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A Meaningful Bruin Bridge: Dialogue Society & Senior Scholars

By: Alara Aygen, Zenaz Sarkari, and Misa Belser

The following article was adapted from our published piece in the UCLA Longevity Center Fall/Winter 2020 Newsletter.

Guided by the belief that there is always a better version of oneself, Dialogue Society aims to enrich the lives of communities and moves forward by the motto: “Dialogue. Discover. Develop.” During the past year we have collaborated with various senior centers in Los Angeles. We have helped our seniors with technological difficulties, created social hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in partnership with the UCLA Senior Scholars Program, we launched and participated in the Mentor Match program. 

The Mentor Match Program connected undergraduate students of Dialogue Society with senior scholars who shared similar areas of interest. The program invited our esteemed scholars to share their experiences and wisdom with our eager students as their mentors to pave the way for fruitful intergenerational connections. In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, all meetings were conducted via the Zoom platform.

We believe this program was meaningful for both the students and the scholars. Every matched mentor and student pair was able to bond through conversations that allowed us to understand the backgrounds and perspectives that we all bring to the table. Common discussion topics included career fields, individual hobbies, passions and pastimes.

Dialogue Society also hosted a series of weekly group meetings where Senior Scholars and UCLA undergraduate students were able to converse about their courses — everything from history to literature and political science. Below are testimonials about the wonderful journey of four of our members, Alara, Zenaz, Danika and Kevin. 

  “All these different events created a meaningful bridge between us and our community. Having these purposeful dialogues with our seniors helped me to grow as a person as I discovered new layers of my personality. What I liked the most about our sessions was, both parties could learn new things from each other. As we helped them out with modern technology, they broadened our perspectives with their experiences. This was especially accurate for the Mentor Match program, where we had the chance to talk about our shared interests, cultures, and field of studies. This enriched my knowledge about the aforementioned topics greatly. I feel like this program positively changed my life with its warm atmosphere, fulfilling goals and invaluable experiences.” – Alara

“Personally, I chose to be in the Mentor Match program because I wanted to discover new perspectives and thoughts through conversations. I was able to connect with my mentor through discussions about immigration, our shared passion for social justice, and even on the future of Marvel movies. Since we were both taking classes during this program, we were able to exchange ideas and knowledge, creating a space for meaningful dialogue. Dialogue Society’s program allowed me to gain knowledge from my mentor even though we did not necessarily have the same career passions. It was all about reaching out of your comfort zone! Mentor Match was also a chance for me to explore other interests and share my life experiences with my mentor. The experience has been so wonderful as I have truly taken the lessons that I have learned and will hopefully be able to apply them to my life as I continue to pursue my passions.” – Zenaz

“I really loved my experience with the Mentor Match program. It was fascinating being able to talk to someone older than me with countless insights on the world that only comes with experience. Throughout my conversations with Jason, my mentor, I was able to learn a lot about real estate, blockchain, and got valuable insight into the field of computer science. Overall, I was able to gain understanding about various things that I was interested in, but normally wouldn’t have learned about until I was much older. At the end of the day, the program was very rewarding as it was great to make a new connection and learn while doing so.” – Kevin

“I enjoyed participating in this program as I was able to connect to a lovely senior scholar and learn about her life experiences while bonding over our common interests. During a difficult time with COVID, I was glad to take part in our social activities and discussions. The program was meaningful to me and to my mentor as we talked about everything from her garden to global health.” – Danika

We intend to continue developing our program, our goals and, as a result, ourselves to better connect with our community. As we work towards our new goal, in Fall 2020, we began holding discussion-based sessions. Our first session was entitled “The Art of Connecting,” where we explored the importance of social connection. As our socials will continue into future quarters, we hope to have many enjoyable, interesting and informative sessions with our senior participants. To learn more about our activities please follow our Instagram @dialogue_soc. We look forward to connecting with you.