Three inter-generational initiatives in Chilliwack are putting young people together with seniors on the phone or in the virtual world.
The goal is reigniting that spark of human connection the pandemic has stolen.
The inter-generational projects are funded with pandemic support money and are seeing seniors reading and sharing interests with children (3 to 7), youth (8 to 14), and young adults (15 to 29).
It was in the chatty aftermath of a Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) network meeting that the idea to apply for funding for these inter-generational projects were emerged, said Kate Healey, director for Youth, Housing, Seniors and Training and Education for Chilliwack Community Services.
Chilliwack Healthier Community or CHC, is a network of 48 health and social service agencies is all about collaboration, gathering people at wide-ranging tables to take on the challenges of the day, like mental health, addictions, homelessness and more.
They were discussing how to continue with mental health supports, particularly to youth, as the pandemic set in.
“It came came up that many of our in-person activities would have to close down, leaving many with this need for connection,” Healey said.
The funding for these inter-generational projects is coming through a number of Chilliwack not-for-profit societies, after federal grants were made available to help youth and seniors navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelly Velonis, executive director of Chilliwack and District Seniors Resources Society, said they worked in tandem to bring seniors and youth together this way.
“We’ll be reaching out and dipping into our pool of seniors for this,” Velonis said about the program that started earlier this month.
“We know the positives that will result from those connections between the age groups.”
Some of the older folks she works with do not have any grandchildren to pass on their stories and knowledge to.
“This way they can read together and share that bond.”
They can also share their lifelong acquired skills, as well as as their opinions, stories and talents, which they rarely get to share.
Connie Stam, coordinator of Chilliwack Neighbourhood Health Partnership Society, CNHPS, has lined up youth 15 to 29 to chat online for the 30 minutes per week, running until March.
All of the elements of these inter-generational initiatives are linked, Stam noted, and require collaboration of the highest order.
Since the ongoing pandemic stress and mental-health challenges are being seen across the board, on older adults, but also particularly on young people, children and teens.
About 50 youth have signed up so far, and it can contribute to the volunteer hours required for graduation.
“It’s so exciting to be collaborating this way,” Stam said. “There are a lot of interconnected pieces to these projects.”
Her vision was matching a youth to a senior with similar interests and passions. It could be art, music, history, horses or handwriting, for example.
“If the senior had a memory they would like to get down in writing, the youth could step in to help and print something.”
Annette Williams, literacy outreach coordinator, with Chilliwack Learning Society said older adults will be reading online to young children aged three to seven.
But actually getting these projects up and running in early 2021 will require some high-tech know-how to get everyone on board with Zoom teleconferencing, facetiming or chatting online with ease.
That’s where the Silver Surfers come in, to help support seniors with the virtual communication component for all three projects. The tech wizards can show them, for example, how to download an app on their phone, or how to send invites for a teleconferencing chat. They can help with whatever needs to be done to open that window of communication.
Corinne Vooys, volunteer tutor coordinator with the Chilliwack Learning Society, explained that the Silver Surfers are volunteer tutors who will support the older adults who are getting involved in these initiatives.
They will focus on helping to make them feel more confident about online and computer skills, or using their cell phones to capacity.
“They’re volunteer tutors who support seniors with digital literacy, so they can lead them through a Zoom call for example and much more.
Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.