Seniors at Saskatoon Fringe invite young to sit a spell

Seniors are on duty at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival. They are sitting on a special green bench on Broadway Avenue offering a chance for the young to soak up the hard-won wisdom of the old.

#ELDERWISDOMYXE is an opportunity to talk

Muriel Baxter has been offering her best wisdom to young people at Saskatoon's Fringe Festival. (CBC)

In many respects, Saskatoon's Fringe is a celebration of youth.

It's about edgy new playwrights, actors, artists and street performers.

'If we are fortunate enough to live until we are quite elderly then we should enjoy every day."- Muriel Baxter 

So what does 82-year-old Muriel Baxter think about all these young people?

"I suppose the thing that makes me roll my eyes the most is the fact that they rarely look up from their phones and it's hard to communicate with people when you don't have any eye contact," Baxter said.

Baxter is part of the senior guard on duty at this celebration of youth. They've taken up their post on a green park bench right on Broadway Avenue. Emblazoned on the backrest is an invitation to intergenerational dialogue written in the language of the young: #ELDERWISDOMYXE.

Usually, a buddy bench is a place for kids to sit when they're looking for a friend at recess... but this one is meant to build friendships between the young and old. 1:48

"The idea is to give seniors the opportunity to sit down, have a place to sit where they are comfortable and share their stories and wisdom," said Brittany Yaganiski.

Yaganiski is with Saskatoon Services for Seniors, the organization behind this effort. She said the program here finds inspiration from work being done on Ontario senior's homes. 

"We are taking it out of the care home setting and are bringing it to a place where mostly younger people come to."

Lessons, hard won

CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski had an opportunity to park herself on that bench and soak in some of the wisdom that Baxter had to offer.

Grebinski's questions were wide-ranging, covering a number of topics, including the fear of growing old.     

"It's going to happen," Baxter answered. "We can't stop it … and if we are fortunate enough to live until we are quite elderly then we should enjoy every day, and make use of our days."

Baxter also spoke about life's challenges, saying that hardships will come and that when you look back at them, they won't seem so bad.

She also offered a retrospective take on parenting and suggested that one must always work to maintain good communication with children.

"Start from a point of basic trust, don't believe that they are going to push the limits."

Not a limited engagement 

The park bench and #ELDERWISDOMYXE is not a limited engagement in Saskatoon. When the Fringe Festival closes for another year, the work will go on.

"My hope is eventually we have a few benches in the community that are at different locations and people just have a seat and talk with older people," Yaganiski said.

with files from Saskatoon Morning