Pro­gram com­bats ageism by hav­ing stu­dents live with se­niors

The Western Star - - OBITUARIES / LIFE - SO­CI­ETY

Vic­to­ria Kozar, like many stu­dents, met one of her best friends while in col­lege.

The now 23—year—old, who at­tended Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity in Con­necti­cut, says she and Beth lived in the same build­ing and spent hours talk­ing about ev­ery­thing from boyfriends to bak­ing.

Her other friends are usu­ally sur­prised when they find out that Beth Eichel­man is 91 years old.

“I don’t re­fer to her as like, my el­derly friend Beth,” she said. “She’s not like an­other grandma. She’s just one of the girls.”

Kozar, of New Mil­ford, was among the first stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in the Ma­soni­care— Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity Stu­dents In Res­i­dence Pro­gram, which had her live dur­ing her se­nior year in 2016—17, at Ma­soni­care at Ash­lar Vil­lage, a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in Wallingfor­d.

In­ter­gen­er­a­tional learn­ing isn’t new. There are dozens of pro­grams across the na­tion that have opened as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties on cam­pus or given se­nior cit­i­zens ac­cess to col­lege classrooms. But only a few, such as Quin­nip­iac, ac­tu­ally have the gen­er­a­tions live to­gether.

The idea of the pro­gram is to tear down gen­er­a­tional stereo­types, com­bat ageism and in­tro­duce stu­dents to pos­si­bil­ity of ca­reers work­ing with the el­derly.

On Fri­day, Ash­lar Vil­lage wel­comed Cath­leen Dacey, a law stu­dent. Dacey has her own apart­ment there and will pro­vide at least eight hours of ser­vice each week in ex­change for hous­ing.

“I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in elder law and I find that the best way to help those peo­ple is to be with them to lis­ten to them,” said Dacey, 23. “So I’m hope­ful that this year, I’ll learn about their lives, but also how to help them.”

Kozar, who is ap­ply­ing to med­i­cal schools, said the pro­gram helped steer her to­ward a ca­reer in geri­atrics. She helped run a jew­elry—mak­ing club and bak­ing class at the cen­tre. Res­i­dents would ask her for help with computer tablets and tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s nice to have some­one come in who’s young, who is vi­brant, who smiles, who talks to us,” said 85—year—old res­i­dent Clarisse Mies­sau, who wore a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity T— shirt Fri­day to wel­come Dacey. “That’s what they have done for us.”

Kozar said she and the other stu­dents get just as much, if not more, from the pro­gram through liv­ing his­tory lessons. Sev­eral of the women at the cen­tre, she said, had distin­guished ca­reers — in sci­ence and medicine — break­ing down bar­ri­ers that she is now able to walk through. All of them, she said, are happy to share their stories and ex­per­tise.

“This place was more full of life than many of my col­lege classrooms,” she said. “My other friends wanted to spend more time there than any­where else.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired her to start an or­ga­ni­za­tion, “Old Friends and New,” which brought other Quin­nip­iac stu­dents to the cen­tre.

John Mor­gan, a univer­sity spokesman, said is be­com­ing clear through­out the higher ed­u­ca­tion com­mu­nity that the el­derly are an un­tapped re­source. He said the next step may be to have a Ma­son­ciare res­i­dent live in a univer­sity dorm.

In Ohio, stu­dents from the Cleve­land In­sti­tute of Mu­sic, have been liv­ing at the Jud­son Manor re­tire­ment home since 2010.

Kristina Kupre­vi­cius, the cen­tre’s direc­tor of mar­ket­ing, said the ar­range­ment pro­vides a built—in au­di­ence for the stu­dents and wel­come in­ter­ac­tion with the younger gen­er­a­tion for the se­niors.

“Be­tween the two gen­er­a­tions, there is a lot of com­radery that starts to build, because as one res­i­dent told me, ‘We don’t have bag­gage with each other,”’ she said. “Stu­dents can ask res­i­dents about cer­tain is­sues and how they should re­act to their par­ents, and the se­niors are kept up to date by the stu­dents.”

Kozar said the stu­dents have learned that the el­derly aren’t nec­es­sar­ily frail and the older res­i­dents have learned that Mil­len­ni­als aren’t nec­es­sar­ily self— ab­sorbed, she said.

J.P. Venoit, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ma­soni­care, said when they be­came in­volved in the Quin­nip­iac pro­gram, he as­sumed the stu­dents would come in, do their re­quired work with the el­derly and spend the rest of the time in their rooms study­ing.

“That hasn’t been the case,” he said. “They aren’t go­ing through the mo­tions. The have be­come fully en­gaged. That has been the in­ter­est­ing part. It’s turned out to be some­thing much bet­ter, much more than we thought it would be.”

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