From the Field: Updates from Barnstable and Ashland Community-Wide Intergenerational Leadership Teams

Last spring, Bridges Together’s Founder and Executive Director Andrea and MCOA’s Special Projects Director Mary Kay Browne reflected on the successes and challenges of two years of intergenerational work with the Councils on Aging. They had heard from so many attendees that the day-long workshops on the “nuts and bolts of intergenerational programs” were very informative and that people left inspired. But as so often happens, life gets in the way and plans aren’t executed as expected.

They wondered how BT could help them be more successful at uniting older people and youth and how we could assist them in being intergenerational change agents. How could BT help them create programs that supported their own communities’ needs and interests while building on the “people power” they had access to?

The Bridges Together Community Intergenerational Leadership Team program (funded by MCOA this year) was borne from these conversations. In short, a “champion” in each community convened a team representing at least five organizations, each of whom wrote letters of intent. Packets of the letters were submitted with commitments to:

  • Participate in a webinar,
  • Attend a day-long training in their community,
  • Plan an intergenerational program,
  • Take advantage of two coaching support calls with an expert in the field (intended to encourage them ad provide feedback and tips for success),
  • Carry out the program, and
  • Submit a slideshow about the experience.

It has been an honor to journey with members of Ashland, Barnstable, Encore Boston Gen2Gen, South Hadley and West Boylston. The following updates delineate the programs that were developed as a direct result of Bridges Together’s Community-Wide Intergenerational Leadership Team grant.

Update on Barnstable

Attendees at Barnstable’s “birthday tea”

Last week, Bridges Together had the pleasure of attending a tea party in Barnstable for people over the age of 90. Each year, the incoming high school freshman class votes on an organization with which they want to partner. This year, the class of 2020 chose the senior center! Class officers attended the original BT training in January. Barnstable has more than 500 residents over the age of 90, and it was time to pass the Boston Post Cane  to the “newest” oldest resident. The Council on Aging, senior center, class of 2020, Youth Commission and high school chorus joined together for a memorable celebration of life and longevity. With 150 people in attendance, they were evenly split between “birthday honorees,” high school students (who acted as table hosts) and guests.

A favorite moment: When the chorus began singing the national anthem a cappella and a deep voice from the audience joined them, leading all to join in! It turns out that the “deep voice” belonged to a retired music leader from the schools who had mentored the current choir director. Later, two of the class officers gathered with three centenarians for conversation and a photo. What a difference 90 years has made in our world and in our culture!

Update on Ashland

Ashland held two celebrations earlier in June.

Ashland pollinator garden participants

The first was a tea party celebrating the finish of a six-week pollinator garden program, a collaboration between the Parks & Recreation preschool program, the senior center and the Ashland Garden Club. Although the rain forced us indoors, the garden seemed to come inside as well! The leaders created a special environment with awesome posters, microscopes to examine bugs, cupcakes decorated with sugar insects and picture books about gardening. Storyteller Davis Bates provided entertainment through storytelling and songs. Children and their parents – as well as the older adults are clamoring for more!

The second event was a viewing of oral history videos, a collaboration between high school students and older adults.

Stay tuned for updates from other recipients of a Community-Wide Intergenerational Leadership Team grant!



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