Tidbits from the Sandwich Generation #18, Tidbits on Multi-generational Friendships..
Like most couples celebrating an anniversary, Josh Zeffren and Pearl Bernstein have an easy familiarity between them. They joke, tease and have that all-around comfort from being in a close relationship for a period of time. What separates Josh and Pearl from your average anniversary couple is their age. Pearl is a spry 93, while Josh is a wise-for-his-years fourteen. While Pearl, who lived through the Great Depression, and Josh, who wasn’t even alive during Sept. 11 (2011), don’t share history, they share a history garnered from long talks and a keen interest in learning from the others’ perspective.
Josh and Pearl are pilot members of the Jewish Pavilion’s intergenerational program, “From Generation-to-Generation”. This program, unique to Orlando and much of the United States, is in its second year. Jane Edelstein piloted the launch of the program, which partnered with local synagogues and youth groups to bring young people together with elderly counterparts residing in senior living communities. Beyond friendship, the program strives to create a deeper level of understanding and empathy among groups that rarely interact. Recently, Jewish Pavilion Program Director, Walter Goldstein was hired to bring the program into its next phase.
Jewish Pavilion Executive Director Nancy Ludin noted, “The program will foster a more compassionate youth.” Ludin added, “Our intergenerational program is a classic win-win, the seniors need young people to keep them vibrant, active and excited, and our youth need seniors to explain what the world was like when they were young, as well as how to look at the world from another perspective. On a practical level, seniors also learn about the latest technology and social media (be honest, are you a Snapchat pro?), while young people learn about the lost arts of listening and communicating with (full) written words, rather than abbreviated texts.
Initially, Director Edelstein guided Josh in the development of an inventory of questions appropriate for all ages. Josh revealed some of the special moments he had shared with his own grandparents, adding how they often asked for help with their cellphones and other items of technology. Together, the pair came up with four areas of questions to ask the older generation, including what life was like before the advent of technology. Josh shared his great interest in history, and expressed excitement about learning about the past from real people, who lived through periods of history which he had only seen through online video and read in textbooks.
During the anniversary celebration (complete with cake- a hit among both age groups), both Josh and Pearl revealed that there were some awkward moments during their first few meetings. Josh commented, “I didn’t really know what to expect when I found out that I would be visiting someone in their 90s.” He continued, “After our first few meetings, it became easy to relate to Pearl. She knows so much about the world, and we often talked about my upcoming trip to Israel for my bar-mitzvah. She told me a lot about her visits to Israel, and soon ninety just became a number, and the age differences fell away.”
Josh, an eighth grader at Rock Lake Middle School and Ohev Shalom congregant, completed his bar-mitzvah project at the end of the last school year, and continues his visits with Pearl. His mother commented “I am so thrilled Josh has made this great new friendship”. Though his connection started as a bar mitzvah project, we plan to keep visiting his new friend, Pearl, for as long as we can. He has become a better person, and a more compassionate one, too.”
So, raise a glass (with age appropriate liquid) to Pearl and Josh! Looking forward to many more celebrations...
This program is sponsored in part by the Irving Moskowitz Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.
If you know of a child or teen who would like to enrich their lives by volunteering with a senior, contact the Jewish Pavilion at 407-678-9363. The Jewish Pavilion has been bringing community to the doorsteps of elder-care residents since 2001. To learn more about its services visit www.jewishpavilion.org. Become a fan at Facebook.com/JewishPavilion.
Tidbits from the Sandwich Generation is a series of blogs by Pamela Ruben, Jewish Pavilion Marketing Director, about managing the multi-generations. Check out additional posts at www.jewishpavilion.org/blog. For no
cost help for issues pertaining to older adults contact the Orlando Senior Help Desk, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, at 407-678-9363 or visit www.orlandoseniorhelpdesk.org.