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Pairing Seniors and Teenagers

We all know that the teenage years can be tumultuous. We also know it can be prime time for trouble. So at FirstLight Home Care, we’d like to share with you some stories where teens can learn from senior citizens and vice versa. Maybe it will inspire you to start an
intergenerational program in your area!

Think about it. Many senior citizens have trouble with their mobile devices and computers. What better person to teach them than a teenager who is never far away from their favorite technological gadget? Teenagers can text faster than most of us can talk! Many cities across the United States have programs where teenagers can get class credit for helping seniors with their computers. How great is that?

Or how about People Helping People, a volunteer program run by the Duarte Teen Center in California? Teenagers help seniors with errands, lawn work and enjoy long chats over lunch. Too often in our busy lives, we don’t take the time to really listen to a teenager’s concerns. The senior citizens take the time to listen and offer advice. And because the advice is coming from someone other than their parents, it is often welcomed!

Think about it … there is much about “been there done that” that teenagers can learn from seniors. In fact, the idea that teens and seniors can help each other also drives the Elder
Wisdom Circle, a national organization based in Walnut Creek, CA. Founded in 2001, the program uses technology to connect younger people who seek advice and inspiration with older people who can share the benefits of their experience. In September 2006, some 600 senior volunteers responded to 3,500 requests for advice submitted anonymously at The “Dear Abby” of the older generation!

Senior centers and elementary schools in Berkeley have also participated in an intergenerational exchange program. Once or twice every week, the school kids practice their language and reading skills on seniors at the North Berkeley Senior Center by reading stories aloud.  And once a week, as many as three dozen senior volunteers travel into classrooms around Berkeley, ready to help children improve their reading and
language skills.

In fact, whole communities are being built around seniors and teenagers helping each other. The premise is that seniors can help earn a little money while babysitting, whereas working families will feel more comfortable with a babysitter who they know. In fact, this is exactly what The Related Companies did when they built The Windsor Court which contains one apartment complex for seniors and one for family’s side-by-side. “It helps keep seniors youthful to be with younger people, and it gives younger people an appreciation of the value that older people bring to life, with their experience and knowledge and worldly wisdom” says Don Anderson, community development director for the City of Westminster.

Or many seniors have problems getting outside, but miss the images found only in nature. That’s exactly what the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society (“HOBAS”) had in mind when developing its program called “Connecting Teens and Seniors, Bridging the Generation Gap Through Nature”. The HOBAS Youth Outreach Committee (“YOC”) visits nursing homes to present programs on birds in order to help re-connect seniors to the natural world. Pairing teenagers with seniors through nature education builds mutual respect between generations.

Do you have a great idea for a multigenerational program? At FirstLight Home Care, we’d love to hear about it!

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