There is no such thing as the generation gap!
“The generation gap is an immensely misleading term. It implies that people from different generations are inherently different whereas people within a generation are inherently similar.”
This quote is from a University of Michigan student, and is just one of the good “nuggets” from the book Aging Awakenings: Assisted Living Residents Teach University Students to Overcome Ageism by Richard C. Adelman, Ph.D. which details the thoughts, ideas, and transitions of students and residents involved in an innovative program that engages college students and the residents of a senior living community.
The book details a research project that studied the thoughts and views of over 60 students at the University of Michigan. The project first had students share their thoughts on aging, which not surprisingly revealed a bias towards stereotypes that most of the elderly have cognitive and physical challenges, and that the majority of the elderly have conservative and stubborn mindsets, etc. Then each of the students engaged in a year long program where they were matched up with residents of University Living.
At the end of the program it was fairly conclusive that the experience debunked the majority of the previously held stereotypes. Every student that previously regarded the elderly as conservative, or felt that the elderly did not have the ability to learn new things before they entered the program had discarded those viewpoints at the end.
What’s’ even more exciting is the new things that the student learned from their relationships in the senior community. They overwhelmingly reported that they admired the elder’s skills in conflict resolution, their insights on death, and to many students a big surprise was that they found their insights on love and sex tremendously helpful.
I found many of the insights in this book in alignment with my own experiences in senior living communities and many of the thoughts that we discuss on this blog. Armed with the mindset that “everyone is aging”, it will be exciting to see how the students that participated in this program can help change the world and views of aging. Lets hope that programs like this will soon be required courses on campuses across the county – and imagine the all the great engagement with elders that can take place if that happens.
I highly recommend this book to staff and management of senior living communities, it should help them think differently about the value of the residents and an example of engagement with the community in a positive way.