The #ElderWisdom campaign that Schlegel Villages brought to the world through the month of June has proven to be so much more than seniors representatives of 19 villages sitting upon a green bench in their community, chatting with passersby. Indeed, that is a key aspect and the starting point of the campaign, but the idea was always to take the conversations these events inspired and expand them through the collective power of social media.
The inaugural campaign in 2016 was modestly successful and 2017 showed even greater attention. However, 2018 is when the scales tipped and the ever-sought-after viral attention a social media junkie craves has made #ElderWisdom a global conversation. People are messaging Schlegel Villages from Hong Kong to ask if they can get benches and a group in Ireland wants to mirror the campaign. Someone in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, a town of 16,000 souls, asked if the #ElderWisdom tour could stop there. News feeds are sharing widely and one video in particular had garnered more than 600,000 views by the middle of June, barely half way through the campaign.
“It’s sad to say but ageism seems to be the last acceptable form of prejudice in our society,” says Schlegel Villages Online Engagement Manager Ted Mahy, “but when younger people get past the stereotypes that come with getting older and just sit and talk with an elder, those ageist barriers break down so easy. That’s what makes the #ElderWisdom campaign so special and it’s amazing to see the conversation spread.”
Several CBC outlets, as well as CTV news, have picked up the campaign and helped spread awareness, while local media sources from Windsor to Barrie to Whitby and everywhere in between have also climbed on board.
People are certainly paying attention.
The use of the #ElderWisdom tag alone had the potential reach of 3.7million users on Twitter, with an average of 123 tweets per day spreading across the platform. All of this creates a new, positive conversation about the contributions of seniors in our communities.
“More of this needs to happen,” commented personal support worker Jodi O’Leary in one Facebook thread. “The most amazing thing is stopping and sitting on this bench with an elder and just listening to them, their stories, their advice, their voice. In your busy day, just stop – you don’t need an elder wisdom bench to offer a smile or strike up a conversation. You would be surprised how many people are just waiting for someone.”
The campaign also organized an online, Facebook Live forum from The Village of Wentworth Heights, during which time seniors Mary Clarke, Doug Stone, and Hannah Blezius took turns offering their thoughts on a series of questions ranging on topics as varied as marriage, artificial intelligence and the Canadian experience.
“What does it mean to you to be a Canadian?” one follower questioned.
“Our country is one of the best in the world,” Doug replied. “I think we’ve all benefitted from it and we’ve seen the downfalls and we’ve seen the ‘upfalls’ and I think the ‘upfalls’ ruled more than the downfalls.”
“We have so many different cultures that we can learn from, and we all seem to get along so well,” Hannah added.
Some of the greatest advice offered throughout the campaign centred on kindness and love and the idea that if we all were a little more respectful of our neighbours, the world would be a better place.
This is #ElderWisdom we can all learn from.