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Goldfish scoop. Cat’s cradle. DIY slingshot. Do these ring a bell? Probably not for the younger generation, unless they have taken part in Anchor Children with Elders (ACE) Art 2023.
“I’m grateful to the elders for all they have done for Hong Kong. Without their contributions, children nowadays, including me, wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the wide choice of entertainment and games. We’re so blessed,” says Tong Shun-hei, a P.5 student at S.K.H. Ling Oi Primary School, after learning from his grandparents that toys were a luxury during their childhood. “That said, they had a great time playing with their homemade toys. So, I’m making my own ones and I’ll try to buy less.”
Shun-hei is among the 1,700 primary students from 13 schools who have joined the ACE Art 2023, organised and sponsored by Mighty Oaks Foundation and Chinachem Group respectively. Currently in its 7th year, the programme invited young participants to paint their grandparents’ stories on tambourines under the theme of “neighbourhood leisure in bygone years”. The non-governmental organisation comes up with a different theme and canvas each year, but the core idea of getting the little ones to talk with the seniors in their families remains unchanged.
After the winners were selected by a panel of judges, including Donald Choi, CEO of Chinachem Group, who was in the same role last year – all the art pieces were then gifted to elderly centres in districts where the participating schools are located. To fully capitalise on the hand-painted tambourines, dance workshops and videos prepared by students at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, additional features of this year’s edition, were also made available to encourage the recipients to exercise. “You have to anchor people in their own family before radiating out to society. If you’re close to the elders in your own family, then you’d be able to form relationships with those in the neighbourhood,” explains Poh Lee Tan, the founder and director of the Foundation.
With a focus on the wellbeing of golden agers, the Foundation aims to help them live with dignity, purpose, hope, and love. Considering herself an elder, Poh Lee has seen many peers in the community who are lonely and marginalised, some even isolate themselves thinking society no longer needs them. “I’m still contributing, and I’m sure people of my vintage would like to continue to contribute. But sometimes they aren’t given a chance, they aren’t asked for their stories,” says Poh Lee.
“When you spend a little bit of time with them, they’ll start to blossom and their stories come out.”
So, how to bring the silver-haired out of their shell? The key is intergenerational integration.
“When a young person comes and engages with you, something magical happens,” Poh Lee beams, stressing that it is a win-win approach benefiting both generations.
Cheng Tsz-kiu, this year’s champion who studies at The H.K.C.W.C. Hioe Tjo Yoeng Primary School, was elated by the chat with her grandma that eventually went beyond the programme theme. “My granny recounted the amusing anecdotes about her early motherhood years raising my father. I enjoyed hearing those stories a lot!” Realising others’ stories can be a source of inspiration for her artwork, the 10-year-old artist vows to keep her heart and ears open. “I hope I can hear more stories from people around me as their sharing will expand my perspective. That will enable me to create more artwork.”
While children are unsurprisingly the centre of attention in most families, it can be easy to overlook the needs of the older generation. Intergenerational integration is a powerful way to tap into our shared experiences and to build connections, finally leading to a more cohesive and inclusive society. “Family harmony means community harmony, and community harmony means societal harmony,” Poh Lee concludes as she stares into the future with optimism.