A young lady named Ashley walks through Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park during her lunch break on a random day in June. A green bench comes into view with an older gentleman sitting upon it and another beside the bench in a wheelchair. The word #Elderwisdom adorns the back of the bench while curiosity draws her closer; she’s invited to join these gentlemen in a short conversation.
This is a snapshot in time, a few short moments where perceived barriers between generations evaporate in the lovely summer air and strangers almost become friends.
In a message later sent to the Schlegel Villages #Elderwisdom campaign via Instagram, Ashley recounts what those moments meant to her and in her short message, she captures the simple essence of what this campaign is all about.
“Even though it was only for a short time,” Ashley writes, “I just wanted to let you know how great of an experience it was. What an extraordinary campaign that allows us to connect with the elderly in such a casual fashion.
“It brightened my day tremendously.”
John and Bob from Maynard and Fairview Nursing Homes in Toronto who sat with Ashley and several other new friends that day should be proud of the inspiration they offered.
Across the province throughout the month of June, stories like this unfolded in parks and public spaces where every Schlegel Village set up an #ElderWisdom bench and residents took time to speak with passersby who had a few minutes to spare.
A few minutes; that seems to be the key theme to emerge this year, as time and again people like Ashley commented about how those few minutes can make all the difference in changing perceptions of the role of the elder in our communities.
“The idea of taking those five minutes out of your lunchtime and chatting with a stranger, a senior, can give someone a whole different mindset,” says Ted Mahy, Schlegel Villages director of online engagement and a key spearhead behind the #ElderWisdom campaign.
“It’s not just about getting people sitting upon the bench. It’s the fact that they’re seeing what we’re doing and they’ve heard about why we’re doing it.”
And villages are taking this message beyond the month of June, realizing they can build connections within their communities any time of year. Karen Andrews from Coleman Care Centre in Barrie, for example, is working alongside residents to create events in July and in the fall at places like the public library and Georgian College. A local Starbucks is even looking to host an #Elderwisdom event.
“It really hit me that I could do more things with (the #ElderWisdom bench),” Karen says, “and I feel like when we’re doing these things we’re helping change people’s perspectives.”
Join the conversation at elderwisdom.ca