Bingo, ice cream and hearing about a live Beatles concert is not how every Montclair State University student spends their Friday night. However, that’s what Lauren Economy, a sophomore computer science major, and 22 other students do with Montclair State’s new club Arts For The Ages (ATFA) on alternate Fridays.
AFTA became a part of the Student Government Association (SGA) this year and aims to connect college students and senior citizens through art, music and conversation.
Economy is a self-proclaimed “old lady” and started missing her high school arts community last year. This summer she learned that many senior citizens are also looking for a sense of belonging and decided to start an organization focused on bringing together her fellow peers and seniors.
“I realized that music and crafts would be a good bridge between the two communities because, who doesn’t love the arts?” Economy said.
Economy worked with co-president Deven Diamantis to get ATFA chartered as an official organization of the SGA. They played Guess That Song at the first event, sparking conversations about favorite musicians and sharing their love of live concerts.
Abby Berberian, a sophomore psychology major and ATFA member, never thought about the gap between college aged students and seniors before, but is now realizing how much they can bond over.
“It’s so heartwarming to build relationships with the residents,” Berberian said. “My favorite part was connecting with Pat. I dyed her hair a couple weeks ago and it was so fun for both of us.”
Pat S, a Montclair Inn resident, greeted club members with hugs on Friday and explained that ATFA provides the programming and entertainment that her community needed.
“When they actually came it was like the whole place just brightened up,” Pat said. “I’m serious the whole place lit up and they are just so much freaking fun.”
Not all residents stay past dessert, but many enjoy getting to reminisce and tell stories to new people. Although AFTA originally planned to use art to bring attendees together, conversation often overtakes and distracts them from the crafts provided.
Diamantis, a sophomore public relations major, described her conversations with a senior named Allen.
“Every time I go I talk to Allen,” Diamantis said. “He’s the oldest resident and never wants to paint but we talk about everything; Italian painters, his favorite candy, trips to Italy.”
The residents often give advice ranging from travel suggestions, finance and the stock market, according to Economy.
AFTA are looking forward to expanding the club with even more student members. They are also hoping to visit more retirement communities in the area.
They are currently working on providing transportation for the seniors to see a show in Kasser Theatre since many residents do not get the opportunity to go see performances.
Although the seniors are sitting in a retirement home, AFTA members got to hear about old Las Vegas shows, trips to Spain and traveling with Lynyrd Skynyrd all in one Friday night.
ATFA has club meetings every Wednesday and is looking for more people to help bridge the gap between students and seniors.