Post-Its | Seniors

Celebrating Another Year of Being Better Together at Handmaker

The Better Together website reads “Who said senior citizens and teens/tweens have nothing in common? Help teens in your community learn from the wisdom of elders and give senior citizens a chance to forge new connections.”

Handmaker residents have had the opportunity to experience these connections with teens for the last two years, thanks to a grant from Better Together. Two years ago, Rabbi Cantor Emily Ellentuck from Tucson Hebrew Academy (THA), and Libby Bacal from B’nai B’rith Youth Organizations (BBYO) both applied for and received grants for four years of intergenerational programs with teens and Handmaker residents.

This year, once again Rabbi-Cantor Emily Ellentuck planned and coordinated the visits to Handmaker for the 7th grade class at THA, and Davis Hubbell coordinated the Sunday visits for the BBYO students.

Some of the most memorable meetings this year for residents included the very moving gathering in October with the THA 7th Grade students, when students and residents took time to share and write down their thoughts and feelings about the October 7 attack on Israel and sang Hatikvah together. The THA 7th grade class brought their kindergarten buddies with them to a few meetings, including one visit around Hanukkah with lots of energetic dreidel playing. BBYO teens came to Handmaker one night during Hanukkah to light candles with residents and enjoyed a few games of dreidel as well. And last month, it was so meaningful for Handmaker residents to have the opportunity to help BBYO teens put together hygiene bags for the Primavera Foundation to distribute to the unsheltered.

On Monday, May 20, the groups came together at Handmaker for an End of the Year Celebration and Luncheon. Over pizza, salad, brownies, and cookies, the residents, teens (and some of their parents) enjoyed time together for their final program meeting of this school year. Throughout the luncheon, a beautiful slide show played on a large screen, with photos from the meetings throughout this school year, put together by Davis Hubbell from BBYO,

As part of program, Sophia Davis from THA read her winning Better Together essay about the impact of her participation in the program this year. She shared a conversation with Burt, who told her how many years ago he spent some time in Japan. While he was initially hesitant and nervous to go, it ended up being such a life-changing experience for him, connecting him to so many dear friends and learning a new language. She believes that his words will inspire her when she is faced with hesitancy about embarking on a new experience in the future.

Davis Hubbell read the BBYO Better Together winning essay written by Aaron Handler, who was not able to attend the luncheon. One of the residents in attendance was touched to hear that something he told Aaron left such a lasting impact. He quoted Barry as telling him, “The older and older I get, the more and more time I have,” which Aaron states is “a mantra now deeply etched in my approach to life”. Read his whole essay here.

Both essay contest winners receive a scholarship to a Jewish camp (half the cost, up to $5,000). And Aaron will be using his scholarship this summer!

It was a wonderful way to end this year of Better Together programming. The residents will miss the programming over the summer but look forward to seeing many of the teens back again in the fall. They will also miss seeing Rabbi Cantor Emily Ellentuck next year, as she and her family will be moving out of Tucson soon. But they look forward to getting to know Jesse Davis from THA, who will be coordinating the meetings next year.