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Bringing seniors back to school – Intergenerational Learning at MGS

Bringing seniors back to school

Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) turns 136 years old this year. During its Founder’s Day celebrations on 25 July 2023, in continuing the pioneering spirit and legacy of its founder Miss Sophia Blackmore in present times, the school will be launching a first-of-its-kind Intergenerational Learning Centre located on a school campus in Singapore.

The Intergenerational Learning (IGL) programme at MGS seeks to foster intergenerational understanding and bonding by bringing students and seniors together to initiate and collaborate on projects, drawing on the interests and strengths of both age profiles. By hosting student- and senior-led IGL activities, a deeper, transformational two-way exchange is fostered between community and school.

Authentic connections across the generations

Epitomising the school’s purpose anchors of MGLearns and MGServes, the IGL programme builds on the school’s previous years of experience in engaging the elderly in the community. Since November 2022, these initiatives include a mix of both student- and senior-initiated activities such as crocheting and guitar workshops, Christmas wreath-making, calligraphy, nature photography, visual art and cooking classes. A “Reminiscence” autobiography project was also initiated to unlock conversations between students and seniors and give voice to the latter’s stories, rich in values and life lessons.

By leveraging on the knowledge and skillsets of both students and seniors, authentic connections across the generations will be made, and the collaborative experiences of learning and serving together will imbue both students and seniors with a sense of agency and ownership that anchors them in purpose.

The IGL programme could be scaled to give other youth the opportunity to be part of a youth-led movement to engage seniors, while enabling students to hone civic literacy skills.

MGS and MWS sign MOU

In addition, MGS is working with agencies and institutions on research in IGL and geragogy, and will be joined by Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) as the anchor social service agency partner for IGL. A memorandum of understanding was signed between MGS and MWS, representing the partnership between organisations under The Methodist Church in Singapore.

“MWS’ heart for the elderly is manifest in the many care services and outreach programmes we have to empower seniors to lead wholly engaged and full lives, whether they be ageing in the community or in residential care facilities. We are delighted to collaborate with a sister Methodist institution and strongly believe the intergenerational engagement will make for a beneficial experience for both the seniors and youth, cultivating in all a greater sense of purpose, mutual understanding and respect,” said Ms Fong Mee Sim, Acting CEO of MWS.

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Principal of MGS, Mrs Valarie Wilson, said, “With IGL, we are reframing the narrative around how our society views youth and seniors interacting together in our shared community space that is less about caregiving and more about authentic relationship building. IGL is about collective meaning-making as the different generations help one another in gaining perspectives, experiences and competencies that enable and empower. We encourage youth in Singapore to take the lead in shaping a new social compact with our seniors for a collective positive future for all in Singapore.”

The MGS Carnival, last held 6 years ago, took place on 1 July 2023 to raise funds for the IGL programme, centre and related facilities. The carnival this year featured elements of intergenerational learning—with students working and interacting with seniors at the various booths—and saw the overwhelming support of the MGS community past and present towards the meaningful cause.

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Seniors and MGS students who have participated in the IGL programme share their experiences and thoughts.

Kristen Magnus
Age: 14
Secondary 2 student, participated in an IGL art workshop with her grandmother

“I had thought that the elderly might be afraid to step out of their comfort zone, but it seems they really enjoyed it! The IGL programmes bring new opportunities and new perspectives for students and the seniors, and allow for more exchange in knowledge, guidance and skills, ultimately benefitting both parties. I believe interaction between the two generations is an integral part of society.”

Auntie Mei Ho
Age: 77
Owner of Heartroom Gallery, taught the students and seniors canvas art painting at MGS

“As seniors, we need to make the effort to have conversations with the younger generation. Listening to one another is important and art is a medium that facilitates human connection. As a teacher of art, people look to you and I am glad to be able to inspire and encourage students to want to do better, and help them gain confidence and self-belief. I hope to add value to others and for everyone to be happy, as there are already so many problems in the world!

Nicole Cheng
Age: 14
Secondary 2 student, participated in an IGL nature photography trail

“Since I am always with my peers, spending time with the seniors felt very refreshing and they gave me a new point of view on the topics that we talked about. I was also able to share my thoughts on mental wellness with the seniors. As Singapore has an ageing population, interacting with seniors is inevitable. Many things can be learnt from the seniors and I think that it is important for students to listen to their stories, lessons and advice as these can bring great value to our lives and future.”

Pastor David Ho
Age: 66
TRAC Board of Seniors Ministry, led IGL nature photography trails

“It helps for seniors not to look at the young as being so different from us. The IGL programme is a good strategy to build bridges to connect our youth and seniors through this process of learning about each other and about themselves. Seniors can feel an acute loss of purpose, especially after retiring if their lives had been anchored solely on work, and it helps to expand their exposure.”

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MGS invites the Methodist community to join the school in Intergenerational Learning, and welcomes those who are keen to learn, collaborate and share their expertise and experience with students and seniors. For enquiries, please contact IGL@mgs.sch.edu.sg.

By the Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) Communications Team. / Photos courtesy of MGS

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