Seniors and teenagers have more in common than they think.
That’s one of Mike Stolte’s conclusions after the completion of his CLICK project, which brought a Grade 10 English class together with a group of people from their grandparents’ generation.
The project involved a mix of photography and cross-generational discussions.
“CLICK is the sound of a camera shutter releasing,” Stolte says. “It’s also that warm feeling you get when people truly connect. That’s what people are often missing in their lives in an age where communication technology can often isolate.”
Stolte has just created a video documenting the two seven-week projects from the spring and fall of 2019, a collaboration between Kalein Hospice and L.V. Rogers Secondary.
In the first session, Stolte asked participants to form smaller groups with equal numbers of old and young, and discuss the themes of social isolation and loneliness, and how they may affect their lives.
After the discussion he asked them all to go out and take photos, over the next week, on those themes and upload them to the CLICK site for group discussion the following week.
“Using photography is a way of allowing people who do not always express these things through traditional means like writing or conversation to bring richness to the issues,” Stolte says.
The group repeated this weekly mix of photography and discussion on themes such as resiliency, gratitude, compassion and mental health.
“I had no idea what the outcomes would be,” Stolte says. “But what we found was that the kids have way more in common with the elders than I would have figured.”
He said many of the seniors talked about how they had experienced loneliness at some time in their lives.
“It was really helpful, I think, for the young people to hear that.”
One of the students says in the video that the discussions and photo assignments brought up subjects he was unaccustomed to thinking about.
“I never really thought about gratitude that much,” he says, “and now I am thinking about the things I am grateful for.”
He says he also had never thought about what he does for his mental health, until the group discussed it and he tried taking photos on that theme.
“All my piano stuff and my music, I just did it, I never thought of it as doing some stuff for mental health, until we talked about it.”
One of the seniors in the video also says he found that taking photos shifted his awareness.
“Going out and trying to capture an image of something every day awoke me to those themes. And it was delightful to meet the students – they responded so well with the photos, with their poetry, their musicianship, their comments.”
The students’ teacher, Emily Browning, says that interaction with the seniors on such subjects “makes [the students] more confident and more likely to engage with the deeper things in life.”
She says her favourite part is the small group interactions.
”Everyone was always really engaged, and the way the seniors took on the role of the wise sharers of knowledge and the students were really able to connect with that, and talk about their personal experiences.”
Stolte says the atmosphere was both serious and light.
“There was a lot of fun and laughter,” he says. “There was way more going on between the elders and the young people than we anticipated. That was really rewarding and rich.”
He said some of the seniors seemed surprised at how much they enjoyed spending time with the students.
“I really enjoyed being around the energy of the young people,” says one senior.
The project was funded by the Columbia Basin Trust and New Horizons Canada.
Stolte says the future of such projects will depend on funding and the pandemic, but he says there is much interest from other communities in B.C. and Canada after he spoke on CLICK at conferences in Vancouver and Ottawa.