Summerside aims to foster intergenerational friendships
Program organized by age-friendly cities committee pairs up youth and seniors
By age, 41 years separates Cole Sinclair and Doug Carmody, but they expect a shared interest in medicine will bring them together in the coming weeks.
Sinclair, 14, and Carmody, 55, have been paired together as part of an inter-generational mentorship program in Summerside, organized by the community's age-friendly cities committee.
"I'm sure friendships are going to develop out of this," said committee coordinator Shirlene O'Brien.
The program aims to match up young people — ranging from eight years old to university students — with seniors, or adults of any age who wish to take part. The mentors and mentees are matched based on interest and expertise — some in pairs, and others in groups. The program kicked off at Credit Union Place Tuesday evening, when many of the groups met for the first time.
'Really kind of fun'
The mentors will share their knowledge on topics and activities ranging from horsemanship, to sailing, to veterinary medicine, to military careers. The youth and their mentors will set up times to meet over the next six weeks. The groups will then reconvene for an event on Feb. 24 to share what they've learned.
It's really quite exciting to see how excited he is, how curious he is.- Doug Carmody
Sinclair and Carmody will take time in the coming weeks to discuss medicine. Carmody is a general internal medical specialist at Prince County Hospital. Sinclair hopes to someday work in medicine — though he's not sure in what area just yet.
The pair met each other for the first time Tuesday evening. Already, it's off to a good start.
"We talked about a lot of different things such as the OR and the places around the hospital that are really neat. So, it was a good conversation," said Sinclair.
Carmody said he's glad to have the chance to pass on some of his knowledge to a younger generation.
"It's really quite exciting to see how excited he is, how curious he is, how he's trying to figure it out. Confused about all the possibilities. So it's really kind of fun," said Carmody.
Learning goes both ways
While the seniors will be the ones sharing their expertise, O'Brien expects many of them will be able to learn from their mentees, as well. For example, with technology skills.
Twelve-year-old Allison Bouchie and 11-year-old Emma McInnis are excited to learn from their mentor about caring for horses. They said spending time with them might give their mentor a fresh perspective.
"He probably is going to learn what kids think, or what people that don't know what happens behind the scenes [think]," said McInnis.
And for 64-year-old Danny Dalton, who will teach his partner about veterinary medicine, he sees the program as a way to keep him on his toes.
"I think he'll have lots of questions for me, and maybe I won't even be able to answer them all. So it will keep my mind stimulated," said Dalton.
Whether inspiring future careers, or simply introducing young people to new hobbies, O'Brien hopes the program will create some lasting connections. She said when she grew up in West Prince, she would spend a lot of time visiting with neighbours of all ages.
"We were welcome there, especially if their children were gone, had left home or whatever, and they didn't have grandchildren close by," said O'Brien.
"That doesn't happen very much any more. So young people and older people are sort of segregated into different groups."
She hopes this mentorship program will offer young people and seniors alike a similar experience of cross-generational friendship.
There are about 10 groups and pairs matched up so far. O'Brien said people are still welcome to get involved, and can contact her if they are interested.
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