California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) Palm Desert Campus is implementing an important class that teaches things not learned in books: intergenerational communication.
The national program, called Sages and Seekers, brings seniors (sages) and students (seekers) together for one-on-one interaction, group discussions and collaborative activities in a structured and supportive environment. The eight-week pilot program, which finished last fall, exceeded expectations, and various departments within the college are now exploring how similar programs can be included in their curriculum.
CSUSB’s Sages and Seekers brought together Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) members and communication studies students to engage in enriching conversations, share life experiences and learn from each other. CSUSB’s OLLI is the first Osher Institute in the U.S. to include Sages and Seekers in their program curriculum.
“Many of the issues both students and older adults face are mutual in nature, though they may seem miles apart,” said OLLI Director Angela Allen. Social isolation, which has plagued both populations globally since the pandemic, is a leading concern; feeling marginalized is another. “This program provides both students and seniors an alternative to isolation: a sense of purpose and a connection to the larger picture of society and the world.”
Sages and Seekers also ﬁlls a gap in educational institutions, where faculty and administrators focus on course requirements and devote little time to promoting communication skills and social emotional learning, adds Allen. “This innovative program not only encourages the exchange of knowledge, but also promotes empathy, respect and appreciation for different perspectives.”
“My sage provided insight on the valuable relationships we can build if we don’t consider age first,” said one participating student. “It showed me that a range of people can connect and share common interests.”
Doris Steadman, my mother, was one of the first to sign up. “I have always enjoyed being around younger folks and was curious to see their reaction to interacting with someone my age for more than a brief time,” she explained.
She cherished the sharing of ideas and the students’ enthusiasm about the future. “We not only shared experiences about education, but also about growing up, and the differences from then to now.” Helping the next generation through sharing life experiences generated a profound sense of value for her. “And I enjoyed feeling a part of the younger generation through their sharing.”
CSUSB alum Amanda Reigle, who graduated with a BA in relational and organizational communication and is currently pursuing a master in communication through the university, was the pilot program facilitator and student program coordinator under the guidance of Robert Leo, PhD. “The success of the program has become the basis for my ongoing graduate plan of study,” Reigle enthused. “I am exceptionally interested in understanding and fostering intergenerational communication while enriching our community. The benefits of our connectedness are at the core of my academic pursuits.”
“By fostering relationships between generations, we hope to create a supportive environment where wisdom is shared, stories are celebrated and lifelong friendships are formed,” adds Allen. “Launching the program embodies CSUSB Palm Desert’s commitment to building strong, interconnected communities.”
For more information on joining OLLI and participating in the Sages and Seekers program, visit www.csusb.edu/olli.