Sterling Healthcare’s Activities Director forges strong intergenerational relationships

Every facility managed by Nationwide Healthcare Services is committed to building strong ties with the surrounding community. However, the team at Sterling Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center goes above and beyond by fostering strong cross-generational relationships between their residents and the students at nearby schools.

The Director of Activities, Nancy Newman, has 21 years of experience forging these relationships for the benefit of Sterling’s more than 160 residents.

A native of the region, Newman has leveraged her contacts in education and in the local faith community to build bridges connecting Sterling with younger generations.

“These programs bring tremendous joy to Sterling’s residents,” Newman explains.

“The residents love it when the students come in,” she says. “They just light up because the children actually sit with them and talk to them and listen to them.”

Newman, in turn, visits area schools to raise awareness about careers in the skilled nursing and health care industries.

One of the highlights of Sterling’s intergenerational push is a partnership with Nativity BVM Catholic Church in Media, where Newman is an active parishioner and Eucharistic Minister.

Eighth graders from the parish’s parochial school visit once a year to interview residents and learn more about their life experiences.

“The kids just love it,” Newman says. “They are fascinated by the stories of the residents, among them who are retired artists, pediatricians and coal miners.”

Also during the year, six students from the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, a highly regarded vocational school in nearby Middletown Township, take a week every March to volunteer full-time at Sterling. This opportunity provides them with an important workplace experience while also giving residents the opportunity to interact with new people.

Additionally, Boy and Girl Scout troops visit the facility regularly to work on arts and crafts with the residents.

Newman, through her regular Career Fair appearances at Villanova University, has even managed to convince the Villanova University Band and cheerleaders to stage an annual pep rally for the residents.

Arriving in two buses, the cheerleaders perform a routine on Sterling’s sun porch while the band plays a mix of contemporary and pep music to get residents excited and on their feet.

Newman, who has won several awards for the depth and variety of her programming, says that her goal is always to enrich the lives of both her residents and the volunteers who visit.

She says the personal touch is what keeps these groups and schools coming back year after year, which is a benefit to them and our residents.

“The whole idea is to welcome visitors and then to send them little thank-you notes expressing our thanks for the time they shared,” Newman says. “They appreciate it and will remember you.”