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BiG Fab lab invites seniors to join, teach, and share their knowledge – and it’s powerful!

Because of advances in medicine, people are living longer than ever before. This gives us more opportunities to tap into the wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom that resides in the older generations. But one Northwest Ohio business owner says this won’t automatically happen. “We need to be intentional about this, says Mark Bowlus, Founder and Director of The BiG Fab Lab. “We need planned approaches to creating opportunities for different generations to interact with one another. And we need the natural collaboration that comes with spending time together.”

There are organizations creating intergenerational programming already. Teachers inviting seniors to elementary schools and libraries to read to children. Senior Centers inviting kids and teens in for combined activities. Even some businesses are jumping in.

Senior Citizen Interns – not just in the movies.

The Intern, a recent movie starring Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNero, has opened new possibilities for generations to interact. In the movie, a 70-year-old business veteran (DeNero) interns at a hip internet sales company. While there, he shares his wisdom about interpersonal relationships, patience, commitment, and business. In reality, such arrangements are unusual, but do exist. One example is 71-year-old advertising veteran Doug McKinlay who interned at The Richards Group in 2013, claiming that he was most likely the world’s oldest intern at the time. McKinlay’s internship was largely an experiment to see if what he was teaching as an advertising professor was still relevant in today’s business culture. But you can bet he shared a pearl or two of wisdom with his co-workers.

Intergenerational collaboration – naturally.

The way that makerspaces like The BiG Fab Lab are setup, collaboration becomes a natural byproduct. As members work on projects, they talk. They share about what they’re working on. And they help each other solve problems. It just happens.

One of the most exciting aspects of the collaboration Bowlus says he’s seen at the Lab is the interaction between different generations. Several members are retired engineers, business people, artists and teachers. And they love to help younger members with their projects.

A Bicycle, an engineering student and a retired machinist.

Bowlus tells the story of a young engineering student with a new product idea for serious cyclists, like himself. He joined the BiG Fab Lab to access the tools and equipment, including the metal shop, 3D printers, and woodshop. What he didn’t know when he joined, is that he’d also be accessing the experience, knowledge and experience of a retired machinist who is also a member.

Together, the 80+ year-old and the 21-year-old created an aluminum working prototype that could never have happened with the student working alone in his garage. The retired machinist had the chance to demonstrate, use and share is knowledge. He was highly valued and truly contributing to the project. Bowlus adds, “And he’d probably tell you that he learned a thing or two from his young friend!”

Collaboration. Good for communities.

Bowlus points out that interaction between generations brings much to the table for communities. “By bringing together diverse groups and networks, each group feels more connected and valued. Resources are multiplied. New products and ideas are developed more quickly and more effectively. And businesses are started. Plus, traditions and values are passed down from older to younger generations.”

By bringing seniors together with kids, teens and young adults, Bowlus says the BiG Fab Lab has helped to create fun and meaningful relationships with rewards for individuals that overflow into the community. “And that’s a win-win if I’ve ever seen one!”

About BiG Fab Lab: BiG Fab Lab, LLC is a full-service makerspace providing a fully-equipped creative space for engineers, artists, students, inventors and businesses in Northwest Ohio. Located in Bowling Green, Ohio, BiG Fab Lab provides equipment, classes, storage and studio space, plus personal assistance for a variety of crafting, design, manufacturing areas, and business incubation for its member community. To learn more about the BiG Fab Lab, call 419-971-4244 or visit www.BiGFabLab.com

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