ABOUT

About

DEVELOPING EMPATHY, DIMINISHING AGEISM

“We create ourselves out of the stories we tell about our lives, stories that impose purpose and meaning on experiences that often seem random and discontinuous. As we scrutinize our own past in the effort to explain ourselves to ourselves, we discover – or invent – consistent motivations, characteristic patterns, fundamental values, a sense of self. Fashioned out of memories, our stories become our identities.”

~ Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard Magazine (2003)

OUR STORY

Sages & Seekers was created in 2009, when Founder Elly Katz, at that time living in Boston, was inspired to leave her career as a graphic designer to dedicate herself to diminishing ageism. She initiated an afterschool service-learning project at the Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts, and by the following year, four private schools were piloting the program.

In the fall of 2013, the Sages & Seekers program was first presented at the university level, when Brandeis University students were paired with Brandeis Lifelong Learning seniors. By 2014, Sages & Seekers had enrolled more than 1,200 teens and seniors, with many participating two or more times. That same year, Elly moved the Sages & Seekers headquarter to Los Angeles, California.

In its new West Coast location, Sages & Seekers began running programs in the USC Gerontology Department.  At the same time, program delivery on the East Coast continued, and The Rivers School in the Boston area elected to make Sages & Seekers a mandatory part of their sophomore English curriculum – a requirement that continues to this day, reaching 180 Sages and students every year.

In late 2014, the S&S Manual was produced, which provides a blueprint for any school, library, senior facility, or university that seeks to offer Sages & Seekers in their community. In 2017, the University of Southern California (USC) conducted a professional impact evaluation of our program through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. This evaluation provided an evidence-based framework and justification for our model that cemented the program as evidence-based.

Today our non-profit reaches across borders virtually, to include participants at public and private facilities from Canada to Columbia, offering multi-cultural and generational connection, to strengthen the bonds of humanity.

OUR MISSION

Sages & Seekers’ mission is to develop empathy, combat social isolation and dissolve age-related segregation within our communities, while meeting the universal and compelling need of both young adults and elders to make sense of their lives. This is achieved by creating a sense of intergenerational community in our programs, through the art of authentic conversation.

Why connect these generations?

Many of the issues both teens and older adults deal with are mutual in nature, even though they seem miles apart. Both generations are searching for meaning and relevance; fighting feelings of loneliness, and many of “not fitting in” or being marginalized; and issues around independence, self-determination and currency in the world.

Today, mental health among youth is proving to be an increasing challenge, largely attributed to the pandemic and demonstrated by increased rates of youth suicide, substance abuse and depression. However, prior to 2020, there was already evidence that mental health problems in teens were on the rise. The prevalence of major depressive disorder in U.S. adolescents has increased, and suicide rates have also hit a 10-year high among young people ages 10 to 24, from 6.8 per 100,000 people in 2007 to 10.6 per 100,000 in 2017, according to the CDC.

At the same time, a 2018 national survey reported by the American Psychological Association showed that loneliness levels among older adults have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of participants reporting they sometimes or always feel isolated and that they do not have meaningful relationships. Such numbers are alarming because of the physical and mental health risks associated with loneliness. According to a meta-analysis, a lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder.

Sages & Seekers addresses these concerns for two generations at once. We provide both students and seniors an alternative to isolation: a sense of purpose and a connection to the larger picture of society and the world. Sages & Seekers also fills a gap in local schools, where teachers and administrators focus on A-G requirements and devote little time to promoting communication skills and other foundations of social emotional learning.

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Preparing students for a complex and changing world, requires today’s educators to connect learning to the life journey in dynamic and engaging ways, both inside the classroom and beyond. We believe meaningful experiential-learning is needed to bring students the opportunity to truly connect and interact on an authentic, human level, allowing for the development of empathy and social-emotional skills.

According to data involving 72 studies of college students collected between 1979 and 2009, today’s students are 40% less empathetic than students from the 1970s. Dubbed “Generation Me,” their individualistic focus can lead to a devaluing of others, say the scientists, in proposing some theories about why empathy is on the decline.

Sages & Seekers has done extensive research that has led us to an understanding of the profound impact technology is having on our ability to maintain and sustain distraction free conversations with each other.  Society as a whole is entering new and uncharted waters due to the rapid proliferation of the smartphone, and our ability to truly connect with each other is at risk. Now more than ever, our young people need increasing opportunities to learn how to initiate and sustain meaningful conversations, maintain eye contact, interpret facial cues, and recognize their own vulnerability to the enchantments of technology; and finally, to engender a sense of purpose. It is exactly this opportunity that Sages & Seekers provides by connecting these young adults with our older adults who are willing to share their invaluable life experiences of success, failure, family, passion, work and love.

