Generational Stories Come Through Service-Learning
Sociology major Justin Moore was looking for a service-learning course, and found one that filled a passion of his — learning how we as a society can help the aging baby boomer population. So, he enrolled in the Sociology of Aging and the Life Course service-learning class, and said it has been an amazing experience so far.
The class, taught by Dr. Marta Rodriguez-Galan, Assistant Professor of Sociology, created the “Elder Experience Project” with St. John’s Meadows, a senior living community in Rochester. Each week, the students and elders gather for large and small group discussions which lead to reflection and writing about personal experiences. The classes give both the elders and students an opportunity to interact and share stories, and develop intergenerational relationships. Some weeks, the elders come to campus, while other weeks, the students go to St. John’s. Rodriguez-Galan said that alternating the meeting locations helps both populations experience each other’s world.
“They discuss aging-related issues in a friendly setting, where the students can ask their own questions and the elders contribute their wealth of experiences and perspectives. This helps foster friendships across generations, which is the best way to debunk myths and stereotypes, not only about the older generation, but the younger generation as well,” said Rodriguez-Galan.
Moore said that during a typical class, the groups discuss issues like diversity, women, work, and healthcare, to name a few. Student teams of two have been assigned to each elder, so they have really had the chance to get to know the elders on a very personal level. At the end of the semester, students will take stories they have heard and create a written document that will be given to the elder and his or her family. It’s a keepsake, of sorts, and Moore said his favorite part has been hearing the elders’ opinions, life stories, experiences, and feelings.
“Getting to hear the stories of someone else’s life that took place before our time is something all youth should participate in. It is great to see how accepting and diverse older people are, to break the stereotypes,” he added.
Deb Hammond, Director of Recreation at St. John’s, said the elders have been really pleased with the class and have enjoyed attending.
“They love the kids and are engaged with the conversations regarding their life experiences. The intergenerational interaction and formation of relationships make this relevant and fun for them,” she said.
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