The beginning of each New Year is a common time to reflect and reminisce about the past. The Co-Mentoring Project at Xavier University assists older adults in capturing some of those memories and nostalgia.
The project matches developmental psychology students with older adult volunteers for a service-learning experience. They meet at least four times from January through May, months when many elderly are isolated because of bad weather, so the experience is especially welcome to many. During the past three and a half years, over 130 students and older adults have participated in the project.
Students begin a life review with their partners. From this, they develop an academic paper and begin memoirs for their older co-mentor. Students learn about development across the lifespan and about life. They hear real stories to match events they have only heard of in lectures. The older adult volunteers share their life experience with the students and are given the memoirs begun by the students. In most cases, the older adult’s life history has never been captured. Over the history of the program, students have developed memoirs in a variety of media - writing, scrapbooks, poetry, audio, video and even a handmade quilt. Students document important life events and everyday life events that wove the fabric of their partners’ lives. These memories are often lost otherwise.
The motto of Xavier’s College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education, “Collaborate, Innovate, Educate,” is exemplified in this project. “Although service-learning has become commonplace in higher education, there are no projects like this in the educational gerontology literature,” says Renee Zucchero, assistant professor of psychology and program director. “As an intergenerational program, the Co-Mentoring project educates students about the realities of aging and older adulthood and educates older adults about the current younger generation.”
For more information, contact Renee’ Zucchero, Ph.D. at (513)745-3911 or at Zucchero@xavier.edu.