Our seniors asked for more intergenerational activities at the senior center, so I listened and acted! Together, we came up with the idea of a cooking activity because we all have shared stories of family and culture which often centered around the kitchen.
Culture and food influence each other. In my family, food was a way of retaining and retelling our cultural identity and traditions through storytelling with both young and older family members. I want to create that interconnection in Malden and we began at the Malden Senior Center with an intergenerational cooking class. It was exactly how we hoped it would be! The young people were eager to learn and the older generation was eager to teach. We learned so much about each other. Our traditional foods were similar and we learned different techniques on how to fold an empanada from folks who fold dumplings. Our youth learned the correct way to hull strawberries so there wasn’t any waste. As one senior put it, “because strawberries are expensive and it’s a shame not to use the entire fruit.” At one point, we couldn’t find a sharp knife so we learned a trick from a senior how to sharpen the knife on the side of a ceramic mug!
There was an excitement in the room and I was told later that seniors felt useful and not ‘talked at’ but respected as elders who have a lot to teach. The benefits of programs like these are twofold. For children it includes making them more comfortable with older adults and removes stigma, as well as a fear of aging for children. For older adults, studies have shown that spending time with young children they report less depression and more joy in life.
So, I will be scheduling another event in June which will be listed in the Senior Center Monitor Calendar. I will also be hosting office hours. The time and location will be listed in the monitor as well- I want to hear from you!