Students and local seniors bridge age gap in Wayland

Exchange stories through “Sages and Seekers” program


Credit: Ed DeHoratius

A “Sage” speaks with “Seeker” Jake Sachs. Connect’s “Sages and Seekers” program aims to bring together students and local seniors through stories and interaction. “[The students] are starting to think of themselves as part of something bigger,” Connect tri-leader Ed DeHoratius said.

Joanna Barrow and CJ Brown

A new program at WHS called “Sages and Seekers” brings together local seniors, or “Sages,” and high school students, or “Seekers.” The program is intended to help bridge today’s generation with longtime residents. By fostering discussion and sharing experiences, the students and seniors can discover how much they have in common.

“The program highlights that we’re very different but also very similar,” Connect teacher Ed DeHoratius said. “The Sages have gone through many of the same things [as the Seekers].”

The program is offered through the Connect course, an honors-level combined history and English class that focuses on project-based learning. The program emphasizes the development of skills that are not typically taught in classrooms, such as social and communication skills. Competence in these areas helps prepare for success beyond high school.

“We wanted the students working on communication skills,” DeHoratius said. “We practice it in class. But what better way to put that to the test than with the Sages? We can pretty much guarantee that [the Seekers are] going to learn a lot.”

Many other schools in the area have also participated in the Sages and Seekers program, including The Rivers School, Concord Academy, Weston High School and Natick High School. A main objective of the partnership is to promote positive relationships and to eliminate barriers between the generations.

“The program’s mission is to develop empathy and diminish ageism while [also] meeting the universal and compelling needs of both teens and elders,” senior Seeker Jack Flagg said.

Sages and Seekers attempts to reverse today’s trend of decreased face-to-face social contact. While many teens today prefer online means of communication to in-person conversation, the program requires students to interact without technology.

“In this era of depersonalization and lack of personal contact, [Sages and Seekers] encourages not only the conduct itself but also the ability to make that contact to develop a relationship,” DeHoratius said.

The class designs activities promoting discussion that enables the Sages and Seekers to get to know each other. The course runs for eight weeks with one 80-minute session per week.

“We did speed dating,” senior Seeker Andy Brogan said. “So we got to talk to different people and learn about different experiences.”

After speed dating, each Sage is matched with a Seeker, with whom they spend the remaining sessions of the program. Toward the end of the course, students write a tribute to their Sage. The tributes are read aloud to the group as part of the last session.

“[The students] are starting to think outside [of] themselves and starting to think of themselves as part of something bigger,” DeHoratius said.