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Nonprofit aims to battle ageism and build empathy through intergenerational program

Sages
Posted at 11:39 AM, Nov 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-16 23:15:13-05

Often around election time, we tend to focus on our differences. There's talk of boomers versus millennials and vice versa. If you could spend eight weeks of one-on-one time with somebody of a much different generation, experts say you'd likely find you have more in common than you thought. A program called Sages & Seekers is working to end division in our country by battling ageism.

Mary Lee Bartlet and Beckett Rogers met through the eight-week program. They are nearly 70 years apart in age, but they're basically best friends.

"I'm telling you, I would add him as my grandchild," Bartlet said. "That's how much I love him."

"We were both willing to be open with one another, share experiences that we've both been through, whether it be racial injustice, familial tragedies, or just familial love," Rogers said.

Elly Katz is the founder of Sages & Seekers.

"We bring older adults together with teens— the two most marginalized age groups," Katz said. "The younger brain is just wildly wonderful and the older brain is more methodical, so they both have something to bring to the table."

The Sages bring their wisdom, while the Seekers bring their energy. Katz says she contacted a neurological researcher to study the program's impact.

"When someone is listening to a story, it lights up parts of the brain that do not get lit up if someone's lecturing or telling you what to do," Katz said.

One measurable outcome of the research was an increased feeling of empathy for the other generation. However, the largest impact, research found, was that forming an intergenerational bond gave participants a greater purpose in life. Patti Bishop helps facilitate the program that can be offered online and in-person anywhere from coast to coast and across the world.

"Everything's so fast-paced that we just we're losing connection with each other," Bishop said. "Our humanity is the one thing we all have in common. The sages tell stories and the seeker is going to respect the journey they've taken, the rough times they've had, the good times they've had, you know, where they've succeeded in life and where it didn't look like success, but they got back up. And I think that it gives the seekers hope for the future."

That hope goes both ways.

"I believe that God brought us together," Bartlet said. "I do, because I was feeling a little down about what's happening in the United States. I was for an old lady. I said, 'Oh, well'. Then, I came to this and met Beckett and that was it. I've been joyful!"

Rogers describes himself as an optimistic person ready to take on life's challenges.

"There will be struggles, naturally," Rogers said. "Life's full of them. But regardless of what is thrown your way, you'll be able to overcome."

It becomes a lot easier to overcome when you have someone rooting for you, like Bartlet.

"You're a wonderful young man," Barlet said. "And you have a praying woman praying for you every day."

If you'd like to get a Sages & Seekers program set up in your community, visit sagesandseekers.org.