explaining how to use them. The senior citizens also got a tour of the science study rooms. The program proved a good incentive not only for the senior citizens to appreciate what kids of today are learning and experiencing, but for the elementary school children, too. They came away from the visit with a new sense of caring for senior citizens, and for making the lives of elderly residents more pleasant and happy.

For organizers, the best news was that both groups gleefully expressed excitement about doing another visit next school year.

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