The mosaic furniture in the McCormick Place Public Art Collection is the result of an innovative intergenerational creative collaboration. The artists include residents of Mather Place, a senior living residence in Wilmette, Illinois, for those 62 and better; members of Scout Troop 2; and local high school student volunteers.
The furniture design is intended to play with ideas about aging, while imagery of the Illinois Prairie and beautiful questions mosaiced onto the table invite conversation. While creating the installation, the youth and older adult artists demonstrated the beauty of intergenerational relationships.
Intergenerational conversation can change people’s perceptions of aging and break down stereotypes. It can also help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in people of all ages.
For youth, engaging in conversation with older adults can help develop empathy, improve social skills, and enhance personal insight.
For older adults, intergenerational connection enhances emotional health and well-being, increases feelings of self-worth and confidence, and strengthens feelings of autonomy.
Interested in having more intergenerational conversations in your life? Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Consider who in your life you might like to talk to. Which person or people do you know who represent a different age group from your own?
- Remember that a meaningful conversation can occur in five minutes or two hours! No time is too short for connection.
- Ask open-ended questions, which are questions that can’t just be answered with yes, no, or one-word responses.
- Be an intentional listener. Show you care about what they are seeing by making eye contact, nodding or responding with body language, and giving your partner time to answer.
- Be curious! Ask follow-up questions and set aside preconceived notions.
Here are some questions you can use as conversation starters:
- Tell me a funny story.
- Who do you love?
- What’s your favorite pizza topping?
- What was your favorite toy as a child?
- Do you have a special song?
- What makes a place feel like home?
- What’s your favorite quote?
- What is beautiful about the world?
- Tell me about a holiday tradition.
- What brings you joy?
- What is your favorite thing about being human?
- What gets better with age?
- What would you tell your younger self?
- What’s your favorite season?
- What is a memory you treasure?
- What are you most proud of?
Visitors are encouraged to sit down together and use the questions to spark connections with people of other ages. We hope this collection of public art inspires intergenerational conversations for years to come.
“[Through this project] I learned the importance of intergenerational interaction. It really showed me how valuable that can be. I enjoyed hearing about the residents’ life experiences and their stories, and the connections that I made,” said Ruby P., high school volunteer.
“I think you get a different perspective on things when you talk to younger people and I always enjoy that,” said Judy B., a resident of Mather Place.
The intergenerational group of artists who worked on the furniture include the following: