Young people and the elderly. Two groups seem to get farther apart, especially when it’s not about their own family. Because Grandma or Grandpa is cool, but an older one standing in front of you at the cash register is difficult and slow. And the grandchildren are the lovers of the whole world, but a shovel on the street is especially scary and a potential bagroller.
Sure, this sounds all very stereotypical. But stereotypes do not fall out of the air. In the conversations we make around, we always discover that these kinds of images live well. In Amsterdam Nieuw-West, the area where we have a lot of work, there is a great fear of old run towards youth. The latter may not attract much of the older generation, but they do not know much about the elderly in their neighborhood.
In short, reason enough to bring together older people and young people and make acquaintances through stories. So in the past few months, we initiated two so-called intergenerational projects, one of which we would like to highlight one.
A very exciting project because we were part of the European Aladdin project. Older people had to coach young people through talks in entrepreneurship. Leadership, listening and presentation were the core concepts.
Let me start with something straight. I’m talking about the elderly here. But what are the elderly today? At the preparatory workshop I was confronted with a group of extremely energetic 50-plussers. You can say a lot about the group, but the elderly label did not match them. Seniors maybe, but even that was already on the verge. Experiential experts with a certain degree of life might be the best description.
And the youngsters? Those were hardcore label. Boys from Geuzenveld who especially speak the language of the street. Boys who did not grow up in the mouth with the golden spoon in the easiest circumstances and definitely not. In short, the kind of guys you with a big bow would walk around it … if you believe in labels. If you look something further, you meet a group of fantastic, motivated and strong young people.
And that’s where our experience experts soon came back to life. It was a shame when we got out of the car in the middle of Geuzenveld, in an area that had not been seen by anyone before. But the reception at the Youth Prevention Team, the organization for which the young people work, was warm. Well, thank you very much… the boys gave everyone a hand and thought probably to themselves: what are we now hanging on our bike, wondering what these people are coming here to bird. In the meanwhile, the tension was also read from the faces of the seniors.
However, that only took a short time. Because after finding the whole group together to find a path through a minefield created by us, the youngsters listened to the stories of the seniors. And they were tied up. Done. And immediately their own stories came up.
The second week we got started with it and it was unbelievable how open the guys were daring to share their stories with people who only knew them for a couple of hours. Strong connections formed, based on apparent complete trust. Even phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged.
The third week, one of the boys said, “I am angry.” We were upset. “I’m angry because this is the last time,” he continued. Even before, he had told a heartbreaking story about how he should have struggled to get where he is on his way. A story in which he also dared to name his weaknesses, but in particular his enormous strength emerged. As is also the case in the stories of the others.
One of the life coaches got wet eyes when ‘her’ boy told his story. At the end he immediately came to her. “Sorry I made you cry.” All she could say was: “Thank you. Thank you for making me cry. “
Who can still believe in labels after such an experience? Who dares to believe in terms of fear? And we are definitely not wizards. On the contrary. We only invite people to listen to each other’s story and help each other with the search for their own story. How it can be damn easy?