OUR PRESS

Intergenerational Programs Combat Ageism Sages &Seekers Defeats Ageism via Friendship

Teens and the Elderly: The Two Loneliest Demographics.

An Intergenerational, Multiracial, Virtual Friendship Formed in Covid-19

Sages & Seekers organization promotes art education

David Byrne’s podcast featured S&S.

Building Bridges Between Generations

 Sages & Seekers: uniting young and old through story

A Lifetime in Nine Weeks

Concord Journal

Seniors Share Stories in Oral History Project

Sharing Meaning of Life through Conversation

OUR TEAM

ELLY KATZ

Elly Katz is the Founder and Executive Director of Sages & Seekers. She gave up her career as a graphic designer to make an attempt at diminishing ageism. She spent countless hours speaking with Senior Center Activity Directors, professors of Gerontology and Educators, to ultimately design a meaningful and profound program. Elly has presented at the MCOA, SCAAP and American Society on Aging conferences, speaking about the need for older adults to connect to a younger generation.

PATTI CATULLO

Patti Catullo is our lead Online Program Facilitator. With a background in coaching people in well-being, Patti has been all over the world studying human behavior. She brings a deep understanding of humanity to our programs, connecting our participants with humor and empathy. Patti lives on the East Coast, enabling our programs to reach across the Atlantic to enroll participants.

MARCUS BALDWIN

Marcus Baldwin, our Program Manager, has a passion for the arts and being of service to communities in need. Experienced in outreach, administration, and marketing for both non-profit and for-profit organizations, he hopes to utilize his unique skillset to bring Sages & Seekers programming to as many seniors and students as possible. He has a background in theatre, having earned a BFA in acting from the California Institute of the Arts.”

MAYA KLAPPER

Maya Klapper is our Program Coordinator. Having had previous experience in the non-profit sector, she knows how essential creating, nurturing, and serving the communities she inhabits is. She is instrumental in helping to bring our programs online smoothly. Maya recently graduated from Tulane University during Covid-19 with a BFA in Musical Theatre and Environmental Studies.

KRYS GRANT

Krys Grant, our Special Projects Leader, has been working with humanity in many different capacities, to enhance and educate groups of people. In addition to Special Projects, she is “Tech Guru” for our online programs. Working from her heart, Krys shares her creativity in building new Sages & Seekers projects bringing elders and teens together. Her passion is with the non-profit sector, always striving to uplift those around her.

SALLY SCHLIESMANN

Sally Schliesmann Ph.D., Program Facilitator, is a licensed clinical psychologist who had a private practice in Anchorage AK from 1985-2007. She was an adjunct professor at local universities and was a board member for the local women’s shelter. In 2007, she closed her practice in Anchorage and moved back to California where she provides counseling for active duty military members on U.S. bases overseas. She is very honored and excited to facilitate programs with Sages & Seekers.

NANCY WALSH

Nancy Walsh, our Program Facilitator, is a retired business development manager with over 35 years in the hospitality industry. She volunteers as a mock interviewer with high school students through programs with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, UniteLA, and Los Angeles Education Partnership. She enrolled as a sage in the fall of 2020 then volunteered as lead facilitator for our Sage Salon. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, earned just before her 65th birthday and is an active member of Toastmasters International.

RONNA GOLDSTEIN

Ronna Goldstein, Program Facilitator, is an Angelino native. She enjoys hiking, movies and meditation. She values tolerance, kindness and open mindedness. Ronna worked in sales management for 40 years in the furnished hospitality industry. She is now semi-retired and is interested in giving back to her community and helping others thrive.

MARK ROBINSON

Mark Robinson is our Sage Liaison, recently retired and committed to growing Sages & Seekers in the Los Angeles Area. After spending years working with youth, his experience fits right into our mission. Mark co-created and facilitated our first Exploring Racism program in July 2020 and continues to volunteer his time to share our work with others.

LONI BROWN

Loni Brown, our Sage Liaison, brings enthusiasm, wisdom, knowledge and experience from many years in a business environment. After participating in the first Sages & Seekers program at Pasadena Senior Center in 2017, she continues to recruit Sages, sharing her heart-felt stories and personal experiences of our program. Loni obtained an AS Degree in horticultural science, and an AA degree in Business. After teaching high school kids gardening, Loni realized there is an enormous need for teenagers to be actively listened to, contributing to her commitment to S&S.

SUSAN BLUMENFELD

Susan Blumenfeld, our New England Outreach volunteer, has managed our largest flagship school program at the Rivers School in Weston Ma since 2017. She brings us her life-long passion and experience working with Older Adults. Susan is the owner of New Roots Move Management, LLC, a Senior Move Management Company serving greater Boston. She earned a BS in Family and Community Services, from Syracuse University, 1986. Susan is an active member of NASMM- National Association of Senior Move Managers.

OUR PARTNERS