Students, Seniors Bridge Age Gap


Japanese students and residents from the Jewish Home for the Aging gathered Tuesday at Soka University of America to bridge not only a cultural gap but a generational gap as well.

Mariko Midorikawa, 19, and Sawa Iwanaga, 18, spoke to 90-year-old Ethel Wadler, who was about their age when she married.

“Ethel told us it’s not good to get married so young,” said Midorikawa, who goes by “Mary” at school.


The trio talked about family, pets and dream vacation spots. Wadler told them she wants to take a bus to Hawaii because she doesn’t like to fly. Midorikawa and Iwanaga got to practice their English and even learned a new word: gadget.

Sachiyo Yamamoto, 18, who is known as “Alice” by her classmates, said she got a unique insight into Americans.

“We talked about the differences between Japanese and American culture,” she said. “American people spend holidays with their families. I think Americans feel strongly about their families.”

After a lunch of sandwiches and fries, the 44 female students who participated in the program sang a song in Japanese honoring mothers.

The 20 senior citizens sang “Heyvaynu Shalom Aleichman,” which means “We Bring Peace Unto You” in Hebrew.

“It was a shot in the arm of life and happiness for the residents,” said Rabbi William Gordon, who accompanied the seniors. “I recommended we do it twice a year. It’s that worthwhile a program for both entities.”


Jack Walker, an English as a Second Language teacher at Soka who arranged the exchange, said the students were inspired by the seniors.

“Sometimes I think of our students as cheering them up, but these are the most optimistic people I’ve seen,” he said. “Our students ended up so charged up.”