Ask any athlete if they’ve enjoyed their experience on the bench and you’ll get the same answer across the board, “No”. Getting “benched” means you have to sit out from the game and watch from the bench. On my last “Alli Day” I got benched, but I did it to myself, and in this context it was an honor! I had the privilege of being asked to participate in the “elder bench” program put on by Schlegel Villages for Seniors month and in this case getting benched meant I got to spend time with one of the senior residents at University Gates and receive wisdom, advice and tell jokes with a wonderful man named Don.
Within 2 minutes on the bench, Don had already told me all the wonderful things about his wife and shared how excited he was to see her that afternoon. He then went on to tell me about his life and the things he was grateful for, things he learned, things he experienced and things he wanted to pass on to me. He told me “don’t sweat the small stuff, that’s the most important thing you can do in life”.
The Elder Bench project launched last year across Ontario at various Schlegel branded retirement homes in hopes to bridge the gap between the youth and senior populations. It was created to provide a place where all ages could come together and learn from each other. Having worked with seniors for the past 10 years I naturally fell in love with this project right away and had to spread the word about it. In the month of June for seniors month the bench travelled to schools, local parks, city hall, market places and common area’s where people could come chat with a senior. Don (quite the talker) said he loved getting to meet new people and showed so much genuine interest in my life. He told me how much he looked forward to sitting on the bench to talk to new people and his face lit up when he was talking about it. I later received a tour from Don, of the facility and he filled me in on the upcoming plans for the building. He knew everything. How long the construction would take, what each room’s purpose was, who got their hair done on Fridays, what was for dinner two Monday’s from now, and how to make me laugh. I can’t tell you what a simple half hour chat did for me.
I think this project is aimed at seniors to help them get exposed to the outside world while living in a confined space, but I think this project did more for me than it did for Don. Taking part in the Elder Bench program allowed me to create a space of no interruptions or distractions and to focus on the person in front of me. A person who has lived his whole life and was willing to share insight and advice for mine. I was able to set our many differences of technology, our 54 year old age gap and the hustle and bustle of life in 2018 aside and find common ground.
I encourage you to not only participate in this program and find a bench near you but also to tell your family and friends about this. Its a win-win for both parties involved. You both benefit. As the world is constantly changing I urge you to take a step back and visit a piece of the past and history with these people that are so willing to share and get to know you!
Being in the game is fun, it’s exciting and you’re in the heart of the action, but when you’re on the bench you get a different perspective. From the bench you get to watch the game, cheer on your team mates and listen and learn from the coach.
Please share with me any stories and experiences you have from the bench, I’d love to hear them!
Pictured is my sister and I with our new friend Don