by Bridget McNair, Director of Recreation Therapy at Milwaukee Catholic Home
Societal changes over the years have caused a separation of the generations as families no longer live close together and institutions focus on specific generational programming. The media tends to portray elders in a negative light as individuals who need to be cared for or in comedic ways focusing on disabilities which sometimes accompany aging. All of these factors impact children’s and young adults’ sterotypes of aging and the elders in society. It is this therapist’s belief that the elders in society are far underused as a great resource to the educational process. They are a wealth of untapped knowledge and wisdom that needs to be greater appreciated.
Beginning on September 17th, Milwaukee Catholic Home will be taking part in a six week Inter-generational Educational Program with Catholic East Elementary. Twenty-four residents and twenty-four fourth grade students will come together to teach, learn and experience each other.
Eight sessions will be created utilizing the elders’ skills and knowledge while directly reflecting the students’ educational curriculum. The goal is to create a hands-on, intergenerational learning environment outside of the walls of the classroom and within a senior living community.
The inter-generational educational study will gather pre- and post- quantitative and qualitative data to measure views of aging, self-worth, depression, and engagement. In the future we hope to also collect data on student test scores, currently gathered 2 times a year, and compare this to classes that do not offer inter-generational educational programming. A lofty goal but well worth the effort in pursuing!
The data results with help direct the future of the inter-generational education program at Milwaukee Catholic Home with the eventual goal of developing a “living classroom curriculum” where students and older adults would come together to learn, create, grow and share their lives on a regular basis. Ultimately, we hope to develop a model that can be replicated both annually at Milwaukee Catholic Home and at other institutions.