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Can seniors and teenagers learn from each other?

By Peter DiMaria

Do the younger generation have anything to learn from seniors? And could we expect them to teach anything elderly people don’t already know?

It was believing that both sides can benefit from this interaction that the Enfield Senior Center is starting a new program named Enfield Intergenerational Alliance, with volunteer students from the local high school and members of the Senior Center. The first meeting of the group will be next Tuesday, March 8th.  “The older folks will talk about their experience, problems, concerns. Then the young will be invited to do the same”, explains the center’s director, Susan Lather. “A lot of these experiences will be the same, probably in issues like respect or job searching. There will be a number of differences, too”, she says.

After the exchange of experiences, the two groups will decide how the project could follow up, eventually, with the development of projects.

The Enfield Senior Center’s project is not the first initiative of this type. It was actually inspired by a successful project in Clinton, Massachusetts, named the Youth Council on Aging. “We live in a time where the demographic shift from a young society to an aging society presents many challenges. Preparing our youth to understand these challenges, while building an age-friendly community, is the bottom line”, says Kathleen Bailey, Clinton Senor Center director.

In the other hand, the elderly can also profit from the interaction. One of the main problems affecting people at an old age is loneliness and depression. Spending time and interacting with the young has great potential to overcome these difficulties. In a similar project in England high school kids were able to teach the elderly how to play a musical instrument and even how to surf!

The pilot project at the Enfield Senior Center starts on Tuesday, March, 8th. The idea is to have monthly meetings, but the group could decide otherwise. Those interested should register in advance, through calling the Enfield Senior Center (860-763-7425).