Here’s a sweet, uplifting video that’s guaranteed to brighten your day. It features some Chicago-area seniors and young Brazilian students of English, and the long-distance friendships kindled by learning a language.
CNA, a Brazilian language school that emphasizes online learning, matches up its young students with older adults in U.S. senior residences in a program called Speaking Exchange. Watching the video, you can see how eagerly the residents of Windsor Park Retirement Community outside Chicago await their turns to talk. When the student is ready for a video chat, he or she fires up the computer program and chooses a resident from a list of those available. The two begin a conversation with questions suggested by the school; after that, they can talk about anything they’d like.
The mentors clearly relish talking with kids who fall easily into the role of surrogate grandchildren. One man shows a treasured black-and-white photo of himself and his wife to his young student. “You were good looking, and you’re still good looking,” the boy says to him. Another tutor sings to her charge (“Good morning, dear Julia”), while a third gently corrects her pupil’s English: “Instead of saying he has 23 years, you could say, he is 23 years old.”
Despite the fact that it’s really just a commercial for the Speaking Exchange service, the video is finding a big audience, with more than
300,000 750,000 views since May 7. And the school seems to be living up to its advertising slogan: “More than better students. Better people.”
AARP’s Mentor Up program also matches young and old. Here, though, young people are the teachers, showing their elders the ins, outs and how-to’s of social media and technology. The best part? As with Speaking Exchange, the benefits flow both ways.
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