June 25, 2018


Seniors interview seniors to shine light on happiness

March 27, 2017


What does it take to be happy in life? Seniors in Rebecca Pless’s University in the High School English class reached out to Duanesburg’s retired Baby Boomers to find out.

On a late January morning, generous members of the YMCA skipped some of their regular fitness classes to participate in live interviews. The community outreach assignment was the latest part of a communications skill-building unit, which also had students speaking with career professionals and mentoring their 7th-grade schoolmates.

Armed with questions informed by study of Sigmund Freud’s “Civilization and Its Discontents” and the Dalai Lama’s “Art of Happiness,” 30 high school seniors found that 14 senior citizens from their community had life lessons to share and stereotypes to smash.

“Throughout the interview, I could not get over how wholly optimistic Bill seemed to be during a time marked by political turmoil and social unrest,” said Shane Barnes. “[Bill said to] enjoy life and all its splendor, for there isn’t enough time to be miserable.”

“The Baby Boomer generation is one that all of us know quite well,” said classmate Bridget Van Valen. “But, one thing that is not taught in our history books is how this post-war, ‘me’ generation defines happiness, even though it should. During an interview with [Bill], we received a firsthand description: being stress-free and enjoying life.”

Cassidy Schaeffer interviewed Sandra, whom she called “An adventurous, daring, musically talented lady who loves to live the way she desires. “Sandra said no experience should be wasted and to trust your abilities. She was and still is fearless and young.”

By interviewing local senior citizen Mr. K., Abby White learned “You need three things to be happy. Love your job, like where you live and love whomever you end up with. This last point can include your spouse, your friends, your boss or even the members of your family you decide to spend time with. Happiness, he says, needs to be found in the long term and the little things.”Seniors interview seniors to shine light on happiness

“The point is: Don’t live your life the way someone else wants you to,” Schaeffer learned from her interview assignment. “Sandra said, ‘Commit to working hard for everything that is important to you. So many dreams are lost because we give up or reduce the effort when faced with difficulty and failure.’ Don’t change who you are to make somebody else happy.”

Pless said, “Students met members of the Duanesburg-area community who have revolutionized the world they’ve lived in. Some students were left literally speechless, and others said that they still think about the interview experience nearly a month later.

“It was an opportunity to learn from the world around them,” she continued. “We often forget that years of life experience and wisdom lie just outside our back door. My students and I are extremely grateful to John Barr at the YMCA and the senior volunteers who took the time to open their minds and their hearts to those who will follow in their footsteps.”

Cassidy Schaeffer, left, and Amy Hayden
 interviewed the "still fearless and young"
Sandra, center

Seniors interview seniors to shine light on happiness 

Bill, left in the photo above, speaks of happiness and fully enjoying
one's life with Bridget Van Valen and Shane Barnes