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November 12, 2008 > Penpals

Penpals

By Amisha Gandhi

As a community grows, so does its population. The older generation tends to drift away from the younger crowd. In an effort to bridge the growing gap between the young and old, the City of Fremont and the Tri - City Elder Coalition are collaborating on the 2008-2009 Penpal program by Pathways to Positive Aging. This program involves students at Mission San Jose Elementary and Weibel Elementary School in Fremont, Graham Elementary in Newark, and Pioneer Elementary in Union City who will correspond with approximately eighty local seniors, recruited from a variety of places such as residential homes, churches, and other non-profit organizations in the Tri - City Area. Additionally, seven students from both Mission San Jose High School and Irvington High School will be coordinating this project.

This program will give seniors, who often lead isolated and lonely lives after the passing of a loved one, an opportunity to share their life stories with children. The children, in turn, interact with older adults and develop strong, old-fashioned communication skills without employing the use of a computer. Senior citizens are a key part of the community who keep the history of the city alive. They are able to use personal experiences to educate their young penpals and broaden their horizons.

In the past, this project has been met with much acclaim and success. Last year, 60 sixth grade students from Fremont corresponded with thirty seniors from February through April. They shared stories, hobbies, and even gifts. Both groups received the chance to interact with people they would normally never associate with, creating lasting friendship and proving that true friendship can transcend age. This program was developed as a part of the Community Strategic Plan to help seniors live more fruitful and interactive lives.

In a time when people often live as separate groups instead of extended families, it is important to foster connections between the young and the old. Fostering such relationships will create a stronger, more solidified community. Over the past two years, the penpal project has expanded in scope and popularity. This year, it promises to be even more successful.

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