Teen Project Leader Reflects on the “Dementia Project”

New York

Image of Paige Walker, blog post author.

Paige Walker, Junior Docent, Hudson River Museum

Paige Walker, a junior docent at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, NY, writes about what she learned as the teen leader of Join Me, the “dementia project” created in 2013 through funding from Generations United.

Working on the “dementia project” was a memorable, heart-warming experience from start to finish. From the training sessions in Washington, D.C. (through Generations United), to the actual project that took place at Hebrew Home at Riverdale and the Hudson River Museum, the experience was profoundly and far different from anything else I had ever done before. In D.C, I learned stress-relieving and team-building icebreakers, which helped the other teens and I get to know each other better. It also helped enliven the conversation of our chaperones, encouraging all of us to connect as equals. Given the open and safe space we jointly created, many of us were able to share very personal experiences without hesitation.

After training in Washington, D.C., I was able share what I learned with my fellow junior docents at the Hudson River Museum in New York. Conveying to my peers in a few hours what I learned over the course of several days during the DC training proved the hardest part of the project. Luckily, I had Katie Henry, the manager of the junior docent program, for support. She helped me organize worksheets and provide bits and pieces of information that I may have forgotten had she hadn’t been there. She was real mentor!

Another area of difficulty was the process of translating what you felt to someone else. Initially, some junior docents were more into it than others, but once we finally encountered the residents of Hebrew Home at Riverdale, it was a whole different story. You could immediately see how attached certain residents were to junior docents. The conversations were very deep for many of us and we all found a resident who we really connected with. They shared stories with us about their lives and what they’ve done. They also showed interest towards us as individuals. They wanted to know who we were, what we wanted to pursue, and the things we liked. It was interesting to see how much we all had in common. The residents were so sweet and the relaxed atmosphere felt almost as if we were at our grandparents’ home, just catching up on the latest happenings. Or at least that’s how it felt to me.

My appreciation for seniors stems from my own relationship with my grandmother. If you can get along with your grandparents, you should be able to get along with others their age. We are all the same people; we are just at different stages in our lives. It’s why we need each other. Interacting with a younger set of people helps to restore vitality into a senior’s life. Being around a senior offers a more mature perspective to a teen’s perspective. The relationships formed create vital connecting links in life that benefit and enrich both parties, making us all realize that we’re only human after all.