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Sages and Seekers: Create Intergenerational Connections

By Sue Addelson
Posted: 11/27/2023
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It’s fun.”It opens your mind.” “I feel like I contributed something.” “I learned as much from them as they did from me.” “It touched my heart.” “I would do it again.”

These are just some of the reactions Pasadena Villagers had after participating in Sages and Seekers, an intergenerational program that brings seniors and high schoolers together to learn about one another and break down stereotypes.

It’s also designed to combat isolation—something both generations experience at a high rate—and ageism.

“The learning and sharing goes both ways. Both generations leave with a greater appreciation of the other,” explained Los Angeles Program Director Rachel Shader. “I’ve heard from many Sages that our program gives them a sense of relevance and purpose. They see what they have brought to this world through the eyes of a teenager.” 

Pasadena Villagers are invited to participate in the next session of Sages and Seekers that starts in January. (Read program details at the end of this article.)

What’s in it for the Sages?

According to past participants there are a number of reasons to volunteer as a Sage and very few reasons not to. 

Since I don’t have constant contact with anyone in that age group, it’s a fantastic way to get in touch with their hopes and dreams. Sometimes they’re listening and sometimes you’re listening. I learned as much from them as they did from me. It touched my heart,” said Bonnie Armstrong.

It also opens hearts. Karen Bagnard loves kids. When her grandson moved out of her house and went to college she missed having kids in her life. “Then this came up,” she recalled. “The first student I was paired with was into soccer. He was from Guatemala. I thought we’d have nothing in common, but we talked about everything. I reminded him of his grandmother in Guatemala and he reminded me of my grandson. He was darling, and I fell in love with him.”

Dick Myers participated multiple times, both in-person and on Zoom. One of his students was a high school junior interested in studying neurology or neuroscience at Brown University. Dick was able to connect her with the head of the neurology department at the University of Texas, who she was able to interview. “I found the whole experience rewarding and interesting and enjoyed visiting and meeting with the students and learning about their lives and views about their education and hopes for the future. I also found it interesting to learn about the other Sages from the contact that we had during the sessions,” Dick said.

What’s in it for the Seekers?

Students get school credit for participating in the program, which is probably the main reason they sign up. At the end of eight weeks, though, it’s apparent they got a lot more out of it than just class credit. In very “from the heart” letters to their Sages, Seekers open up about the value of the program. 

“You helped me learn about myself, reflect on my values and my decisions,” said one. “It was comforting in ways you can’t imagine as a young adult to be able to talk about my feelings with an adult who has seen similar turmoil before and come out the other side just fine,” said another. And, “You have a magical ability to put everything in perspective and remind me life is too short to waste on insignificant concerns,” echoed a third.

Some Sages have an even greater impact. “Talking to you every Thursday has been the highlight of my week. Honestly, it’s been the only reason I’ve come to school,” one Seeker reported. 

Program details

The in-person program at the Waverly School in Pasadena consists of eight 75-minute meetups every Tuesday afternoon. Alternatively, Pasadena Villagers can participate in the program that will start at Larchmont Charter School–Lafayette Park in Los Angeles. 

For those who prefer the comfort of home, there is also an online Zoom program that’s just as meaningful as the in-person program for both Sages and Seekers. 

At the first session, Sages (that’s us!) and Seekers meet each other in a speed-dating type activity. The Seekers rank their top three choices for Sages, and at the second meeting they are paired up. No worries that you won’t get chosen. Everyone gets matched.

Learn more or enroll: www.sagesandseekers.org/enroll

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