In medicine, the motto is: see one, do one, teach one. A little scary if you’re about to be a surgeon’s first patient — but a positive life philosophy when applied to active aging.
In France, this concept has taken shape as “Les Talents d’Alphonse”: Connecting Talent with Curious People. Thibault Bastin and Barthelemy Gas, two young French engineers, pivoted from building roads to building bridges, creating a platform for intergenerational talent exchange. And it’s not unidirectional: both elders and young people benefit from this creative lifelong learning solution to senior loneliness and isolation.
Les Talents d’Alphonse emerged as Bastin and Gas traveled in Mexico, the Congo and the Philippines for their engineering internship. As they worked, they grew fascinated by the intergenerational links they observed — and the respect accorded elder wisdom. Spending time in these developing countries helped them recognize gaps in modern society for older adults to teach others tangible skills. There was no such link between retirees and the working population in France, so they decided to create one. The mechanics of old motorcycles, cars and bicycles; sewing and knitting, creation of design and industrial furniture, DIY, restoration of antiques, photography… the possibilities seemed limitless.
Was it a viable idea? Just one year in, Bastin and Gas have hundreds of “Alphonse”: seniors who want to meet new people and transmit their knowledge. Younger folks are similarly intrigued. It’s a two-way street. They’ve changed the model. And the seniors themselves are the best ambassadors for the program, posting flyers and encouraging other elders to participate. Bastin and Gas have since spoken at TEDx/Paris about seniors as an indispensible societal resource, and launched a crowdfunding campaign to expand Les Talents d’Alphonse and bring the concept to other countries.
Imagine how it might play in the States. Perhaps one of your reverse mortgage clients or prospects — or a group of them — would be interested in creating the American version.
Active Aging: the Millennial Meme
From Reykjavik to Paris, China to Slovenia, active aging is the name of the game in the third millennium.
Professor Teresa Tsien, with the Institute of Active Ageing (IAA) at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, specializes in aging studies and research, career support, lifelong learning and active aging. Active Aging is especially relevant in Hong Kong, which ranks first in global life expectancy at birth for both men and women: 81 years for men, 87 for women.
Sometimes, participation is not so much a function of available opportunities as perception, observes Tsien. Men, who are often reluctant to participate at senior centers, are willing to attend an IAA sponsored University “club” because it’s a different setting, and they can engage in education, volunteering, and job retraining and matching, she explains. They find these roles — especially that of research interviewer — highly meaningful. She says proudly, “There is a waiting list for seniors who want to do this job.”
Ana Krajnc, Professor of Andragogy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, has taught at leading universities worldwide. A tireless researcher in andragogy who writes prolifically on the subject, she spreads the motto, “everyone teach one.” This appears to be the key to elder engagement as we step forward into a more inclusive future not segmented by our personal chronology.
The further step: changing the story about aging. We’ll explore this topic in-depth over the next two weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for Raw, Unpasteurized, And Ready to Roll!