Shopping for seniors: Brookline program creates bond between seniors & students

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Grocery shopping usually just one more errand to add to the list. But for the elderly, it can be a daunting task.

That’s why some high school students in Brookline are providing shopping help – while learning an important lesson.

For Yana Lazarova-Weng and Charlotta Cahill, their visit to Star Market on Beacon Street quickly turns into a scavenger hunt. As they look for tea, milk, and Nutella – they’re diligently filling a shopping list for 94-year-old Marcella Katz.

These high school juniors are part of the Brookline SHOP program. It links seniors who have trouble getting out with students working on community service.

Cahill thought it was a good idea to get involved when she first heard about it. “It was just a different thing to do, and I feel like when I am old, I would want people to shop for me.”

Katz couldn’t be more grateful for the help. She also cherishes socializing with a younger generation. “I learn about their lives, they learn about mine. I think they are interested that there is an older person who is capable.”

Lazarova-Weng believes misconceptions can go both ways and that this program proves teenagers do care about the world about them. “I think it just shows that many people might think that we are super invested in our phones and social media, but deep down, we do have an interest in things other than that.”

Patricia Burns, who runs the program out of the Brookline Senior Center, believes this is a great life lesson for the teens. She said the bonds created through the act of grocery shopping can last long after a student graduates, citing the case of a young man who shopped for the same women for four years.

“She went into the nursing home so she didn't need grocery shopping anymore, and so he went and visited her in the nursing home every week instead,” Burns said.

That’s the program’s legacy – building a bridge from one generation to the next.

“It’s really fun to be able to talk to Marcella about things that we are learning in school,” said Cahill. “She is like, I lived through that. And we just hear stories from the text books, and Marcella tells us what it was really like.”

The Brookline Senior Center runs other programs to bring people of different ages together, including a popular one in which teens show seniors how to use a smartphone.

For more information on Brookline SHOP, contact Patricia Burns.

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