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WHATOlder adults (sages) and students (seekers) take part in an eight-week intergenerational program allowing them to communicate one on one, engage in storytelling and connect on a deeper level.
WHYTo prevent the social isolation of older adults and promote intergenerational relationships between young adults and elderly.
WHERESages & Seekers.
Elly Katz – Founder.
Los Angeles, California, USA.

Program Description

“There is a concern that since the advent of the smartphone, obsessions with texting, updating statuses, and using Snapchat are sounding a death knell for real conversation. Conversation is a skill that must be learned, so those most at risk for failing to learn this skill are the young, whose only experience has been in a world in which their social lives were conducted through mediated communication. If they do not know how long to hold eye contact, or how to sustain a face-to-face conversation, how will they fare in the world?”

As a result of this program, misunderstandings and stereotypes about seniors and teenagers are erased, and a greater understanding of each generation is achieved. Participants discover that despite technological, environmental, and social differences, the human experience remains consistent. All participants come to realize that they have far more in common than they may have previously thought, promoting the development of compassion and empathy, while diminishing ageism.”

“We know that one of the most important skills that students can develop is the ability to converse across differences.”

- Mary Mertsch English Teacher source: video sages and seekers

Older adults are given the opportunity to share their life experiences with an interested listener and the student is challenged to develop listening, interviewing, writing and public speaking skills.

Students who may be used to primarily online forms of communication learn how to converse.
Some of the benefits students may take away from the intergenerational interaction may include empathy, receiving support from an older adult mentor and developing awareness of age-related discrimination.

The program reports that 97% of students felt more empowered to try new things after participating and 97%  of Sages participating in the program felt more valued.

The eight-week program consists of the following steps:

  • Ice Breaking Activities.
  • Speed Dating Style Activities – to determine who they would like to pair with.
  • Pairs are Formed - of older adults and students are formed – older adults bring in memorable items from their past.
  • Conversation Starter Questions.
  • Comfortable Conversations Begin.
  • Last Meeting.
  • Tribute Performance – a tribute to the older adult is performed by the student allowing them to practice public speaking skills and honor their elder.
  • Debriefing – reviewing what experiences and lessons have been learned.

Some high schools and universities such as Brandeis University and University of Southern California have incorporated parts of the Sages & Seekers program into their curricula. 

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