Albury High School students visit Mercy Place Albury residents

Sixty-four years might separate John Smith and Will Reid, but they both know it’s fun to ride bikes around town with mates.

Mr Smith, 77, met 13 year-old Will on Thursday when a class of year 8 boys from Albury High School visited Mercy Place Albury, the pair comparing notes on riding.

“Whatever he says I can relate to,” Mr Smith said.

“The only thing I can’t relate to is you on a mountain bike.

“There were none in my day, just an old two-wheeler bike.”

The excursion formed part of a school program where the year 8 boys participate in volunteering and other activities as well as exploring topics like mental health and relationships.

Albury High School teacher Adam DeMamiel said boys education programs weren’t new but this year the format had changed to include all year 8 boys.

“It engages kids with the school and the community with the school,” he said.

“Often young boys get a pretty bad rap, but the majority of them are good kids.

“We’re just trying to show them some different stuff to the normal.” 

The Mercy Place visits encourage them to chat with residents and develop some rapport across the generations.

“A lot of the boys don’t have contact with grandparents, that sort of thing, so it’s a bit daunting,” Mr DeMamiel said.

“Just get them to initiate conversations and put them out of their comfort zone a little bit is probably an important part of it.”

During Thursday’s opening session, a group of boys and residents sat together to examine newspaper articles.

Everything from an earthquake in Taiwan to the closure of the Eiffel Tower due to snow was discussed, with the question of whether anyone had ever been to Paris raised.

While some of the residents had, the students hadn't, allowing them to hear others’ stories.

The boys listened attentively, raising points when they felt the need, of course some more chatty than others. 

Mercy Place lifestyle assistant Narelle Hill said residents appreciated the students’ visit.

“I know a lot of them miss their grandkids because they don’t get to see them,” she said.

“Even the characters that are walking around today, the smiles you see on some of the faces.”

Mr Smith remembered when he was 13 like Will, a time when he lived in Jones Street and rode to watch the Mercy hospital being built.

Will said he liked visiting the Mercy Place residents.

“Good to see them, have a bit of experience talking to old people,” he said.

“Middle-aged,” he amended quickly with a smile, as Mr Smith laughed.