Something truly special happened over the past eight months at Brookdale senior living community: Older adults and young people from Temple Emanu-El’s TEENS program met monthly for dinner and conversation, developing relationships and learning lessons for a lifetime.
What’s it like to be a young adolescent? The two groups compared notes.
“It was wonderful comparing the lifestyle I had growing up with that of the young people growing up today,” said Brookdale resident Claire Mervis. “I think they enjoyed learning about our lives as much as we enjoyed learning about theirs,” she said.
Abby Cohn, 13, agreed. “As kids, we can learn new things from our senior friends, and they can learn from us,” she said. “By listening to their life experiences, I learned to never take things for granted and to cherish all the great moments in life, as they are gone all too quickly.”
The program was coordinated by CJFS Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Nemet and Rabbi Laila Haas, Associate Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, with support from parent Virginia Oleinick.
“Bringing the generations together offers healthy benefits for both age groups – improved self-esteem, decreased loneliness and the joy of having someone’s undivided attention,” Jennifer said. “It’s fun to have a new friend who’s interested in what you’ve done, what you’ve felt, what you’ve observed, and it’s always interesting to compare experiences.”
Brookdale resident Shirley Schlaff admitted, “Oh, I was envious! I couldn’t believe all the things Rachel got to do at only 12-years old, and she knows all about how to use these things, “she explained, gesturing at a smartphone on which young Rachel Lebensburger was recording their conversation. “I was telling her, I didn’t even have a toy! I had to beg my parents for a Shirley Temple doll. Being a young girl was not so easy compared to now.”
Rachel, on the other hand, was impressed learning all the fun Shirley had when she got to high school. “Shirley loved to dance, that’s one thing I learned about Shirley,” she said.
As the teens and seniors both shared at their final event, while there are lots of differences between the generations, there are also parts of life that are timeless. Both generations loved discovering the importance of family, love, health and Judaism, and fun runs deep l'dor v'dor-- from generation to generation.