Social Media Campaign helps push notions of ageism aside
Lou Watson, or Lila Mae if you were to look at the birth certificate issued when she was born in 1933, got her male-sounding nickname when she was still a teenager in high school, the same age as the students at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School she spoke to on June 6.
Lou and fellow Taunton Mills residents Katie Schell and Brian Leyes were invited to speak with the Grade 11 students in Whitby as part of the Schlegel Villages #ElderWisdom campaign, launched to mark Seniors Month in June. From Whitby to Windsor, residents from 16 villages attended secondary schools to share a few snapshots of the lives they’ve lived and the experience gained as they moved from stage to stage. Engaging young people in the campaign will help combat ageism, says Schlegel Villages online engagement manager Ted Mahy, and helps promote the idea that some of the most important teachers in our communities are those who are sometimes left in the margins of our society.
Lou, Katie and Brian each captivated the students during their conversation, eventually answering questions about young love or the rebellious inclinations of youth generations ago.
All three speakers shared the view that life is filled with constant learning opportunities and teaching moments; those who will find the greatest success and happiness are those who are open to each of these moments and use them to guide future decisions.
“Never, ever shortchange what you’re going to learn along the way,” Lou said. “Be a sponge, learn from everybody and learn from everything. Never believe you know it all.”
Katie took that similar theme to heart when she explained that she was in her late 40s when she decided to find new meaning and purpose in life. She studied to become a teacher and was 50 the year she got her first teaching job. She said the following 15 years were some of the most rewarding she’d ever experienced and she never would have had that opportunity had she not been open to the changes that life so often brings.
“Don’t let perfect become the enemy of the good,” Katie said, recounting advice her brother once offered her. Too often people choose to avoid doing something that could be good and meaningful because they fear not doing it perfectly, and Katie urged her young audience to beware of such failings.
“Take chances,” Katie urged.
Brian took chances at a young age, and found himself at the centre of growing pizza franchises in the 1950s as a young man. When people ask him what he did for a living he tells them he had the best job in the world: making pizzas.
He also took a chance on love when he saw his future bride during a visit to Sabo Beach. He was sent to open a new restaurant and he and his business partner spotted “two hot babes on the beach.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but one of those ladies would become his bride five years later.
“Love is great,” Brian said in response to the question of young love, “but don’t rush into it. Take your time.”
For an hour, the students were transfixed on the words of their elders, captivated by stories from an era that seems far away, yet presented many of the same challenges for young people of that generation. The questions asked then are no different that those asked today. What to do in life? What is important and how do I overcome the obstacles that mount in the quest to discover a place in the world?
Lou summed it up best with one brief statement: “The purpose in life,” she said, “is to make a difference, to matter that you lived at all.”
That piece of #ElderWisdom will hopefully stay with the young people throughout their journey in life.