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Summerside aims to pave the gap between generations

Leo Bonnell, the guest speaker at the Age Friendly Intergenerational convention.
Leo Bonnell, the guest speaker at the Age Friendly Intergenerational convention. - Desiree Anstey

City creates opportunities over five-year plan to build an inclusive society

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - Old and young came together recently at the Credit Union Place in Summerside to better understand the power of intergenerational programs, acknowledge diversity, fight ageism and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society.

Guest speaker at the Age Friendly Intergenerational convention on Saturday morning was Leo Bonnell, from Clarenville, N.L. With 42 years of banking under his belt, he’s encountered many things. Now retired, he volunteers in provincial, national and community levels.

“Each age group has much to learn from the other. I honestly feel that intergenerational programs can be the engine to change perceptions and images of our aging population. As a society we need more positive views of seniors and what a better place to start than with our young people,” he said.

“They are our future older adults. We all have a duty to better understand the power of intergenerational relationships.”

After interacting with older people in seniors’ homes, Bonnell passed on their sage words of advice to those in attendance at the convention.

“Take care of your body and practice healthy habits. What you do when you are young will come back to haunt when you get older. Get educated in a field of your interest. Don’t get hung-up on failures, it is one of life’s best lessons. Be positive and focus away from negative thinking.

“If you can’t afford it, then don’t buy it now. Don’t get caught up in the ‘buy now and pay later’ trap. Prepare for tomorrow.”

Summerside is currently in its fourth year, of a five-year plan, to build a strong community together.

“Knowledge often gets lost to the graveyard in time,” said Bonnell. “Older people have so many life’s experiences and acquired skills to share. Our educational system could benefit greatly by tapping into this knowledge base.”

Vivian Xie, aged 13, representing the Atlantic Veterinary College at the convention.
Vivian Xie, aged 13, representing the Atlantic Veterinary College at the convention.

Vivian Xie, aged 13, was among the booths representing the Atlantic Veterinary College.

“It all started in high school. My biology teacher was very passionate about the subject and I enjoyed his lectures. He really introduced me to this career, and I did love animals from a young age, so right off the bat I knew.”

Xie started attending courses at the University of Prince Edward Island, aged 12. She will graduate as a qualified vet in four years.

“I’ve worked pretty hard, but I am getting use to the university now and its courses. I would say to other young people, if you find an opportunity then take it,” she said.

Shirlene O’Brien, one of the organizers from the Age Friendly Committee Council (A.F.C.C.), says the project was funded partly by the City of Summerside and New Horizons, a federal grant program, to focus on intergenerational activities for people of all ages, especially seniors and youth.

“Our first event was a meet and greet in January, where we matched all our pairs interested in certain career paths. You will see horse care, veterinary, School of Engineering and Design at UPEI, and just a variety of different career paths.

“The youth met with their mentors during that six-week period and learned more about the different aspects of those careers, and you see today the product of that through the display booths,” she explained.

The project is an opportunity to build respect between youth and seniors in the community, as well as share experiences, teach and coach one another.

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