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Project aims to dispel ageist myths, link elder abuse and teen bullying

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Snag one while you can, these posters will be limited edition.

Students at George Waters Middle School recently completed a series of paper bag posters on elder abuse, the result of a month-long class project on getting to know community seniors.

"We’re trying to strike a parallel between senior abuse and bullying," explained George Waters teacher Terri MacLeod, whose homeroom class is participating in the intergenerational project along with Golden Gate and Ness middle schools.

"There are definite differences, but it’s a starting point for discussion between the two generations . . . to form a positive relationship between them."

Since mid-November, a group of residents from Colorado Estates, a retirement condo complex neighbouring the school, has joined MacLeod and her 24 students for a mix of activities including discussions, skits and videos.

On a recent Wednesday, the groups rehearsed and performed skits about the negative attitudes youth can display toward seniors — exclusion in group settings, aggressive and impatient language, as well as physical actions that could lead to seniors being injured, like pushing past on a bus or zooming down the sidewalk on a skateboard and forcing the elderly to move out of the way.

Groups then had to create and perform a second skit on how to better handle the scenarios.

"If you do the same thing all the time, it’s going to get boring and the students will lose interest in the message," MacLeod said.

The project, supported by funding from the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres, began last year at Golden Gate as a way to break down ageist stereotypes and connect the two vastly different age groups by pointing out their similarities.

George Waters students were also shown videos of seniors active in the St. James community playing hockey, practicing karate and fixing up classic cars.

"These are two groups that are big in our community," said Sandra Melo, who is facilitating the project as part of the education support services department of the St. James-Assiniboia School Division.

"The gaps between them are so large and it’s something we haven’t really looked at. This project is a unique way of addressing that generation gap, so if they see each other in the community, they dispel the fears."

Barry Christie, president of the Colorado Estates condo board, said both generations can be blamed for their ageist attitudes that have helped widen the gap.

"I’ll be the first to admit that in many cases for seniors it’s a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. We don’t take enough time to listen to our young people," he said.

"We have to learn to talk to each other. It’s about respect. We think that maybe the children are all bad. They’re not."

Grade 8 student Devon Timko was surprised to learn how much the two generations have in common.

"They do more than I thought," he said.

"I find them more cool. I can ask my grandma to do something with me."

MacLeod is working to have the posters put on display at either the MLCC outlet in Madison Square or at Portage and Ainslie, or given out to customers with their purchases this holiday season.

MacLeod hopes the project can spread to the entire student body in future years.

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

Facebook.com/TheMetroWPG
Twitter: @metroWPG

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