Bridging the generation gap


Generation of Hearts participants share their stories in (un)settler community journals, a project by Art Gallery of Mississauga artist-in-residence Camille Turner (Photography by Mehreen Shahid / The Sheridan Sun)


Seniors are boring, inactive, and unable to learn and handle technology. These are some myths that students like Dean Heaton were able to dispel with the help of a community program called Generation of Hearts.

“The myths are not true about the older generation. They’re fun and you can joke around with them,” said Heaton, 18.

Generation of Hearts aims to bridge the age gap by encouraging friendships between youth and seniors. Sheridan is the participating community college providing space for workshops and parking at the Davis Campus for all the participants.

“It’s done through two-way mentoring. At the end of the 12 weeks, we’ll have a graduation celebration,” said Khadijeh Rakie, project co-ordinator for the Multicultural Inter-Agency Group of Peel, a centre that provides community participation opportunities through workshops for families from diverse backgrounds.

“We do it [graduation] on a weekend because we welcome the participants’ families and friends to join us,” said Rakie.

This is the second time the program has been organized with the help of the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies.


The Ontario Trillium Foundation funded the project for three years from September 2012 to August 2015. At the weekly sessions, the 20 pairs of seniors and young people share their respective strengths and experiences.

Nellie Sheppard, professor and co-ordinator of the gerontology stream in the Social Service Worker program explained how participating students are benefitting from the meetings.

“We’ve recruited first-year students for co-curricular hours,” said Sheppard. She wanted to bring older adults to college and see what happens when youth interacted with seniors.

“Also, [it is] to give a chance to the first-year students if gerontology is the field for them and dispel myths around older adults being inactive, boring, being unable to relate to younger adults and not open to learning,” she said.

Some of the popular themes that emerged during focus groups held at the beginning of the sessions included learning about how to use technology, art lessons, public speaking skills, cooking, stress management, the environment and sharing musical talent.

Aaron Rosa, a Social Service Worker student, feels he’s made new friends and learned much about the older generation.

“A lot of insight was given into personal experiences. When we think of seniors, we come up with stereotypes like cranky, unintellectual,” the 21-year-old said about common myths portrayed in advertisements. “But this interaction has completely dispelled those myths.”

His mentor taught him how to knit, a skill Rosa never dreamed of learning.

Senior mentors were delighted to be a part of the group. It gave them the chance to spend their Thursday afternoons interacting with students, learning and having fun.

“They’re very helping and understanding,” said Naheed Nawaz, 70. “I didn’t know about [my] computer, and now I know to use it on my own.”

Ana Bertha Torres, 70, emigrated from Colombia, and says the changing seasons are the most wonderful feature of her life in Canada. Even though she misses home, she said she had to leave “because the situation back home is not good, here it is good.”