By Maria Bergwitz
History buff Helena Cohen-Robertson, 31, has taken a recording device and opened up the East Room of Fremantle Town Hall for the city’s older generations to reminisce about their past.
Young people are invited to bring along someone elderly who grew up in, or is currently living in, Fremantle for a deep conversation over cups of tea.
Sessions last for about an hour and participants will be given a copy of the tape, which will also be stored in the archives of Fremantle Library.
The Fremantle program is part of Mrs Cohen-Robertson’s social enterprise Know Your Nation and is in collaboration with Fremantle Council.
Part of Mrs Cohen-Robertson’s aim is to provide a space for generations to interact with each other without the separation created by technological knowledge.
“We assume that because we are so in favour of technology, the whole of society is, where really it’s only about two or three generations of people whose world completely revolves around technology,” she said.
“But there is this whole other really significant part of the community that has nothing to do with that world.”
Through the conversations held at the East Room, she encourages intergenerational conversations to happen on more of a common ground, based on experiences, common interest, discussion, as well as the ability to sit, eat and drink together.
“You’ve got to move out of that whole technology and social media headspace and just be in their headspace, because we can do that, but they can’t be in the technology headspace,” said Mrs Cohen-Robertson.
“We should really be allowing them to teach us at that time,” she said.
“Technology is for a different time.”
During Mrs Cohen-Robertson’s research, she also found that dementia is caused by loneliness and social isolation, and hopes these conversations can help fight this.
“Facilitating communication and capturing conversation is like a gateway to shifting perceptions about elderly people in people our age,” she said.
“And once we’ve done that, then the whole community together can find ways to tackle loneliness and social isolation in elderly people.”
Mrs Cohen-Robertson believes the younger generation will benefit from knowing their older relatives’ stories.
She values the regular interaction she has had with grandparents to better understand herself within her own family environment.
“You get a better sense of your history and that other perspective on problems that you have,” she said.
“So they need company and communication just as much as we need life wisdom.”