It all started with a Linden kid and an elementary school principal back in the day, somewhere in the mid-197’s in Malden.
William T.J. Dempsey, Principal, taught character at the Linden Elementary School, with Friday assemblies and field trips out into the real world to learn about life. In sixth grade, students were taken to places like the Annemark Nursing Home on the Malden-Saugus-Revere border to attend a resident’s 100th birthday celebration. The residents reveled in the lively presence of the children, and the sixth graders were impacted by the visit. A beautiful connection was sparked between generations, each group learning and being energized by the other.
Fast-forward to now. Dempsey is a senior citizen, getting close to the 100 years mark himself. Event Organizer Mary Ellen O’Meara returns to Malden after many years away, strikes up a friendship and begins weekly check-in visits to her former principal. They discuss elder life in general and the inability to get out and do things (especially during and after Covid) and the need that seniors have to cope with loneliness and solitude. An idea is engendered to recreate that magical moment of revelation between generations. The concept focuses on connecting high school seniors and senior citizens; originally to combat social isolation and loneliness in a Covid-19 world, but then it evolved more into an opportunity to exchange experiences between two generations, embodying Malden’s “Strong past, Proud future” motto.
Seniors to Seniors (S2S) was born. The program – supported by Mayor Gary Christenson from the onset – has been made possible through a collaboration between Malden High School and Forestdale Park Senior Living. Initial meetings have been held at Malden High School since the fall, with close coordination between Paul Marques, National Honor Society and Key Club advisor, Arlene Ceppetelli, a retired-but-still-active MHS teacher, and Mary Ellen O’Meara, Project Leader and original “Linden kid.”
“The students participated in the first few meetings to hear about the concept and contribute their impressions and ideas,” O’Meara said. “Mr. Marques was vital to the project, he communicated energy and enthusiasm to the students. He really internalized the idea and enriched it with his own experiences with elders growing up.”
The search for a senior living facility partner was not easy, the program being rejected by the first organization approached. “Ms. Ceppetelli contacted Forestdale Park Senior Living, and we were invited to a meeting,” O’Meara said. “The concept was received with open arms by Executive Director Terri Guenard and her team, and they have also helped develop the project to fit their residents’ needs.”
The project was launched on Tuesday with a Meet and Greet event at Forestdale Park. MHS Seniors encounter the Forestdale seniors for the first time for some light snacks and a fun activity to get to know each other. The visits are planned to begin in April and will run through May. The program is expected to have as many as 25 pairs of “seniors and seniors” participating in a total of eight visits.
S2S has organized a “Memoirs” activity, in which the senior citizens will be invited to talk about their lives growing up in Malden and the surrounding area. The students will be able to structure the visits with conversation guides, and they will document the senior’s memories. In this way, Malden adolescents will be enriched by learning about the history of Malden and its citizens, and elders will be able to share their valuable life experiences with youth. At the end of the program, the senior citizens will receive a written version of their conversations, for themselves and their families. S2S will keep copies to have an ongoing record of participants’ stories.
The program is meant to be ongoing, foreseeably scheduling fall and spring editions. The activities will evolve and change based on the experience and opinions of the seniors in S2S.
The logo colors are based on the current Malden logo. The city name has been added, in a similar city logo font, to represent our roots, although the image will be most often utilized without the city’s name. The first S is solid, sturdy and in a bold, modern font, representing our MHS seniors. It is linked to the rest of the image by the number 2, which at the same time forms a loosely discernible heart shape in blue and gold. The second S is written in cursive; it is elegant but frailer compared to the first one and looks a bit worn, as though a not-so-steady, aged hand had drawn the letter. The 2 joins the two letters; they are gently and gracefully balanced on it, symbolizing mutual support between our two generations. Strong Past, Proud Future!