(This is a guest post by Kathi Sherzer. Kathi was a stay at home mom for many years who volunteered at her son’s school, house of worship and with CONTACT, a Philadelphia organization providing outreach services to homebound seniors. Kathi joined S.A.G.E. 12 years ago and continues her role with the organization from her home in Manhattan. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The value of senior volunteers in the classroom cannot be overstated. As the Associate Director of a Pennsylvania based non-profit organization that has matched senior volunteers with teacher needs in the classroom for over 20 years, I have witnessed the social and educational benefits of these interactions.
Time, talent and expertise are qualities that today’s seniors have to offer our students in school while at the same time being that extra set of hands in the classroom helping the teacher. Representative benefits to such an intergenerational relationship include:
• Increase in knowledge, skills and learning
• Increase in understanding and appreciation of aging and older persons
• Mentoring relationships will positively affect those students who need extra attention – addition of supportive, positive role models
• Improved quality of their program – reduction of student-adult ratios in classroom at no cost
• Creation of the feeling of one with the community, creating a sense of everyone working toward a common goal – education for the youth of the community
• The creation of bonds between older adults and students – fostering a sense of community
• Dispelling stereotypes that seniors may have of the younger generation, and visa-versa – creating a feeling of comfort between generations
• Prevention of unnatural age segregation, which increases community awareness about issues that affect both young and old
• Increased satisfaction and purpose
• Opportunities to transfer knowledge, skills and values to the next generation
• Continued involvement in the community, creating alliances with those who have children in the schools and those who do not
Senior Adults for Greater Education (S.A.G.E.) celebrates and supports older adults as crucial resources to K-12 schools in Bucks County, PA and Philadelphia. S.A.G.E. is devoted to uniting youth and seniors in their quest to enrich education and leave a legacy for future generations. S.A.G.E. has been recognized by Generations United as an intergenerational Program of Distinction since 2016, satisfying an elite criteria for designation as a “high-quality intergenerational program”.
Through the S.A.G.E. program, older adult volunteers age 55 and better are carefully matched with schools and teachers to make effective use of their talents and expertise. A retired engineer might be tutoring students in math to help them pass the mandatory state assessment tests. A retired teacher might be running a book club for 4th graders to help increase the students’ reading skills. S.A.G.E. provides the mechanism and personal support for older adult volunteers to find the right school setting that meets their needs and experience.
As a native New Yorker recently returning to the city, it is my hope to bring this very valuable program to the New York City area.