How Senior Citizens and Retirement Communities Benefit from Small-Group Exploratory Discussions

May 30, 2024

Lena Frumin, an advocate for the well-being of seniors in Washington, D.C., knew all too well the silent struggle of loneliness plaguing many older adults. Having spent time working at Iona Senior Services, she was determined to combat social isolation and enrich lives. Lena knew if she could bring seniors together to connect over shared interests and concerns, these exploratory discussions would help combat the loneliness she was witnessing.

Lena transformed libraries and community centers into vibrant hubs by partnering with the Interactivity Foundation. The Interactivity Foundation team curated meaningful discussions ranging from stories about life in a city to Indian dance performances. Larger groups were carefully divided, allowing for intimate conversations. Meals were shared, laughter filled the air, and thought-provoking discussions took place.

Paul Eisenhaur, a resident leader within the Leisure World of Maryland community, discovered the power of these discussions firsthand. “When you truly listen,” Paul emphasized, “judgments fade, replaced by understanding.” Learning to listen actively and withhold judgment became invaluable in a world rife with political division. Inspired by an Interactivity Foundation event on immigration, he formed the Diversity Relations Council within his community. He envisioned a space for seniors to delve into emerging topics, fostering understanding and connection. Unlike the DC gatherings, Paul brought discussions online, making them accessible to everyone, regardless of mobility limitations.

The discussions thrived, drawing hundreds of seniors over three years. “People felt heard and were so encouraged that they were allowed to share their ideas,” Lena said of these intimate exchanges. But 2020 brought a global shift. As the pandemic forced isolation, the online discussions co-hosted by Interactivity Foundation, Iona, and the Diversity Relations Council became a lifeline for those feeling alone. These virtual spaces and discussions transcended the solitary months, tackling diverse themes—from welcoming newcomers to the future of democracy.

Linda, a participant in the Leisure World discussions, described how the experience honed her listening skills. “I learned patience and to find something positive in another’s viewpoint,” she shared. This newfound ability to engage thoughtfully, even with differing opinions, underscored the profound impact of the discussions.

Through their collaborative efforts, Lena and Paul didn’t just host discussions; they cultivated a culture of connection and active engagement. Their efforts left a lasting legacy, reminding us all that fostering conversations and truly listening can enrich lives in profound ways.

Interested in working with us to bring better discussions to your classroom, community or workplace?

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