Teens Joins Elderly to Reduce Traumatic Injuries

07/14/99    Portland, Ore.

Connections program aims to teach young and old new perspectives on life

Studies show that adolescents today spend 12 to 15 hours less a week with their parents than did teens of the 1960s. One program that uses senior citizens as a replacement for that parental contact is THINK FIRST Connections, which links teens and seniors for six weeks of skills training and discussions.

Now in its third year, Connections provides activities aimed at decreasing risk-taking behaviors among adolescents and maintaining or increasing cognitive and physical functioning among seniors. The two groups participate in fitness exercise, computer training and driving simulation activities while they develop informal relationships that give each a newfound perspective on life.

Because these are the two age groups at highest risk for traumatic injuries, THINK FIRST accomplishes its mission of reducing injury through education.

"Consistent evidence indicates that young people who perceive themselves as being well cared for and attached to others are more likely to resist dangerous behaviors," said Jaimie Simon, THINK FIRST coordinator at Oregon Health Sciences University. "Through this program, we've seen both groups develop relationships that seem to enhance their sense of connectedness."

Connections will bring together 15 adolescents and seniors for eight hours a week from July 6 through Aug. 12 at the following sites:

  • Mittleman Jewish Community Center/Portland Jewish Academy Mondays and Wednesdays, computer training from 3 - 4 p.m. and fitness training from 4 - 5 p.m.
  • Mt. Olivet Baptist Church/University of Portland Tuesdays and Thursdays, computer training from 10 - 11 a.m. and fitness training from 11 a.m. - Noon

Neurosurgeons across the country formed THINK FIRST a decade ago to teach young children and teens to make decisions that help them avoid serious injury. OHSU is the lead sponsor of THINK FIRST in Oregon and has carried the message to more than 150,000 students through school visits and community events. Connections is a pilot program unique to Oregon. For more information on the THINK FIRST program, contact Jaimie Simon at (503) 494-5353.