Wednesday was National Senior Citizen Day and three seniors are being celebrated for their contributions at a coworking space in Hancock County. Idea Co-op, which officially opened its doors earlier this year, has taken on three "senior interns" following a chance encounter at a local Kiwanis meeting in December. Jill Snyder, director of economic and business development for Idea Co-op operator NineStar Connect, says the men approached her with the goal of being involved in the coworking space in any fashion.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Snyder said the senior interns have had a major impact.
"It really set something off in my head about, we’ve got all this talent out there, all these seniors with all this knowledge and practical experience and know-how and, you know, how much they can bring to the table to the younger generations," said Snyder. "And they’re volunteering their time. In our case, they don’t want (compensation). They just want to be involved and participate. When you see these senior interns interacting with the younger people, it’s like all of a sudden, there’s no age gap. They’re all talking the same language; they’re talking about making this or making that and it’s like you totally forget that one person’s 65 and the other person’s 10."
The senior interns include Scott Kleine, a former industrial arts teacher, as well as Don Hoffman, who previously worked at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) before retiring and Mike McCarly, a former fiber network engineer. Snyder says the interns help teach others how to use various types of equipment in the makerspace at Idea Co-op, including laser cutters and 3D printers. McCarly also helps run the Coder Dojo classes at the coworking space on the weekends.
Snyder says it’s the decades of experience among the senior interns that has provided the biggest benefit.
"One of our startup companies was working with a major university here in Indiana to help create a new piece of equipment. The engineering students created the piece of equipment with CAD; they designed the equipment and said, ‘Here’s what you need to manufacture.’ One of my senior interns was brought into the process and he said the design is fine but for you to manufacture that would cost 10 times more than it needs to cost. All you have to do is adjust this component here or there and now you’ve made this real expensive device a couple dollars now to manufacture. So that’s the practical life experience that someone’s not going to learn in college."
Snyder says there are no definitive plans to add more senior interns, but she has mentioned it to other coworking spaces throughout east central Indiana, which also need the same type of assistance. She says those spaces are very bullish about launching a similar effort.
Snyder says the senior interns have had a major impact on the coworking space.