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One of Chelsea Senior Center’s core missions is to connect generations. When CHS teacher Shawn Sinacola reached out to Jennifer Smith, CSC’s current Assistant Director, to propose her AP Lit students interview seniors for a newly initiated Lives Well Lived program, Smith jumped at the chance. 

“Intergenerational connections are an important part of our mission,” says Smith. “It is vital that our members stay active in mind and spirit. Sharing their experiences enriches their lives.” 

Some common threads of the various interviews included feeling grateful for family, faith, and volunteer opportunities. They also shared heartbreaking losses, including loss of a child, a partner, regrets and opportunities — the latter due to bad advice or due to being born in the wrong era. 

Sinacola’s Lives Well Lived program was inspired after seeing a theatrical production called Lives Well Lived in Harbor Springs in 2022. Sinacola was very close to her grandmother who passed away at age 96 in 2021. When she saw the Lives Well Lived production, she grieved for her grandmother. 

“My students absolutely loved the time they shared with the seniors,” says Sinacola. While common themes arose, stories were also quite varied from a 92-year-old who is active in politics to another reminiscing about the mini-skirt trend to another discussing the major cultural differences of the northern U.S. versus Kentucky. The advice was plentiful, lively and enriching.  

 While Sinacola is leaving CHS as a teacher to assume the new Chelsea School District-wide role of Multilingual Learner Coordinator, her colleagues Val Johnson and Emma Yee have already spoken with Smith about working together again as they incorporate Lives Well Lived and senior-senior interviews into their College Prep Seniors and AP English Literature curriculum, respectively. 

Generations Interviews Follow-up at Beach Middle School 

In December each year, Beach Middle School 6th graders visit CSC to interview seniors for a class project called Generations. More than 75 CSC members met with 140 students before Christmas to share their histories, experiences and interesting stories. In April, the senior volunteers traveled to Beach Middle School to see some of the completed projects, re-connect with their new friends, and tour the middle school. Smith, who started the project years ago with BMS teacher Amy Doma, shares, “I am thrilled that the project continues to grow and be relevant. Lasting connections happen between people.” 

Trinh Pifer Intergenerational Garden Programs Bloom 

Aprils’ Read & Seed connected CSC members with local preschool students in the garden hoop house. The hoop house is now flourishing with an array of greens – kale, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce – radish, rhubarb, and strawberry. The preschoolers have been visiting the hoop house and enjoying seeing the results of their April seed sowing. This program, which launches the garden season each year, is in full swing. 

The thriving garden is ready to welcome Camp GABIKA campers starting in mid-June. Join in the fun and volunteer to aid the GABIKA kids with many activities, including gardening, nature, crafts and cooking activities. Chelsea School District’s GABIKA (Girls and Boys In Kool Adventures!) campers range from kindergarteners to 5th graders. 

 Connecting Generations 

There is power in intergenerational connections, says the American Society of Aging. “Human existence revolves around connecting and building relationships with others. Young people and older adults can leverage these relationships to improve cognitive function, increase empathy, and live longer lives.” 

CSC is always welcoming volunteers for its intergenerational programs. Connect with CSC today. 

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