By Amy Reynolds
TRENTON — A circle of senior citizens and about 30 preschoolers took shape Thursday morning at the Sam Naples Senior Center gymnasium, and then music teacher Joyce Kay pulled out her guitar and led them in a chorus of singing: “Hello, everybody! So glad to see you!”
Such a gathering has become a regular Thursday event at the senior center. Organizers say it helps young children get accustomed to seniors, and the seniors greatly benefit from the weekly music lessons as well.
“It brings out the inner kid in the senior citizens when the children come here,” said Doris Oglesby, director of senior citizen activities at Sam Naples.
Every Thursday, the class of 4-year-olds from the Stepping Stones Learning Institute walks to the senior center for their weekly music lesson, under the Music for the Very Young Program, facilitated by the Trenton Community Music School.
This morning, the class of 3-year-olds joined them as well to celebrate Older Americans Month and the end of the school year.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” said Florence Neeld, a senior who goes to Sam Naples three days a week. “When they have dances here, they call me the dancing machine.”
Stepping Stones has been working with the music school for about 12 years, with a short hiatus a few years ago, Denise Picerno, administrative director for Stepping Stones, said.
“Since the first day, (the kids) were so excited to come and sing and dance with the seniors,” she said. “They can’t stop talking about it when they get back to school.”
Two other preschools in the area, CYO preschool and Trenton Head Start, have similar programs, partnering with South Ward Senior Citizen Center and Reading Senior Center, respectively.
“Everybody talks about partnerships and this has allowed many agencies to collaborate in a positive way,” Trenton Community Music School community partnerships director Ronnie Ragen said.
Before this year’s program started in October, Ragen said, many of the preschoolers were shy and nervous about performing at the senior center. “Part of the objective is to make (the kids) comfortable in the community,” she said, stating that many of the kids are now more comfortable interacting with the seniors.
Ragen said that the senior citizens really look forward to Thursdays, and senior Harvey Moses would agree.
“I think the program is terrific,” he said. “For young kids, you couldn’t want anything better.”