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Q&A highlights not much has changed across generations

Following a skype conversation with residents at Feros Village Byron Bay, Davidson High Sydney Year Nine school students discovered sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll are the topics of conversation for teenagers regardless of when you were born, seniors aren't ‘old, frail and sick', and although fashions change, it can still be fickle.
Feros seniors connect with students using the Wheel.I.Am robot
Feros seniors connect with students using the Wheel.I.Am robot

Helping increase intergenerational connections, eight seniors (average age 93) participated in the prototype program to connect students to seniors using technology. The candid Q&A covered topics like sex-before-marriage, underage drinking (legal age was 21), dating, and how different things were ‘back then’.

The teenagers were surprised to learn that not that much has changed about first date nerves. The big difference was that plenty of local activities, including ice skating and local dances (as many as six nights a week) have been replaced by technology as a way of meeting someone.

91 year old Barrie’s hot tip for asking a person out was “Don’t be afraid, be bold!”

Three quarters of a century ago alcohol and cigarettes were still secretly consumed by teenagers – “so not much has changed there,” smiled one of the residents. “However drugs weren’t as plentiful and we didn’t need to worry about all this pressure that you have on you these days. We enjoyed life with less.

“We were still slaves to fashion but it wasn’t constantly changing, it was achievable. Clothes were well-made and the fashion lasted for years – one jumper and one skirt was all that was needed. We had to have the right hat though!”

However the really noticeable difference between the generations was the age that participants left school. Of the seniors in the room, most had left school by age 14 to work – younger than the 15-16 year old year students involved in the live-cross.

Davidson High Personal Development, Health and Physical Education teacher Jen Wright says before the Q&A the students assumed the seniors would be ‘old, frail and sick’, and they were surprised to see and hear such vitality and learn that in many ways nothing has changed across the generations.

Comments from students include: ‘that was sooo awesome’, ‘Fred is such a cool dude’, ‘I could listen to Nina all day’ and ‘I want to be Jilli when I’m older’.

“I wanted to teach the students to use technology in a positive way, and I really appreciate the wisdom of older generations, so it made sense to combine the two. I had seen Feros Care on Sunrise last year and knew they were leaders in using technology to connect their residents to the community so I wanted to welcome them into the school.

“It’s definitely something we’ll do again – we just need to iron out a few technology glitches,” says Ms Wright.

97 year old Emily says “I didn’t mind telling my story – it’s so different to today, we never swore (except in the paddock). I hope the students learnt something they would never have heard anywhere else. I thought that not all is lost between the generations if they asked us questions. It was great because it made us all think about our childhoods and youth,” she adds.

Seniors and students connected virtually using Feros Care's “telepresence robot” called Wheel.I.Am. Wheel.I.Am is essentially an iPad mounted on a miniature Segway base, and can be remotely controlled from anywhere in the world over the internet and using a secure connection. It uses a front facing camera with 360 degree mobility and receives real-time video and audio.

Perhaps another thing students didn’t expect was to hear a mobile phone ring in what was effectively class time – and for it be answered by a senior!

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