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Intergenerational and intercultural happenings at the Jenks Center

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The Jenks Center continues to be a locus of activity, with recent visitor levels rivaling those before 2020.  With increased attendance, additional programs and service are offered to seniors and their friends. This includes opportunities for building community through intergenerational and intercultural activities.

The 2020 Census reveals that Winchester continues to witness an increase of residents. This includes a growing number of older residents as well as Mandarin speaking families (and other families where English is not the first language). This census data confirms the findings of the Town’s community needs assessment in 2017 to 2018, which the Jenks Center (the Council on Aging, in particular) supported. Data from the assessment provided very specific information of the needs and wishes of Winchester’s older adults as well as documentation of the growing Mandarin speaking population that includes older adults.

The COA responded to the data of the assessment by successfully seeking funding from the Cummings Foundation to improve cultural competency at the Jenks through the development of intergenerational programs for the Jenks and the entire community of Winchester. In addition, funding was sought for the offering of ESL/American Citizenship classes for older Mandarin speaking adults through the aid of The Winchester School of Chinese Culture.  The award of this funding continues to provide Winchester with many rewards and benefits, thanks to the Cummings Foundation’s generosity.

This September, The Winchester School of Chinese Culture began its fourth year of ESL/American Citizen classes including one held at the Jenks and the other classes virtually serving up to 75 seniors. Despite the impact of Covid-19, WSCC has assisted the Jenks with a number of initiatives that benefit all of the Town’s seniors.  Prior to Covid, WSCC provided many entertaining and educational activities at the Jenks including cooking classes, celebrations of Chinese New Year and more. 

However, since reopening to the public last year, the Jenks has become a hub of many cross-cultural activities.  Ping-pong tables and pickleball have drawn a significant crowd many days a week.  Formal Chinese dancing with music along with Mahjong and cards also occur throughout the week.

An excellent example of a specific activity serving multicultural interests was this September’s weekly Calligraphy Art classes with Instructor, Jianwu Chen. He describes calligraphy as “an art that nurtures your spirit, cultivates your heart and vision, nurtures the concept of aesthetics and diligence.”  This beginner Chinese calligraphy class provided an opportunity for seniors of all backgrounds to learn something creative and new, in a warm and friendly environment.  Wei Han, a class participant and member of the COA’s Board of Advisors, commented, “We have a great time in this class.  Everyone loves writing with brushes and moving their fingers and hand in a different way.  When we learned a two-stroke word, Ren, meaning people or a person, I reminded my classmates to think about ‘wax-on and wax-off’ when writing the character!”

Also this year, Winchester High School’s Mandarin Chinese classes (35 students) visited the Jenks. They met and talked to Chinese seniors, all enjoying the opportunity to practice conversation.   The interaction between the adults learning English and the students learning Chinese was both entertaining and welcome!  After practicing conversations in Chinese, they played ping-pong and kicked shuttlecock (Jianzi) together.  

A planned activity for November includes a bilingual guided group tour to Boston College Museum’s Himalayan Art Exhibitions on Wed. 11/8. The docent at the museum speaks both English and Mandarin. See link for additional information. https://mcmullenmuseum.bc.edu/exhibitions/himalayan/    

The Jenks is very proud of its ability to welcome all of its neighbors and will continue its efforts to develop and implement additional relevant and exciting programs. Learn more about all that the Jenks offers at www.jenkscenter.org!

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