Project Unites Teens and Seniors in Fight Against Elder Abuse

December 16, 2010 - News Release

It's not often that you see seniors and teenagers hanging out together, let alone teaming up to create a rap video. But a unique project involving a University of Guelph researcher has brought together these two groups to fight elder abuse.

Under the project, Ontario seniors and local high school students are creating awareness of ageism and elder abuse, said Gillian Joseph, a research associate with U of G’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being.

“It’s estimated that more than 10 per cent of Canadian older adults have experienced abuse, and that number is expected to significantly increase as our population continues to age,” said Joseph.

Funded by the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors program, the project involved 14 high school students and 14 seniors, ranging in age from 14 to 87. Meeting three times over the past year, they developed tool kits, including a rap video, to help teach high school students about respecting seniors.

“There are very few opportunities for seniors and high school students to interact,” said Joseph, who worked on the initiative with Prof. Paulette Padanyi, Marketing and Consumer Studies, and Sheli O’Connor from Trellis Mental Health and Development Services based in Fergus, Ont. “We found these two age groups really hit it off. It was like someone opened a door and now they could see from the other group’s perspective.”

Student and senior participants are currently presenting the tool kits to high school students across Wellington County and to teachers for inclusion in lesson plans.

“Developing the tool kits was an equal partnership where the seniors indicated the messages they wanted to convey and the teenagers determined the most effective way to communicate these messages to their age group,” said Joseph.

Participants created a Facebook page called the "Intergenerational Project — STOP AGEISM," purple bracelets and T-shirts bearing the motto “Age Strong — Respecting Seniors Is Respecting Yourself” and a rap DVD.

Trey Russell, a student at St. James High School in Guelph, wrote and performed the rap about ageism and respecting seniors. Filmed on the University of Guelph campus, the video shows positive interactions between students and seniors, as well as examples of ageism stereotypes.

“Ageism is when we discriminate against someone because of their age rather than looking at their abilities and skills,” said Joseph. “This essentially excludes seniors from making a contribution, and this lack of respect can put them at risk for elder abuse.”

The video has logged more than 2,000 hits on YouTube since its launch in October.

This fall, it was shown at a conference of the Older Adult Centres’ Association of Ontario, at which Sophia Aggelonitis, minister responsible for seniors, requested a copy to post on the government website. The video has also been posted on websites of the International Federation on Aging and the Canadian i2i Intergenerational Society.

“The project has been enthusiastically received," said Joseph. "Plans are now underway to develop a proposal for a new project that will bring seniors and younger age groups together on the same theme in several cities across the province.”

For more information about the tool kit or the project, send email to

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

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