While researching different clubs on campus to interview for The Phoenix, I came across Age-Link SUO, which is a club with a mission to connect students with people of all different ages. This club piqued my interest because it made me think of my grandfather, Walter Martin. He grew up on our family farm in Saskatchewan in the 1930s and farmed for most of his life until he retired, and my father took over the farm. He enrolled in a Bachelor of Science honours program in land use and environmental studies at the University of Saskatchewan and convocated in 2012 at the age of 82. I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for a man who graduated from a one-room schoolhouse in rural Saskatchewan in the 1940s to navigate university life in the 2010s. I know that I found starting university at 17 terrifying, let alone in my 80s. I think Age-Link is such a positive group on campus not just for students, but for seniors who may be looking for connections as well.

I spoke with Anitej Sharma, Sashank Patri, Jney Puri, and Lydia Lee from the Age-Link team to get to know more about the club. The Age-Link Society is a British Columbia-wide non-profit organization, and the UBC Okanagan chapter was founded in 2016. The main goal of the club is to bridge the age gap between young students and members of older generations and boost community engagement at UBCO. The club started off this year with just three students who became interested in Age-Link by attending their past galas and reaching out to their friends to grow the team.

The club puts on two galas each semester. These larger events have been very popular, garnering crowds of over 100 participants. During these galas, groups of five to six students are usually paired with two seniors. Time is given for people to chat and get to know each other before a larger group activity to facilitate bonding and teamwork across age groups, followed by dinner. The team also makes a point of encouraging people to try new cuisines, featuring food from different cultures at each event. 

Smaller gatherings are typically held on weekends on a biweekly basis when possible and are held in the junior and senior collegiums at UBC Okanagan. Often, groups of around 20 people get together in a more casual setting, such as during their Coffee and Connections event. During Coffee and Connections, participants meet each other over coffee and snacks, participate in arts and crafts projects, and play board games together. One of the team’s goals this year was to collaborate with different clubs on campus, which was accomplished by partnering with many of the dance clubs on campus, music clubs like the Jazz Club, and the Tea Club for some of their smaller events. 

Members of the team spoke about their experiences attending Age-Link galas before joining the club, stating how they find it rewarding to connect with people of older generations. In addition, Sharma, Patri, Dash, and Lee explained how interesting it is to see a different perspective on life and its struggles, as well as the shared experiences which span the age gap. Some of the Age-Link club members I interviewed also spoke about how, as international students, being so far away from home means that some of them haven’t seen their grandparents and other family members in years, so Age-Link provides an opportunity to create a family-like connection so far away from home. Furthermore, a few students who participated in Age-Link events created a strong bond with their older peers, so much so that they began planning to meet with each other outside of scheduled club events. There truly is so much value in making these connections; there is so much to learn from others who have had decades more life experiences than you. 

On Friday, March 15, Age-Link will hold their final gala for this year, called “Sunshine and Petals: A Spring-Fling Gala,” from 5–8 p.m. in University Centre (UNC) 200. The event has a semi-formal dress code and will provide an evening of food, mocktails, and entertainment. The “Spring-lympics” will take place at this gala for a little bit of friendly competition and excitement. 

For any further questions about these events or to learn how to get involved with the club, feel free to contact the Age-Link Club at agelinksuo@gmail.com and find them on Instagram at @agelinksuo