Andrea Fonte Weaver of Sudbury fondly recalls growing up in a tight-knit neighborhood with her maternal grandparents across the street and summers spent with her paternal grandparents in Italy.
“We had Sunday dinner with three generations,” she said. “I thought that’s the way all families were. Flash forward to college, when I realized how unique it was to grow up in a culture that treasures everybody, especially the young and very old.”
After graduating from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in 1988, Weaver earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a gerontology certificate from Holy Cross and a master’s degree in intergenerational studies from Wheelock College. She began teaching her self-designed “Bridges” curriculum, uniting students and seniors for collaborative learning and shared experiences, in Sudbury in 1991. Nine years later, the program was implemented district-wide within the Sudbury public schools.
Incorporated as Bridges Together in April 2012, the nonprofit organization of which Weaver is executive director as well as founder now offers its school curriculum in 30 communities in Massachusetts, Michigan, and California. Professional development opportunities are provided nationwide.
“By empowering teachers, librarians, and staff in senior housing and senior centers, we give them the tools to enrich the lives of children, older adults, families, and organizations,” she said. “Everyone is richer for it.”
This is critical, Weaver notes, because interactions between children and seniors are no longer routine — even within many American families — which leads to isolation and loss on both sides. Intergenerational programs are additionally important, because a positive attitude toward aging can help individuals enjoy longer, more active lives.
“My hope is for Bridges Together to continue to be recognized as a leader in intergenerational programming,” Weaver said, “and for the average person to understand not only what it means, but how they can actively create, foster, and nurture intergenerational relationships in their own lives.”
On Sunday, April 3, Bridges Together will host the Spring into Summer fund-raiser at 11:30 a.m. at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, featuring brunch, silent and live auctions, music, and a ceremony honoring Wheelock College professor emeritus Edgar Klugman of Newton. Tickets cost $50.
For more information, call 978-793-9650 or visit bridgestogether.org.