Teens' visits with senior citizens produce rewarding friendships

The students snacked on trail mix, played a round of blackjack and heard life lessons dispensed by people many decades older.

"Avoid the girls, study hard and pursue what you want do," said one sage adviser to the freshmen and sophomores from Newport Beach as he ate a slice of apple pie.

The gathering at Crown Cove, an assisted living facility in Corona del Mar, was born of the OC Silvers, a club of sorts formed by five Corona del Mar High School baseball players who decided to pay regular visits to a group of six men ranging in age from 80 to 93.

For the past four months, the men have spent a non-alcoholic "happy hour" at Crown Cove, where they live, with the young athletes and their parents. During the visits, the talk is about baseball, family, education, World War II and accomplishments — one resident ran the Boston Marathon when he was 60.

The March 4 get-together was no different.

After the freshmen athletes beat Garden Grove and the sophomore players tied Ocean View High in Huntington Beach, they picked up pies, headed to Crown Cove, put on hats that read "OC Silvers" and sat down for a game of 21 and a glass of orange juice.

"Oh no," said Ed Isenberg, as he looked at the hand he was dealt. "These young guys are doing a great job taking the money."

Tanner Ivey came up with the idea late last year. The 16-year-old sophomore and junior varsity baseball player wanted to create friendships with senior men in the community.

He recruited Kieran Sidebotham, Caden Campbell, Chase Hartsell and Jesse Ott to visit the senior home, which he had learned about through a hairdresser whose mother is a resident.

"We like hearing what they have to share with us," Tanner said.

And so OC Silvers was born.

"Any time there are generations conversing, it bridges the gap," said KiKi Hasson, life enrichment manager at Crown Cove. "They can all learn something from each other, relate and get an older perspective. I think it's important that stories are being heard, and when we watch residents have a smile on their face, then that's a win-win."

Caden, a 16-year-old sophomore, said he enjoys spending time with the older guys, forming friendships and hearing a different view of life.

"It's just really cool to spend time together," Caden said.

The feeling appears to be mutual.

"I enjoy meeting these young guys," said Charles Larkin, 93, a retired internist and psychiatrist who practiced in Madison, Wis., and San Bernardino. "I played baseball in high school and college, and it's very exciting to see young blood and hear stories."

The students often spread their attention beyond their six core friends. During one visit, the high schoolers served food and drinks to the home's approximately 80 residents and danced with the older women. At another time, the women listened to a student perform a selection of Beethoven pieces on the piano.

The boys, who acquire community service hours for their time spent with the older set, are planning to have their senior friends join them at upcoming Newport Beach Baseball Assn. games and high school competitions. Their hope is to create additional OC Silver groups elsewhere in Orange County.

Later this month, the Corona del Mar High School baseball team will play against Irvine's Beckman High, which could leave Isenberg in a tough position.

His grandchildren go to Beckman.

"I'll sit in the middle of the stands," Isenberg said with a laugh. "You guys were good sports hanging with us."

kathleen.luppi@latimes.com

Twitter: @KathleenLuppi

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