Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 8, 1999
Youth, seniors meet for dialogue
Providence Centre gathering breaks down stereotypes
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
If you had asked Jenn Theissen what she thought of senior citizens, she'd say they were the kind of people who were never pleased with anything.
"They always seem to be crabby and fussy," said the Grade 10 student from Louis St. Laurent High School.
So when she was invited to visit with some of those "crabby and fussy" people during a seniors retreat at Providence Renewal Centre, she thought the visit would be one endless game of cribbage.
But two hours after visiting with some of the 30 seniors at the retreat, Theissen had a new perspective.
"This group is pretty hip," Theissen said. "They really know what's going on. They're pretty cool to talk to."
Theissen and seven students from the school's Peer Education Expecting Respect group visited with the seniors Oct. 28.
The retreat was a chance for seniors to get together, socialize with one another and rediscover that being 65 does not mean that life is over.
"They have a lot to offer," said Glenda Carline, one of the retreat facilitators. "This is a reminder to them and everyone that (seniors) are still active parts of our society. Just because they are seniors, we shouldn't think their work is done."
The students' visit was an added bonus. It was a chance for the young and old to mingle, something the two generations rarely do in public.
Frieda Lofgren, 79, knows the good, bad and sometimes worse side of a teenager. She's seen her share of troublemakers at a bus stop in front of her house.
No disrespect to them, but Lofgren sometimes dwells on the idea that all teens are up to no good. Visiting with the high school students during the retreat helped to downplay that stereotype.
"We have to learn to say thank you to them and they will learn to respect us," she said. "It has to happen both ways."
During the retreat, the seniors and students had a chance to gather in small groups to discuss their thoughts and ideas on the generation gap.
Respect was among the top issues.
In her group Theissen is trying to explain that she is close to her mother, but hesitates to tell her parents everything.
"Why not? She's your mother, she won't love you any less if you do something wrong," said Chandra Peacock, 71.
"It's not easy telling (my mother) things," Theissen replies. "At our age, we're pretty much closer to our friends and boyfriends. Our families are important, but we can't always tell them everything."
Her fellow classmate Breanne Yaremko added, "It's always easier to tell someone else. You say 'I wish I could talk to my mom that way,' but it always seems easier to talk to someone else."
Everyone in the group nods.
"I always thought a lot of (teenagers) today just didn't respect their parents," said Peacock. "But talking with these kids, they say that they don't talk to their parents sometimes or they didn't tell them things because they didn't want to hurt their parents' feelings.
"I understand them in a different way now."
The discussion period began slowly, with little said. But about five minutes into it, everyone was feeling at ease and offering comments. And when it was all over and the students said their good-byes, hugs and smiles filled the room.
"It was uncomfortable to talk to each other at first, but as we talked it got easier," said Ian Roddick, a Grade 10 student. "After awhile everyone wanted to say something."
Ian Peacock, 72, added, "We need to have more opportunities to talk like this. We can learn from them and they can learn from us. If we don't keep talking to each other, we start becoming suspicious of one another."