Philadelphia radio and television station WHYY, AARP Pennsylvania and the United
Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Coming of Age also trains nonprofit groups on how to harness the energy and expertise of older people.
“Today, people 50 and older are healthy and vigorous and ready to take on new challenges,” says Mady Prowler, assistant director of Coming of Age, which has sites in Philadelphia, Delaware, Central Pennsylvania, Kansas City and San Francisco. Another site is scheduled to open soon in Austin, Texas.
With WHYY, Coming of Age produces Boomervision!, event programs that feature prominent authors and national experts discussing work, health and well-being, and other topics. Another WHYY collaboration is Coming of Age Radio Profiles, audio and web profiles about people 50 and older and who have had exciting life transitions.
Linda Dubin Garfield, CLA ’64, EDU ’69, ’84, is included in the profile series. A retired high school guidance counselor, she now is an award-winning professional printmaker and mixed-media artist. “I finally followed my own advice to students: ‘Follow your dreams,’” she says. “My dream was to be an artist.”
Since becoming a full-time printmaker in 2005, Dubin also has started ARTsisters, a group of professional female artists dedicated to community engagement, and Smart Business Consulting, which helps emerging artists market their work. “I’m combining art and my skills as a counselor,” Dubin says. “Creating art can be very isolating, so I’m always looking to bring people together.”
Coming of Age also organizes “Make a BIG Difference” teams, small groups of volunteers based at local organizations who address critical community needs.
For example, at the Bristol Township (Pa.) Senior Center, a 12-member team took on several health and wellness initiatives. Team members ranged in age from
50 to 80, with some employed, retired or actively looking for work. Several team members traveled to Sesame Place, the Bucks County, Pa., amusement park, to learn about environmentally friendly gardening techniques. They then shared what they learned at the senior center and brought in students from nearby schools and another community organization to help with a garden project.
Supported by a Coming of Age grant, team members taught courses in the Arthritis Foundation’s self-help program and in Healthy Steps, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s fall-prevention program.
“I wanted to get into shape and thought that by teaching others, I would be more committed to keeping myself fit,” says Ellen Miller, THM ’89. A former senior center
director herself who was, in her words, “unwillingly retired” in her early 60s, Miller enjoys working with the volunteer team as she looks for a new paid position
in her field.
“The volunteers take the lead in running the project, which creates a sense of shared purpose and a common goal,” says Bonnie Worth, director of the Bristol Township Senior Center. “A real team and strong, supportive friendships develop.”
Worth, who has turned to the Intergenerational Center for training and support for nearly 20 years, says her center will next try to develop a volunteer team that focuses on programs for veterans.
Through an Intergenerational Lens
While Coming of Age focuses on connecting baby boomers to new opportunities, other programs bring generations together to address critical community needs.
“For more than 31 years, the center has utilized intergenerational strategies to support care-giving families, improve academic achievement, foster immigrant integration and enrich childcare programs,” says Nancy Henkin, who was mentored by Maggie Kuhn, political activist and founder of the intergenerational organization called Gray Panthers.
This intergenerational approach is exemplified by Communities for All Ages, the center’s initiative in 25 cities that helps communities address local issues and
promote the well-being of all age groups. For example, residents in East Jerusalem and Itta Bena, both in Mississippi, are working on obesity prevention through
access to fresh food and health education. In Kalamazoo, Mich., residents from different generations are working to help youth stay in school. And in Phoenix, the program focuses on ways to improve community safety.
According to Henkin, “Increased diversity and competition for scarce resources require that we begin to think and act differently—for the common good. By creating new alliances among organizations, empowering residents of all ages and creating opportunities for interaction across ages and cultures, Communities for All Ages is creating places that are good for growing up and growing older.”
For more information about the programs the Intergenerational Center offers,