A professor in Waterloo is looking to change the way we look at older adults by simply starting a conversation.

A little conversation can go a long way. Ron Schlegel, a professor and community leader in Waterloo whose family runs more than a dozen long-term care villages in Southwestern Ontario, is hoping it’s enough to push back against ageism.

His program, the #ElderWisdom project, is a social awareness campaign that aims to highlight the contributions older adults make to the community.

The initiative will see over a dozen Schlegel long-term care residents tour Ontario to share their life experiences and advice with younger community members.

At each of the 15 cities on the tour, residents will take turns chatting with community members on a little green bench.

“One of the most hidden treasures in society is this accumulated wisdom,” program manager Ted Mahy told CBC. “If we only stop long enough to listen to the stories of our residents, we have much more to gain from them.”

George Calder,  a 94-year-old former air force pilot who’s participating in the project said he couldn’t believe the turnout so far.

“I must admit, I was bewildered. Police chiefs and mayors sat down beside me,” Calder told CBC. “I’m flabbergasted. I wondered, ‘have you got the right seat? I enjoyed it.”

Click here for a list of stops the bench will be making in June.