Queens Community House, one of the borough’s largest social service organizations, recently partnered with Community Boards 6 and 9 and Commonpoint Queens to host “Let’s Talk with Seniors and Teens,” an online conversation between older adults and youth.
Young adults from QCH’s Neighborhood International Chore and Errand (NICE) program interviewed older adults to discuss social issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and their life in Queens.
NICE is QCH’s year-round employment program for high school students. Youth workers are trained to work with older adults, providing chore and shopping assistance and companionship to home-bound older adults in Queens as well as friendship and mobility assistance to older adults in nursing homes.
“QCH was delighted to co-sponsor such an engaging intergenerational dialogue between older adults and the youth,” said QCH Division Director of Youth Workforce Alexandria Sumpter-Delves. “Conversations like these help to reinforce Queens as an inclusive community.”
One of the topics the online conversation tackled was the challenges that youth and older adults have faced during nearly two years of pandemic restrictions.
“When COVID first started, I was a sophomore and now I’m a senior, so most of my school time was on Zoom and it was very difficult because I can’t learn well online because I get easily distracted,” said 17-year-old QCH NICE program participant Deshenai Buntin.
The pandemic posed challenges for older adults such as 80-year-old Grace Pellicano of Forest Hills.
“I was bothered by the uncertainty of it all,” Pellicano said. “But if you take the long view and not live day by day letting your fears dominate you, then it becomes possible for you to realize it’s all going to be ok.”
Mark Laster, the Community Board 6 co-chair of the Aging/Social Services/Disabilities committee, said the conversation was valuable for the participants.
“I think we all see we have similarities and differences but I think the similarities tonight came out more than the differences, which we need more of,” he said.
Among the commonalities between older adults and youth engaged in the conversation was the shared appreciation for the diversity in Queens. When 17-year-old QCH NICE program participant Madison Melecio asked 80-year-old Briarwood resident Sylvia Sherman what she likes about her neighborhood, Sherman spoke highly about the borough’s diversity.
“Born and raised in Brooklyn, I grew up in a place that was 110% Italian, and with an Eastern European Jewish background, as wonderful as all my neighbors and their kids were, I was always the outsider and I felt it; I felt the difference,” Sherman said. “In my diverse neighborhood [of Briarwood] with people from every corner of the earth, I don’t think anyone needs to feel like an outsider. We are all sharing our community.”
Melecio agreed, saying that there is always something new to try and see.
The “Let’s Talk with Seniors and Teens” program is currently available to view on Facebook here.
Queens Community House is a multi-service settlement house committed to serving more than 25,000 children, youth, adults and older adults every year through a broad range of programs operating out of 34 sites in 14 neighborhoods.