Over the past two years, Carmel’s visits and involvement in the Maurice Zeffert Home have increased. Every Tuesday morning a different High School mentor group goes to the MZH to have breakfast with the residents, giving them an opportunity to talk and break bread together. On Fridays, after wowing our students and parents with their performance, primary students who have performed at assembly trot across in their costumes to perform for the residents again, an experience much appreciated by both audience and performers.

I’ve heard that some students can find these visits uncomfortable and confronting and that we should give students more choice about whether or not they participate in these programs. While I understand that visiting the elderly can be unnerving if one isn’t used to it, that idea that one can ‘opt out’ is not one that sits well with the Carmel ethos.

In the Torah it states that the reward for honouring one’s parents is long life. I have seen first-hand how this can play out in families where people have been blessed to live to old age.

My maternal grandparents lived in a granny flat behind our house from the time I was in Grade 2 and the relationship I developed with my Nan and Poppy is something I treasure greatly.

My Poppy passed away 8 years before my grandmother and he knew that we as a family would look after her.

My mother looked after my grandmother with the utmost respect, devotion and admiration for many years. She would not stay at community functions past 8:30pm so that she could be a home to bathe my grandmother and get her ready for bed. She would wake my Nan each morning, giving her a hot cup of coffee and plate of cut up fruit for breakfast, having prepared her lunch too for the middle of the day. Mum would dart out of work to take Nan to doctors’ appointments and evenings were spent together at the Dickens bookclub (although Nan did make it quite clear that Dickens was not her favourite author). When choosing a prefab home for their holiday house site, the only criteria were low cost and a downstairs bedroom and bathroom for my Nan. I saw, every day, how important it is to treat the elderly with all the love and devotion that they bestowed upon us when we were growing up. They were responsible for us and now we are responsible for them.

The way my mother treated my grandmother not only prolonged her life, but enhanced her quality of life. My mother showed me what I will need to do as my parents creep closer to 120.

We will all, with G-d’s blessing, become old. And none of us will want that our presence will make others feel uncomfortable or confronted. The best way to do this is to give our children regular and meaningful opportunities to interact with the grandparents and great grandparents of our community so that intergenerational dialogue and contact becomes the norm.

We are blessed to have the Maurice Zeffert Home next door to Carmel School and we will continue to go there with our students all that we can.

Shabbat Shalom,

Shula