By Lisa Kava
While the school year is quickly winding down, there is a group of high school students in New York City gearing up for summer school with their new classmates — men and women over the age of 65.
The students are part of the Summer Teen Internship Program at DOROT, a nonprofit organization located at 171 West 85th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. DOROT’s mission is to improve the lives of older people by alleviating social isolation, largely through intergenerational programming. “Dorot” is the Hebrew word for “generations.”
The Teen Internship Program runs in two sessions: June 27-July 21st and July 26th-August 18th. Teens and older adults are placed together in interactive classes, workshops, and smaller discussion groups.
Classes vary widely in topic: art history, technology, comedic improvisation, for example. “While some workshops are led by a DOROT facilitator, others are run by the interns who go through an extensive training and orientation,” Shai Rosenfeld, DOROT’s Lead Educator explained to West Side Rag on a zoom interview. The teens and older adults also spend time together beyond the classroom: students are assigned in pairs to visit specific seniors in their homes weekly.
WSR spoke to teens who participated in past internships to learn about their experiences. One said he was drawn to the program because of his relationship with his grandparents.
“I have a close relationship with my grandparents,” said Andrew Piatetsky, who interned during the summer of 2021. “I understood the social isolation of older adults during COVID and wanted to help those people who maybe didn’t have grandchildren.”
Piatetsky enjoyed both the creative and leadership aspects of the program. A highlight of the summer for him was when each group of teens had the opportunity to create a specific activity for the older people. “My group organized a book club.”
Another former intern, Hailey Seltzer, said she valued the relationships she developed with seniors. “My favorite aspect of the program was being able to make personal connections and build relationships. One time we decided to do an activity where we would break into groups and create a skit. The skits were really fun and highly enjoyable to perform,” she told the Rag.
Older adults have also enjoyed participating in past programs, describing the experience as special. “I have participated in art classes, exercise, music, movies and sports discussions,” Viviane Topp, 74 said. She recalled a discussion group where both the teens and the older adults revealed their fears and joys to each other. “What a revelation to discover the commonalities between our personal perspectives. It was gratifying to recognize my former teenage self in these young teens. I never expected at my age to learn so much by interacting with teenagers.”
“For many older adults it’s about socialization. They make strong and deep connections quickly,” Rosenfeld said. “Some would otherwise be alone much of the time. There is a lot of talking about history and legacy. Some older adults say the program has helped them talk to their grandchildren and connect better with them,” Rosenfeld said.
Applications for summer 2022 are still open. High school students interested in applying can do so here.
Adults over the age of 65 who are interested in registering for the workshops can do so here.