Lila Goldstein: My Summer at the AgeLab
My name is Lila Goldstein and I am a current high school senior at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York, NY, and a 2021 summer intern at the MIT AgeLab. I believe I often bring a younger point of view to a lot of the work at the AgeLab. I believe it is important for our research to consider the perspectives of younger people. Thinking about and doing research on aging is inherently a two-way multigenerational street. Ageism goes both ways - we cannot simply ignore the experiences, perspectives, and beliefs of younger people as we prepare for and react to greater longevity.
Every month, the MIT AgeLab hosts a one-hour Zoom call as a part of its outreach program for high school students called OMEGA. These OMEGA chat hours are an open, casual invitation for high school students, college students, and professionals to come together to discuss intergenerational programs, brainstorm new ideas, including ideas for their own program(s), and learn about the whole field gerontology, including intergenerational work.
As a high school intern this summer at the MIT AgeLab, I have been lucky enough to moderate these group discussions. Listening in on these calls have really given me insight into the benefits of intergenerational activities, something I had not previously been exposed to before interning with the AgeLab. As someone who began attending these chat hours with little knowledge about this field or these kinds of activities, I have begun to witness the tangible benefits of these programs for older people. During OMEGA chat hours, older participants speak about how their participation in such programs has built a sense of community, increased their life satisfaction and contributed to feeling “younger” and less lonely. We know from good research that these benefits are having an impact as well. But, since moderating these chat hours, I have also been able to see the extent to which intergenerational programs are actually of mutual benefit.
From these conversations, I have come to realize that teens too develop a special set of skills and strengthening of core values that only come from the wisdom of interacting with elders. Teens gain access to a broader social network ,they get to build their communication abilities, and strengthen their problem-solving abilities - important and necessary skills that are needed in any educational and work environment. Lastly, there is an increased sense of personal empowerment, leadership, and citizenship, experiencing satisfaction that they are and leaving a positive impact on this world.
Together, the major benefit of intergenerational programming is bringing together diverse groups of older and younger people to interact and develop relationships with one another in an intent to help reduce inaccurate stereotypes of each other. The OMEGA chat hours themselves were a microcosm of this and proved it to be true. My hope for the future of these events is to continue to communicate to younger generations the benefits they too are gaining when they show up to OMEGA chat hours, genuinely engage and foster community, and do the hard work of creating their own intergenerational clubs, programs and activities.
Lila Goldstein lives in New York, NY and attends high school at the Nightingale-Bamford School where she is a current senior. The summer of 2021 was her first summer interning for the MIT AgeLab. Lila is looking forward to ‘dropping in’ to future MIT AgeLab OMEGA chat hours during the upcoming school year!