Library Program Connects Senior Citizens & Senior High School Students

Articles Library 02-05-16

On February 3, 2016, a group of nine high school students from Pantego Christian Academy spent the afternoon at the Texas Masonic Retirement Center in Central Arlington. Ranging in age from 14-17, the students are part of a program run by the Arlington Public Library called Senior to Senior, which partners senior high school students with senior citizens to encourage the exchange of stories and shared experiences between generations.

“They’re just little twinklings, little nothings, until you begin talking about them,” Ann, a Masonic Center resident noted about the memories that were recalled during the 90-minute program.

Senior to Senior started in late 2014 with funding from a Texas Reads grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The idea came about after Trish Conaway, a program specialist with the library, shared a World War II-era photograph of her father with a senior book club and asked what attendees were doing during that time in history. Excitement and stories spilled forth.

“Using a visual prompt, such as an old photo, to stimulate memory is very effective,” library services manager Debi Wood said. “As we researched the possibilities, we discovered BiFolkal Kits, which target all the senses by combining tactile items, scratch and sniff cards, old photos, sing-along songs, and games to encourage people to remember the stories of their lives.”

Upon receipt of funding, the library purchased the kits and worked with three groups of senior citizens and three groups of high school students from November 2014 through August 2015. Meeting at retirement residences around Arlington, the intergenerational groups shared memories of WWII, pets, the 1950s, farm days, and more.

At the completion of the grant project, Wood’s team was eager to continue the project, and Pantego Christian Academy and the Texas Masonic Center were more than happy to participate for a second round.

Meredith, a senior at Pantego Christian Academy, is a second-year participant in the Senior to Senior program.

“I like getting to have conversations with everyone and getting to know the residents,” she said. “I like having topics like these to talk about with my own grandparents.”

The first topic for 2016 was Remembering School Days, and the groups of seniors discussed how they traveled to school, what they ate for lunch, and what games they played between classes. Two Masonic Center residents noted that they rode horses to school, while the high school students brought their elders up to speed on Pokemon trading cards and modern dress codes.

Two more meetings of the Senior to Senior group are scheduled for the spring, and Wood said she is excited to see the teens learn more history from people who lived it.

“Over time they all form relationships and look forward to seeing each other again. There’s a wonderful synergy, and the library is there to capture and record it all. This is a piece of our history we want to gather and preserve for generations.”