The Vassar-Warner Home, a local senior residence, was founded in 1871 and Vassar College was formed in 1861, but the two only recently formed a flourishing connection through the organization Generations.
Co-President Frida Velcani ’19 enjoys her time with the organization, describing Generations as a group that does various types of programming to engage with the elderly residents that live in the home. They participate in activities such as cookie decorating, bingo and origami. The main goal of the group is to create bonds between the seniors and the students that benefit both parties.
Anyone with any amount of experience can be a part of the organization, but Generations Vice President Leah Cates ’20 chose to join because of her previous work in the elderly community. [Full Disclosure: Leah Cates is Humor & Satire editor for The Miscellany News.]
The other co-president, Angela Sbano ’19, raved about the organization and how the low-commitment versatility still allowed her to have new experiences.
“I really enjoy working within a community, and Generations was that perfect combination of being off-campus and engaging with people you don’t get to encounter everyday,” Sbano stated via an email interview.
According to Activities Supervisor for the Vassar-Warner Home Sandra O’Connell, the residents come from all walks of life and span the ages of late 50s up to the oldest resident, who is 106. She said that with such diversity in the home, the residents have vastly different experiences from each other. Their lives differ even more from those of Vassar students, but that is what the residents love so much about the interactions.
“[The seniors] really enjoy when the students talk with them and compare their experiences,” explained O’Connell. “They’ll talk about how school is now and how it was then, how things were different growing up and music and dancing, and food. The students really get a lot out of talking with them, because there’s nothing else like hearing these true experiences.”
These conversations are formed through various activities, such as arts and crafts and games like bingo. Generations also will occasionally bring one of Vassar’s a capella groups along to put on a performance in the home, a special treat for the seniors living there.
Sbano shared how much she enjoys spend- ing time with the residents, and finding that they can bond over topics like music that can transcend any age difference. She told a story of one visit to the home where the Night Owls, one of Vassar’s a capella groups, tagged along and performed the 1961 hit “Moon River” by Henry Mancini. The performance brought both her and an elderly resident to tears.
“This person whom I barely knew and I just shared this moment of being overwhelmed by the emotion of a beautiful song, and it really is symbolic to me of the potential to make true and meaningful connections with people from across widely different life experiences,” she elaborated. “That is what makes [Generations] an incredible experience for me.”
O’Connell added to Sbano’s point, describing how a lot of interpersonal conversation is lost among young people due to social media, and stated that connecting with seniors brings back the talking. “Realizing how these people grew up and how their lives have been and how it translates into their own lives…provided a basis for them,” she said. “The residents absolutely love it because they are taking part in teaching as well as being entertained and meeting new people.”
The students and Vassar-Warner residents frequently form friendships that go on to transcend the Generations program to the point where students visit the residents on their own or at least stay in touch. Sbano said she has a funny relationship with a resident named Carmen, who tells Sbano not to wear rips in her jeans, among other witty remarks.
“[Carmen] yells at whoever is calling the bingo numbers that we aren’t going fast enough, and she is just generally very funny,” she said. “You just can tell that she took absolutely no BS in her life, and it is wonderful.” Velcani described a resident who offered a tour of her room and opened up about intimate details of her life full of interesting anecdotes, including her heartbreaks having John Lennon as a student.
Velcani described a resident who offered a tour of her room and opened up about intimate details of her life full of interesting anecdotes, including her heartbreaks having John Lennon as a student.
Both co-presidents Velcani and Sbano encourage other Vassar students to take part in their organization. The club is very low pressure, and students can attend outings every single week or just every once in a while. Generations leaves from Main Circle at 10:45 a.m. and arrives back at school by 12:15 p.m.
“The club is super low commitment, but I’ll have to say, you may not be able to stop coming once you get to form such warm relationships with the lovely Vassar-Warner residents,” said Velcani.
Sbano and O’Connell agree that Generations is a very rewarding way for students to spend their Saturday mornings. “I get to hang out with both residents and students whom I otherwise wouldn’t really get the chance to interact with,” Sbano continued. “It’s also a pretty good escape from the everyday Vassar experience, which can be overwhelming.”
“On the way out you can see that the students really had a great time. They always say that the people are so nice and that they learned so many things,” added O’Connell.
Velcani said that the residents also look forward to the visits from Vassar students. “The Vassar students have definitely become a part of their routine,” she said. “They love to share laughs as well as poke fun at our peculiar millennial ways!”
Cates agreed that the residents enjoy these special Saturday mornings. “I think the residents enjoy spending time with a generation with which they might not otherwise [inter- act],” she said. “We also try to bring in fun and unusual activities, [such as] beading, origami and seasonal activities.”
Students who would like more information about Generations can email Sbano at nsbano[at]vassar.edu.