Legal looking to bridge gap between seniors and youth

By Stephen Dafoe

Legal – We’ve all seen it and many of us have done it. A group of teenagers come walking down the street towards us and we cross the road to avoid their approach. While the manoeuvre may avoid that particular interaction, it actually helps widen the gap between youth and those of us who are not so youthful any longer. And that’s not merely an anecdotal observation. A recent CORE Lyncs survey showed that only 22 per cent of young people in Morinville and Legal felt their communities valued them.

But the aversion to age works both ways and many young people consider older people, particularly seniors, to be dull, boring and intolerant of the ways of youth.

Legal may just change some of those stereotypes by uniting the town’s seniors with its youth by letting the young people use a little of the seniors’ turf.

Legal Family and Community Support Services Coordinator Ruthann Weeks said the ball began rolling last October when the Legal Community Services Board sent a letter of support and a request to the Club 60 Roses executive, asking them to open a youth centre in the basement of their facility. Ten months later, the two groups are nearing the final stages of an agreement to do just that.

Weeks said she is pleased that the youth centre is near to reality as she believes it will benefit both youth and seniors in the community, something her department has a vested interest in.

“Looking at preventative social outcomes, it promotes leadership in youth; it promotes socialization of youth; it promotes youth volunteerism in the community; it goes a long ways towards bridging the gap between seniors and youth in the community,” Weeks said, adding that connecting youth with seniors provides an element of mentoring.

Weeks said the Legal Youth Committee met this past Wednesday night, devoting part of their meeting to a discussion of just what the finished centre would look like.

“The kids and parents went over and toured the facility, and they were all dreaming, scratching their heads, imagining what it could look like,” she said, adding that the area being considered for the centre is large enough to accommodate couches and entertainment equipment, as well as a pool table or ping pong table.

But although it looks like Club 60 Roses will be offering the area to Legal’s youth, it will remain empty unless the community comes forward to help fill it with all the things the centre will need.

“We’d like to solicit local businesses and the community in general for good used items or donations that the youth could use,” Weeks said, adding that the centre could use some tables and chairs, a TV set, stereo and other recreational items, as well as books and board games. “We’re starting from scratch.”

In addition to donations of goods and money, Weeks is hoping the community will be able to lend the project their time and support.

“It won’t run without parental support,” she said. “There’s no money to hire a supervisor. So it’s going to take dedicated parent volunteers to support that and make that happen.”

Given that the town’s seniors are already behind the idea, Weeks doesn’t anticipate any trouble finding volunteers.

“I’m really quite proud of our seniors for their open mindedness in this venture” she said. “They’ve extended an open invitation for youth to join them on their Tuesday night craft nights and things like that. The youth have expressed interest in volunteering at the seniors’ monthly pancake breakfast that they put on.”

Both Club 60 Roses and the Legal Youth committee are scheduled to hold meetings next month, after which it is hoped that the third and final draft of the agreement will be approved, allowing the youth centre to begin in October.

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