Younger, older generation partner to debunk myths about aging

Project part of developmental psychology class aimed at helping younger generation understand experiences of living as older adult | March 27, 2006

A retirement community may not be the first place you'd look for a college student, but at least 24 students visited such communities this winter as part of the second semester of the first co-mentoring project. The project is part of a developmental psychology class aimed at helping the "younger" generation understand what it is like to be an "older" adult.

The undergraduate students were matched with people living in two local retirement communities: the Deupree Community and the Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Community. Both are programs of Episcopal Retirement Homes, a Cincinnati-based not-for-profit organization.

The two generations are sharing their uplifting stories about this project on Wednesday, March 29, from 10:30 a.m.-11:20 a.m. at the Gallagher Student Center, Room 214, and on Wednesday, April 5, from 10:30 a.m.-11:20 a.m. at the Gallagher Student Center, Room 330.

"The project is designed to encourage inter-generational dialogue and understanding," explains Reneé Zucchero, assistant psychology professor and project director. "The older adults will have the opportunity to share their life experiences with college students and the students have the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of the older adults."

The hope is that the older generation develops a different perspective on their current and/or previous life experiences and that the students develop better insight into the process of aging.

"Partnering with Xavier on this project is truly a great fit," says Kathy Ison, Episcopal Retirement Homes vice president of organizational development and technology. "Our residents have so many experiences to share about the aging process—ups and downs included. Ideally, the program will educate students while simultaneously giving our residents a greater sense of purpose."

The students and the older adults initially met in February at the Marjorie P. Lee and Deupree communities. The students have since visited with the older adults at their homes or at Xavier prior to the concluding project meetings.

"There are many different theories of aging," says Zucchero. "By reviewing an older adult's life, the students can compare what they've learned from their partner to developmental principles."

Zucchero also hopes the experience inspires some students to work in the field of aging. Xavier now offers geropsychology, the study of the neurological, psychological and sociological aspects of the process of aging, as an area of interest within its American Psychological Association accredited clinical psychology program. Xavier's practitioner-scientist driven program trains students to become competent clinical psychologists serving older adults and their families. Clinical practica afford opportunities to engage in assessment and therapy with older adults and their families.