Guest blogger Emma Campbell is a communications major at Towson University in Maryland. She is spending the fall semester interning for Link Generations and formerly interned with the AARP District of Columbia State Office.
Link Generations works to provide unique service and learning opportunities to middle and high school students in Montgomery County, Maryland. By connecting students with older adults through interactive programs, this organization bridges the intergenerational gap, addresses ageism, and brings people together with meaningful conversations about the past and the future. Link Generations’ Storytelling Series allows students to meet with older adults in a small group setting to have a discussion revolving around a theme like resilience, music or even teens teaching technology. Through genuine conversation, both populations develop a stronger understanding of each other.
While Link Generations’ main goal is to bring people together, COVID-19 and quarantine orders separated everyone. Along with the rise of general uncertainty, came the incline of loneliness. As defined by gerontologists, loneliness is the subjective feeling of pain due to unmet human needs for meaningful connection to other people. While this affects people of all ages, loneliness is most prevalent among 15 to 24-year-olds and individuals over 80, the targeted age groups of Link Generations’ programs. When the world turned upside down, Link Generations adjusted to continue their mission.
Since March 24, 450 student volunteers have submitted 8,600 pages of letters and art to share with the older adults in their community. Additionally, the Storytelling Series was shifted to Zoom, also giving older participants a firsthand experience in using new technology. The organization was able to mimic their small group sharing using Zoom’s breakout rooms. This program proves that anyone can learn something new as long as they are welcoming to new experiences. A 94-year-old participant stated, “This program works. We don’t always know-how it is going to work, but it always works.” While Link Generations shifted online at first out of necessity, this adjustment has provided a new opportunity for growth using online programs.
CEO Lori Marks, Ph.D. founded Link Generations with a focus on education and intergenerational relationships. Through the programs she has developed, students are able to learn about history from the people who watched it unfold, gain more wisdom from personal stories of older generations, and get a hands-on education about aging. Older participants learn about today’s youth, reporting a more positive view of the future, and even get valuable tips they can apply to everyday life.
Visit linkgenerations.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about programs, personal stories, and to sign up for their newsletter.