March 15, 2023

“Seniors for Seniors” Program Pairs Members of Two Generations

By Anne Levin

A program developed during the pandemic targets seniors of two generations — those in their final year of high school, and those who were in high school decades ago.

“Seniors for Seniors” was initiated by students at Corner House, pairing one member of each generation with one from the other. Still going strong in its third year, the program has fostered warm relationships that are valued by both.

“It’s so heartwarming to hear their stories,” said Riva Levy, prevention coordinator at Corner House, which prevents and treats alcohol and drug addiction among teenagers. “It’s amazing how well it works.”

When the pandemic shut down schools and community centers, Teen Leadership students at Corner House were looking for ways to stay connected. Members of the Student Board came up with the idea of pairing students from area high schools with members of the Princeton Senior Resource Center.

“They thought about all these senior citizens who were stuck in their homes,” said Levy. “They contacted the Senior Resource Center, and it came together. They meet weekly, mostly on Zoom, and we do a picnic at the end of the year.”

Levy acts as matchmaker. “One of the senior citizens was a music teacher, and I paired her with one of the girls who is in choir,” she said. “Another was an English teacher, and one of the girls likes to write poetry, so I put them together. I just find things they have in common.”

Hadar Irit Hazan, a senior at Princeton High School, looks forward to her chats with 78-year-old Maxine Finger. “We talk about things happening in our lives,” Hadar said. “I love it, because I am a high school senior, and I have a lot to talk about. She has a lot of life experience. We talk about drama with my friends, and she understands. She has grandchildren and she really knows what’s up. It’s not like she’s my therapist or anything, but I really don’t talk to adults on a regular basis. She’s a friend and a mentor.”

For Finger, the chats are just as valuable. This is her second year in the program.

“Last year I had another student, and we became close,” she said. “She’s at Wellesley now, and we keep in touch.”

Interacting with Hadar is equally fulfilling. “She’s delightful,” Finger said. “It’s good for me. It makes me feel young. I feel like I’m helping and doing something worthwhile. I love it. It’s very enlightening for me. I enjoy being with this generation. I have two daughters, and I do well with females in general. I love hearing their stories, and the stuff they’re going through. It’s so nice that they confide in me. Perhaps they don’t want to speak to their parents, or perhaps they do. But it makes me feel good they want to share it with me.”

Both Hadar and Finger are Jewish, which creates an additional link. “Being Jewish and Israeli are a big part of my identity,” said Hadar. “She knows the holidays I celebrate. It’s nice to have someone to share that with.”

There are currently 10 pairs in the program. Participants are currently all female, though past pairings included males.

While the initiative started because of the pandemic and is not directly related to the Corner House mission of preventing addiction, it fits in.

“When you do for others, you feel good about it, and you make others feel good, without the need to use drugs or alcohol,” said Levy. “The students say, ‘I love my senior.’ And I think the senior citizens feel the same.”