Introducing Nancy Henkin
Throughout the past 30 years, Dr. Nancy Henkin has achieved what many only dream of: taking her passion and turning it into her reality. Her work at Temple’s Intergenerational Center has impacted communities throughout the world and encouraged relationships among every age group, race and ethnicity. Dr. Henkin’s passion and hard work recently earned her The Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence from the Eisner Foundation.
The Temple News sat down with Henkin to discuss her value for personal connections, how she makes her dreams a reality and how students can do the same.
The Temple News: What was it like to receive such a prestigious award as The Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence?
Nancy Henkin: When I first founded this center, people didn’t get why I wanted to go into ‘aging’ and generational studies. This award really validated the work we’ve been doing. Now more than ever, we need to think about how we can strengthen communities by bringing generations together to solve problems. I think that what was just an idea in my mind years ago is becoming part of how we talk about communities.
TTN: Tell us about the programs that The Intergenerational Center offers.
NH: Two of the longest lasting programs are the Time Out program and Project SHINE. Time Out is a program that involves college students providing respite time for caregivers to refresh themselves so they can continue in their caregiving role. Really strong relationships develop between the students and the families. It really gives students a chance to experience and understand what families go through when an older person needs to be supported. Students have made an amazing impact, and it has been tremendous for families because they can count on the students.
Project SHINE started in the mid 1980s, and began its work within with immigrant communities. We realized that older refugees and immigrants weren’t getting any attention or being supported. Students do a number of things, they can teach English, prepare immigrants for the citizenship test, it’s an incredible experience for a student to understand the challenges of a person who immigrates from another country and the resilience that they’ve shown
TTN: What are some benefits that you’ve seen students acquire from this program? How about the immigrants or Time Out families?
NH: Students gain a life perspective. They see that there’s a connection between the past, present and future, and that we stand on the shoulders of the people that came before us. All too often we live in these segregated communities. It’s our responsibility to give students opportunities to build relationships with all different kinds of people.
It is so thrilling for the older people involved in the programs to feel that they still have value, that they still have something to contribute. One of the components of healthy aging is to be able to share your skills and experience with younger members of the community. Many feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment when they’re able to have young people in their lives. That’s what is so exciting about Intergenerational Programs, they’re built on the idea of reciprocity. Everyone has something to offer.
TTN: You’ve obviously made a huge difference, not just in our Philadelphia community, but nationally and internationally. Can you offer any advice to students hoping to do the same?
NH: Follow your passion. Think about how you can take something that’s important to you to the next level, and involve new people. Don’t be afraid, build relationships with people who are unlike you, take the risk to go out and share your gifts with others and be open to them sharing their gifts with you. We need more people who want to make a difference. But, everything has to be done in partnership, you need to build authentic partnerships with individuals. We can’t do this alone. We could’ve never done this alone. I love the work I do, that’s really important. But it has to be done in collaboration with others who share that passion and vision.
Allison Watkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.