St. Albert youth and seniors are bridging the generation gap to find common ground and gain from the others’ experiences, says a local seniors advocate.
As Seniors’ Month winds down, Leslie MacEachern, executive director at the St. Albert Senior Citizens’ Club, says it’s becoming increasingly common for club members to interact with youth groups. A long-time proponent of intergenerational relationships, MacEachern has worked toward and seen many improvements with more opportunities on the horizon.
One of the most popular intergenerational programs, Grandfriends, sees leadership students from Sir George Simpson visit the club and participate in a number of activities.
“It was just amazing to watch,” MacEachern said. “They did things like make silk together and talk about washboards. They actually developed relationships. I just got another call the other day from a junior high school that is looking to partner with us next year, looking at ways we can do different things.”
Although this is exactly the kind of result MacEachern has eyed since taking over as executive director a few years ago, it still impresses her. She’s impressed at the tremendous number of youth volunteers that make themselves available for anything from kitchen duty to calling bingo numbers to putting up decorations.
“There just seems to be a real interest in St. Albert right now for kids to come and hang out with the seniors. I think the desire has always been there, but it’s just never been put out there. Families that are calling, now I’d like to come down with my kids to volunteer.”
“I think it’s wonderful because I think everyone feels welcome at the seniors’ centre here. Not that they didn’t before, but the community concept is growing and I see the benefits on their faces of both seniors and the kids.”
While intergenerational programs are flourishing, MacEachern said there is still a lot of work to do to help seniors with various social issues, including the subject of elder abuse, which has come to the forefront of recent community discussions.
The St. Albert Seniors’ Working Group (comprised of representatives from multiple agencies and levels of government) has been meeting to develop protocol to address the problem and establish measures to counteract it. MacEachern likened the issue to other forms of abuse, adding the reaction is much the same.
“It’s not dissimilar to what happened with the issue of child abuse 20 years ago. Once you start heightening awareness, you start getting people to come forward.”
Although the group is scheduled to meet for another two years to develop the protocol, MacEachern said change should start now, and encouraged everyone who knows a senior to be vigilant because often help has to be offered first.
“Seniors are historically very frightened about reporting things like this because it usually involves a family member.”
She said that the outreach worker at the club is a great first contact if you are or know of someone being abused. The club can be reached at 780-459-0433.
St. Albert Senior Citizens’ Club
7 TachĂ© Street
The club offers numerous programs, classes, workshops, activities and services for seniors including Meals on Wheels, Outreach, plus regular legal, health and beauty opportunities.