We had a wonderful time during our meetings. Our goal was to break down barriers between seniors and younger people -- do away with stereotypes (old people are crotchety, young people mean) -- and enhance the lives of both young people and older citizens. Judging by responses from both "sides," indeed the breech was healed, and everyone had fun in the process. Younger people found their elders far livelier and appealing than they expected, and very approachable. The students now stay in touch with them because they want help "figuring out what I should do when questions about my life come up." For their part, the older folks "loved being able to be around young people," and are "surprised and very pleased that they were not rude to us, not ignoring us because we are old."
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We started off with our "Older Students" telling tales or reading from their published memoirs (in Pawpress books "Stories From The Heart," Vols. 1-3). The seniors were "happy to be sharing my experiences. I hope they can help some of the younger people...learn from both the good things that have happened, some of the decisions I've made, and also the mistakes." The students for their part, were "amazed by the different lives they all led, how they were from many different places...it was fascinating."
One of the most touching moments that came up was when one senior, Eleanor Howard, said in answer to the question, What did you expect when this project started?, "I felt nervous. You know, as you get older, young people don't notice you. You become invisible. And as you get older, it gets worse. If you're in line at the grocery store, even the clerk doesn't talk to you."
"Wow!" responded Lauren Shaw, a UCLA student. "I had no idea you'd be scared of us!"
Asked in turn what they had expected from the seniors, the students said:
Were the students surprised?
Students in the program are community service oriented, and came in as part of a course at the UCLA Center for Community Learning. Aside from the interaction and communication goals of the program, our curriculum aimed to help the students realize personal goals, and contribute meaningfully to the community. Following exposure to the seniors themselves and the Senior Center involved, Felicia Mahood, we asked for the students' ideas on improving future programs and facilities for older citizens. The thoughts they volunteered are creative and right on target, and could prove very useful to adapting and updating older citizen centers in a variety of locations.
Adena Schutzman, the UCLA student who came up with the idea for this program and co-designed the course, and Ina Hillebrandt, co-designer/facilitator, both wish to thank the Donald A. Strauss Foundation, which helped make this pilot program possible by extending its generous grant. We are grateful also for support from the Hillel at UCLA, Kathy O’Bryne, Director of the UCLA Center for Community Learning, and Ellen Gaines, Director of the Felicia Mahood Senior Multipurpose Center of The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for continuing support of this and the Footprints Writing Club™ programs.
Stay tuned for more from the program -- stories, photos and videos, and ideas for other mature adult programs and facilities, which will be appearing on the UCLA-based website being developed. Check back on our home page. We'll let you know when the site is up.
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information about an intergenerational or writing program for your for your high
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