Imogen, a year 7 student, was a participant in STEP last November ( Seniors and Teens Empathy program developed by Heart and Soul Story and run with thanks to Kids Giving Back recruiting the Teens) .
It is heart warming to hear Immy relay how she is” feeling more confident” and that “making friends for me is now a lot easier” as a result of the time she spent with the residents of Bupa Australia Queens Park.
Bill Damon, a Lead Researcher at the Stanford Centre for Adolescence, states ” the biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress, it’s meaningless”.
It was wonderful to see the teens participating in STEP, not only increase their empathy and confidence, but find meaning in the friendships they developed.
Psychologist and clinical Professor at UCLA, Stephanie Mihalas’ list of benefits to children from knowing old people includes a sense of belonging, hope, feelings of security, something to look forward to and a feeling of being part of the “pack.
“Children who are not naturally exposed to older people in their everyday life may be drawn to seek them out, from volunteering somewhere with old people to hanging out with peers’ grandparents.
You hear a bit of a sense of loss with some teenagers who say they never had a grandparent, don’t know what it’s like.
They’re not sure what they’re missing, but they know it’s something.”
As Immy reflected after STEP ” Just because there is such a big age gap, doesn’t mean we can’t become friends, once you got to know your ‘buddy’, who they were and what their life was like, it was just like you were having a cup of tea with an old friend”.
Amy, a Year 8 participant of STEP ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) shares her thoughts on spending time with the residents at Bupa Aged Care last year.
– how hearing about real life historical events was so much richer than just learning history from books or television “someone sitting in front of you, recounting what happened to them !”
– acknowledging that it was hard to make a connection at first, but that the program running over the weeks helped form a connection that ended up in friendship
– the appreciation expressed as a result of realising how lucky she is to live in a generation where women have so many more rights and where she can go to school to learn.
– her recognition that she is not as nervous as she was prior to the program, as she know finds it easier to talk with people.