On Saturday, November 19, 2016, the MIT AgeLab held an informational summit for the Opportunities for Multigenerational Engagement, Growth and Action (OMEGA) program, drawing attendance from high school students from throughout New England. The scholarship, which will be awarded in the summer of 2017, is awarded to three high school seniors who perform intergenerational work in their communities. The goal of the summit was to inform students about the AgeLab’s work in general, to aid them in developing organizations and plans to build intergenerational connections in their schools and communities, and to provide basic information about the OMEGA scholarship awards. To the latter end, the Lab invited members from its 85+ Lifestyle Leaders group, as well as other guests in the healthcare and aging fields, to assist students in crafting their plans.
With 22 students in attendance, the summit featured presentations by AgeLab researchers Julie Miller and Lisa D’Ambrosio, and a brainstorming session for the students to develop or build on their own intergenerational outreach projects. The students were broken up into groups by school location, and each group developed a proposal to connect high schoolers with local senior citizens. The students’ ideas were subjected to workshop-style critiques from panels of older adults and aging and health-care professionals, comprised of members from the AgeLab’s 85+ Lifestyle Leaders group and other guests in the healthcare and aging fields. After refining their ideas in response to the critiques, the students presented their proposals to the whole group.One student-developed proposal was the establishment of free technology classes for senior citizens taught by high schoolers, focusing on consumer technologies like smartphones, applications, social media, and so forth. Digital natives can supply their knowledge to those who were brought up prior to the Information Era; and older adults might remind those natives of a world in which the Internet is not the air one breathes.
Following the presentations, the student attendees reported themselves galvanized by the summit, newly aware of the value of forging intergenerational connections, and motivated to identify various means through which they might carry out that work.
The OMEGA scholarships, which will be awarded in the summer of 2017, are awarded to three high school juniors or seniors who participate in intergenerational work in their communities. Each OMEGA scholarship will award a $1000 college scholarship to the winning student and $1000 to the winning student’s high school organization to support its activities to build relationships between teens and older adults. Three separate scholarships are available; one OMEGA scholarship will be awarded in each of the following categories: Transportation and Community; Technology; and Social Connectivity. Scholarship applications will be available in January 2017 and are due March 31, 2017. The scholarships will be awarded at the spring OMEGA summit.