The SAY Project Connects Generations
By Claudia Mosby
Say YesOctober 2014
By Claudia Mosby
Photos: Betsy Erickson
No one wakes up one day suddenly a senior. It takes staying power and tenacity to earn the title and its prize wisdom, the kind of wisdom that Someone Asked You (SAY) Project founder Michele Queiser believes will benefit younger generations.
“Our elders are passing and with them so are the answers to what is ailing some of our youth,” Queiser says. “These folks are our historians and they can show the younger generation that everything old is new again.”
After spending two decades as an activity director at retirement communities throughout Northern California, Queiser found herself at a crossroads after a work-related injury. “I accepted that I could no longer facilitate activities,” she says, “but I needed to continue with the communication aspect of what I used to do. I knew I could bring the generations together for learning and enrichment.”
Thus was born the SAY Project, which seeks to preserve the life lessons, stories and historical remembrances of the older generation. Set topics include wisdom, work, war and wedding as well as the elder experience and perspective on historical events.
Interviews are conducted within participating retirement communities mostly by those who are school- or college-aged, but Queiser plans to broaden the scope to include multi-generational families and members of the general community. She is quick to add, “I have had companies that have sent older volunteers and it has been equally good.”
Interviewers receive a toolkit that includes a recorder with memory card, iPad tablet for written transcription and a packet with step-by-step interview instructions and thoughtprovoking suggested questions. The SAY project provides the needed coaching.
“We see so many young people who do not know how to stay married getting divorced or who have difficulty parenting,” says Queiser. “The seniors offer simple, practical wisdom in these areas.” Each participant receives a free CD of the recorded interview and Queiser is working to get the SAY archive included in the Library of Congress.
A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization inspired in part by StoryCorps, SAY hosts several ongoing events designed to foster intergenerational interaction in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere. At Legacy Lunches, with their “history comes to life” theme, younger participants meet with a panel of elders who share what it was like to experience a historical event (such as Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President Kennedy).
“It helps those who are younger connect the dots between what they see on a movie or television screen or read in a book and the human emotion of what it was like to go through that experience,” says Queiser.
Life Lunches are more intimate, offering an opportunity for personal conversation. “We go to a senior center or retirement community, set up a lunch and allow the younger folks to get to know the older folks one-on-one,” Queiser says. “It’s a great community service project for the schools because it allows students to interview someone unknown to them and practice their communication skills.”
This month, the SAY Project will participate in the annual Make A Difference Day, a “national day of doing good.” Although the national event is scheduled annually for the fourth Saturday of October, Queiser says the SAY Project provides an opportunity for intergenerational community service and interviews any day of the year. “We would like to partner with any retirement community, church, school, or corporation,” she adds.
For those wanting to make a beginning, either as interviewer or subject, The SAY Project is committed to a monthly Redding Public Libraries project.
“There are theories that seniors love to play bingo every day or that they live in the past,” adds Queiser. “Not true. They want to be involved. My goal is to do something today so we go home with a sense of purpose.”
Find the Wedding Wisdom CD
(530) 348-2259 • www.thesayproject.org