Five years ago, Barbara Friedman was about to retire from her position as the Director of Intergenerational Programs for Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE). But as she prepared to step down from her post, she discovered a problem: there was a dearth of candidates to replace her - particularly those with a background in working with older adults. How could it be so difficult to find people working in the field of aging in Boston? She observed that in a rapidly aging society, there was – and is – a present need to connect more people - particularly younger people deciding on their careers - to the aging field, and to show its relevance and vibrancy.
Barbara envisioned a program that would provide professional development and mentoring for millennials and career-changers with an interest in the field of aging. “The problem was that I didn’t know that many millennials!” she says. So she reconnected with a younger friend and colleague, Elana Kieffer, who made a Facebook post to gauge interest in the idea. About forty people responded and, in this modest way, Boston Bridge was founded by Elana and Barbara. Since then, the organization has grown from forty to 350 members.
A few years later Barbara Friedman met Joe Coughlin, who proposed having Boston Bridge become affiliated with the MIT AgeLab. Joe saw an opportunity for the two organizations to collaborate - Boston Bridge with its connections to individual older adults and aging professionals in the local community, including people in urban planning, housing, social work, architecture, direct care management, hospice care, medicine, and law, and the AgeLab with an opportunity to support a local organization involved in reimagining the future of aging. AgeLab now provides Boston Bridge with a space on the MIT campus to hold its meetings. “AgeLab gave us a home,” Barbara says.
For the future, Barbara talks about a potential involvement with AgeLab’s OMEGA scholarship project, which seeks to identify and reward high school students who are working to create intergenerational connections and holds seasonal student workshops. And there is sure to be more collaboration between these affiliated groups with intertwining missions.