Sage and Seekers are slated to begin their winter session at Palisades High School on January 30
By Keemia Zhang
Local nonprofit Sage and Seekers are slated to begin their winter session at Palisades High School on January 30. Aiming to build relationships between older adults and teenagers, participants will meet from 3:00pm to 4:15pm weekly for an eight-week program.
The group encourages senior citizens (60+) to form meaningful bonds with high school students (15-24), and aims to “build empathy, diminish ageism and social isolation”, according to program director Rachel Shader. Founded in Boston in 2009 by Elly Katz, the charity has been headquartered in Los Angeles since 2014.
“It gives both generations a sense of purpose and a sense of relevance. We bring older adults with younger students who really value the stories that they tell and they feel pride in what they’re sharing.” Shader says. “At this time, students are wondering, ‘what am I doing in life?’, and their Sage really gives them a sense of confidence and reassurance.”
The organization’s website states that the program seeks to bolster and improve the mental health of both youth and older adults, alongside promoting communication skills for students “so they can actually learn to hold a conversation”, explains Shader. Sage and Seekers have reached 6000 participants since its founding, and hosted 1000 teens and seniors in their program just last year, both online and in-person.
Sage and Seekers has a global program entirely online, with participants in Australia, Argentina, and Colombia. In Los Angeles, students and seniors can choose between hybrid Zoom and in-person sessions in the city to accommodate their preferences, following the COVID-19 pandemic. The first initial meeting centers around community building and introduction, with “icebreakers and serious questions”, followed by a second “speed-dating” session the next week. Students then get to select who they want to be paired with for further classes.
“From then on, they’re meeting one-on-one with a Sage. It’s about telling life stories.” Shader states. After their seventh meeting, students are required to present a tribute to their Sage, or write a reflection on the program, in front of their class. Following the program’s conclusion, students are given the contact information for their Sage, and often choose to keep in touch. “Many of them meet monthly for coffee, or have chats on Zoom or FaceTime.”
“We did a program a number of years ago where we had a student having a really hard time in school and actually got suspended.” The director shares. “He couldn’t go to his classes but he showed up to our program and asked to still join, just because he found it to be so valuable. It just shows the impact that this program like this had on a kid like that.”
Sage and Seekers will have further sessions beginning this April and September, with 3-4 participating high schools each term across the city. Participating schools for this session are Palisades Charter High, Larchmont Charter High, and Blair High School. Participating slots for Palisades High are currently full, though students are encouraged to join a waitlist for the program.