Old and Young, Talking Again

On Fridays at 10 a.m., Richard Bement and Zach Ahmed sign on to their weekly video chat. The program that brought them together provides online discussion prompts and suggests arts-related activities, but the two largely ignore all that.

“We just started talking about things that were important to us,” said Mr. Ahmed, 19, a pre-med student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Since the pair met more than a year ago, conversation topics have included: Pink Floyd, in a long exploration led by Mr. Bement, 76, a retired sales manager in Milford Township, Ohio; their religious faiths (the senior conversation partner is Episcopalian; the younger is Muslim); their families; changing gender norms; and poetry, including Mr. Ahmed’s own efforts.

“There’s this fallacy that these two generations can’t communicate,” said Mr. Bement. “I don’t find that to be true.”

“Zach tells me about his organic chemistry class, about being a student in 2024. I afford Zach an opportunity to share with me what it’s like to be him, and vice versa.”

Miami University began Opening Minds Through Art, a program designed to foster intergenerational understanding, in 2007 and introduced an online version in 2022. This semester, about 70 pairs have enrolled in the video program. Another 73 students engage in O.M.A.-sponsored arts activities with people who have dementia at a nursing home, a senior center and an adult day program.

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