Two St. Albert city committees are working together on a program designed to connect and build relationships between seniors and youth.
On March 10, the St. Albert Seniors Committee was joined by the St. Albert Youth Committee for their second annual joint meeting. The first one happened last October, where both committees agreed to host one joint-meeting per year.
“What we realized coming out of that meeting was that we have so many common interests, and we are alike in so many ways,” explained Barbara Hahn, chair of the seniors committee. “So why not work together? Because there's always a project that can be worked on to make the community better.”
Both generations have experienced a sense of loss during the pandemic, with graduation ceremonies cancelled and family visits no longer allowed, Hahn said. But they also realized they wanted to work together to advocate for solutions – from concerns about changes to bus routes, to mental health and low-income issues.
As a result, the two groups talked about establishing a subcommittee made of youth and senior members, said Matthew Jackson, chair of the youth committee. The subcommittee could facilitate a mentorship program where older and younger St. Albertans could talk and spend time together.
“Having that sort of interaction between different generations is beneficial for both sides. We can learn a lot from seniors, and seniors can get a lot from the youth as well," he said.
For example, one of the ideas proposed was a youth and senior recreation league, where younger and older St. Albertans could socialize and play a game of pickleball together. Older generations could also pass on some of the lessons they’ve learned throughout their life, while younger generations could answer technological questions or do some volunteer work in return.
"It was nice to just have a chat to say, 'What's everybody doing? And how's everybody feeling? Is there anything that we work on together?" Hahn said.
In society, it can be difficult for younger and older generations to cross paths and connect in meaningful ways. This collaboration is one way to bridge that gap, Jackson said, but a joint subcommittee can also help elevate their voices collectively.
"We'd be able to carry our voices a bit further together than we would apart," he said.
'Many of our issues overlap – limited income, affordable housing, and, of course, the impacts of COVID. All of these affect both demographics equally, and having both of our voices in the same space might actually amplify our concerns a bit more than if we were just separate committees."
Hahn said she is delighted at the prospect of connecting with youth in the community through this collaboration.
"It's wonderful to see where the next generation of leaders is going to come from, and these young people are willing to step out and try and do something positive for their community,” she said.
Coun. Ray Watkins sits on both the youth and senior committees. He said he helped initiate the first joint meeting after hearing both groups talk about similar concerns.
"I thought, we need to get these two groups together because they can really help each other," Watkins said. "You take the wisdom of seniors and the creativity of youth, add that together, and you can make magic."
One recommendation coming out of the first meeting was the addition of a direct north-to-south bus route in St. Albert to ease travel from one end of the city to the other. Senior and youth members said they had to make multiple transfers to get from Erin Ridge North to the new Nakî Transit Centre.
Transit is struggling right now with low ridership amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but Watkins said he would support a year-long pilot project to see how ridership performs with a direct north-to-south route.
"Once things get back to normal, it'd be nice to see that route instituted. Let's see if there's ridership on it."
Conversations are in the works about setting up the subcommittee with the city, Jackson said. According to the city's committee bylaws, committees can form subcommittees to deal with specific issues.
If everything goes as planned, he said he hopes the collaboration between youth and seniors in St. Albert could encourage other crossovers in the province.
"I haven't seen this in any other communities really, which is a shame. Perhaps it would be a example for other communities to follow."