Strike a Chord: Building Bonds Between Young and Old
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Peri Smilow is the Director of Intergenerational Program Engagement at DOROT in New York, an organization that helps to alleviate social isolation among the elderly. DOROT puts on intergenerational programs where teens and older adults can talk about current events, pop culture, and just about anything.
"The most important thing to know about connecting is to connect period," Smilow said. "It's to recognize that there's a need and to seek out opportunities to engage."
That engagement doesn't only benefit seniors. Patricia Klein is one of the older participants in the intergenerational discussion group, and she appreciates how they created a space for both teens and elders to talk openly.
"After the first class one of the students said, 'I've said things in here that I've never told my parents or my best friends.' That was at the end of our first meeting," Klein said.
It's meetings like that that Smilow said have had a longstanding impact. She said intergenerational programming can change how teens view older people in general.
"The way in which they interact with seniors on the subway has dramatically changed," Smilow said. "They realize that they see people differently. They recognize their needs differently in those few minutes that they're riding on the subway together and they recognize that they're full human beings with long life stories that are worth tapping that they didn't realize before."
Research shows that social isolation is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, but with programs like DOROT, Smilow hopes everyone will be able to lead a long, healthy life.