On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, the Radical Age Movement facilitated an Intergenerational Age Café at CUNY Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work. The event was part of Silberman’s Commons Time sponsored by the Student Alliance for an Aging Society (SAAS). SAAS serves to expand the experience and knowledge of students interested in the field of aging. Thirty older adults and thirty students participated in the Café.
The Age Café is based on a model of engaging people in conversations that matter called the “World Café.” The World Café is a powerful social technology offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.
Participants were welcomed by Alice Fisher, 70, founder of The Radical Age Movement and introduced to the process by Steve Burghardt, 71, founding member of the Radical Age steering committee.
I’d like to welcome our young intern….
Youth is wasted on the young…
(Overheard in H.R. Office) Well, she is a Millennial, so I wouldn’t count on her dedication to the job. They never stick around for very long….
Participants were able to revisit these statements several times as they changed seats and new groups were reconstituted. After the first round was completed, the group facilitators reported out on the conversations that these statements triggered.
During the second round, participants were asked to discuss the following:
If change in language is needed, what would some of those changes be? Is it possible for “Old” to be a good word, rather than feared? Is it possible for “young” to be attached to words like “Intern” and it not be a source of condescension?
Finally, participants were asked to speak individually and talk about what they can do personally to confront ageism. The afternoon was a great success, including the start of some new relationships between our older and younger participants.
Here are some of their final statements:
- In the agency I work at, people who are near the end of life are not treated with dignity. So, that is something that I’m going to try to change.
- I may be more careful with my use of the word “old.”
- This was a great forum and these were wonderful conversations. Maybe we should make it more of a practice to have older and younger adults talk with each other.
- Before this I never really gave much thought to ageism. Now I think it’s very important for me to continue having conversations with older adults.
- I’m going to commit to not shy away from having these conversations with an aging population.
- These conversations made me want to be more interactive with older people.
- I commit to be more mindful when having conversations with older adults.
- I think I’m pretty aware of the problems of the old. After today, I am going to become more aware of the issues of the young.
- To challenge people. I’ve been involved with so many social action movements but never considered the issue of ageism. I think I would like to bring together a group of people to have these discussions.
- I have to try to get a handle on what the right words and tonality are and reconfigure my brain. We’ve been educated the wrong way. We don’t have the respect for our elders which they deserve.
- I know a lot about ageism, but what I haven’t done is integrate it into my own self.
- I’m going to commit myself to more self-reflection.
- My commitment is not to judge people in any age group by their age.
- I have to learn not to treat the older adults I work with like children.
- I need to realize that sometimes I try to help older people when they really don’t need the help. Respecting their independence.
- I need to face that I am getting older and things will happen to my body that I don’t like and I need to accept that.
- I need to internalize that not only is it okay but that I should be proud to be old.