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A Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will launch a cross-generational dialogue program at 12 senior living communities around age literacy and awareness.

Bloomfield, NJ-based Juniper Communities is partnering with Generations Over Lunch to bring in AmeriCorps volunteers and youth activists, together with senior living residents to break down stigmas surrounding aging. 

The program grew out of the Death Over Dinner and Drugs Over Dinner platform, as well as the Generations Over Dinner model championed by the Modern Elder Academy

Table leaders will use a predetermined set of questions to open dialogue and generate conversations between the generations. Questions revolve around volunteer experiences, misconceptions about generations, and hopes for the future.

“The willingness to collaborate and create intergenerational community experiences speaks to their innovative brilliance and agility,” said Kate Abate, MSG, Generations Over Lunch program director and gerontologist.

Patricia Jacobs, head of Juniper’s Catalyst program, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the Generations Over Lunch program “thoroughly aligns with everything we care about and are moving toward with our Catalyst program.”

Catalyst is a membership-based health and well-being program aimed at bringing about the “next generation of senior living” by creating an “ecosystem of programs and services in the areas of care, hospitality services and engagement.

The program brings together the care transitions under Juniper’s Connect4Life program, which integrates onsite ancillary medical services and care coordination for residents; hospitality services, such as food, housekeeping and transportation; and engagement offered through the company’s Connections program, which provides mind, body and spirit-related activities.

Jacbos said that the Generations Over Lunch program approached Juniper about including senior living communities in its Americorps MLK Day of Service program. Juniper communities participating in the program include Juniper Village at Spring Creek, JV at Spicewood Summit, JV Lincoln Height and JV at Guadalupe Riverfront in Texas; JV at Meadville, JV at Brookline, JV at Lebanon, JV Bucks County and JV South Hills in Pennsylvania; and JV Chatham, JV Williamstown and JV Paramus in New Jersey.

“We worked diligently to create partnerships in our community and invite the external public in to get to know our residents,” Jacobs said. “Our residents want to serve as mentors and be more than care receivers; they also want to be givers.”

Jacobs sees the program as a way for Juniper residents to be seen as sages or elders as well as individuals with rich experiences. 

Monday, volunteers will be seated with tables of residents during the normal lunch hour to participate in conversations. Residents will complete surveys after the program to determine whether they are open to opportunities to share additional skills, abilities or life experiences during future programs.

A spokesman for Argentum, a partner with Generations Over Dinner, said that the association was proud to support the campaign to organize hundreds of intergenerational gatherings across the county in celebration of the National Day of Service.

“The vision for this day is to unite youth activists and senior living residents to create a day of connection and relationship building across the age continuum, which would start an invaluable conversation for these two populations,” he told McKnight’s Senior Living. “The larger goal is to bring together Gen Z and millennial activists with senior living residents who are yearning for an opportunity to share their wisdom and learn from the younger generations.”