Older Adults Share Life Experiences Through Legacy Conversations
“What’s something you cared about when you were younger, but no longer do?”
That’s a question from 17-year-old Ashley Stone posed to 80-year-old Nadine Eckert during a session of Legacy Conversations, a community collaboration that seeks to connect younger and older generations.
The Flathead Elder Hub, a ministry of Immanuel Lutheran Communities, partnered last week with ImagineIF Libraries, Flathead Valley Community College and the Kalispell Senior Center to host conversations between younger and older generations.
During one of those conversations, Stone and Eckert sat down together.
Eckert said it was a tough question, considering what she cared about as a young person that no longer matters to her at an older age. But, she said she is happy not having a big fancy house and living in town close to amenities.
“At the time I moved in there, I thought I’d move to the country in two years. But, I decided that it was really handy. It was handy for my children to go to school at Flathead and the grade school, Peterson, was right close,” Eckert said.
Recounting a recent road trip she and her family went on to see her granddaughter graduate from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Eckert said she’d like to travel more. Stone asks her where else she’d like to visit, and Eckert goes through a list— eastern Montana, her daughter who lives in Albuquerque and more of America’s small towns.
The conversations were organized after staff from ImagineIF Libraries had a table in the dining room at the Agency on Aging in May where they asked older adults “What questions should younger people be asking you?”
Jenna Justice, Immanuel At Home Program Director, said the result was a plethora of heartfelt and historical questions that were compiled to be asked during a round of conversations, where young people switched between older adults. College students from FVCC asked questions on Nov. 7, while students from Flathead High School spoke with older adults on Nov. 9.
Videos and photographs from the Legacy Conversations are being organized for display and presented during a celebration in January.
AT A different table, 88-year-old Rosainne Taylor and 16-year-old Brayden Rios were discussing her interests throughout her life. She played soccer until she was 50 years old and was a big volleyball player too, remembering a time her finger got crushed and infected after a game.
When Rios asked about any memories she had of Northwest Montana, she spoke about living in Missoula, which she admittedly didn’t like very much.
“I thought that people were unfriendly. But, one day my 1 and 3-year-old boys went walking, and I hollered and hollered for them. The neighbors came and they went looking for them — they did find them. They had gone on over all these bridges and everything. So, I thought you know maybe the people there weren’t unfriendly, maybe I was unfriendly,” Taylor said.
The students also got a chance to speak with Vietnam veteran Leighton Klatt. The 80-year-old served in the Navy, bringing photos of the ships to show to students. He was paired with 16-year-old Lee Inga, who asked to hear more about his time serving the country.
Klatt said the most interesting part about his time in the Navy was all of the places he got to see such as Hawaii, Hong Kong, Okinawa, the Philippines, New Orleans, San Diego and more.
“Some of these places were a culture shock, let me tell you, it was unbelievable. And I think everybody should experience some of these cultural shocks. I saw poor people, really unbelievably poor, and that was an eye-opener for me,” Klatt said.
From life experiences to being part of history, interviews ranged a wide array of topics. ImagineIF Adult Programming Librarian and Bigfork branch manager Deidre McMullin said some of the other questions they received in May included how to throw a good party and financial advice.
For the library, the program represents how staff want to engage with the community.
“Even though most of our programming does take place in the library, we want to serve everyone in our community — that's our task, our role,” McMullin said. “So, that means sometimes going out of the library and doing outreach with people who aren't necessarily coming in every day and giving them some of those transformational experiences that we try to bring inside the library.”
Justice said it was an intergenerational experience for all involved.
“I've had older adults who said, ‘Thank you for the opportunity to talk to young folks.’ And I've had young folks who said, ‘Please invite me back because I love doing this sort of thing.’ So, that's exactly what this is about,” Justice said.
Before the group disbanded, Justice told them it is unnecessary to wait for an older person to approach them or for a young person to ask a question, that this type of conversation can happen anytime.
“We all have a story to tell,” Justice said.
The Tell Me a Story: Legacy Conversations were videoed by ImagineIF staff and photographed by Picture Montana. Photos will hang at ImagineIF Libraries and videos will be posted on social media.
A celebration of the Legacy Conversations will take place Thursday, Jan. 18 at the Auditorium at Buffalo Hill Terrace beginning at 2 p.m. It will include food, mocktails, a photo booth, viewing of both the videos and the photos and more Legacy Conversations.
To learn more about the Flathead Elder Hub, visit www.facebook.com/FlatheadEH.
Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing email@example.com.