Shenandoah University is one of a select group of 21 institutions across the nation chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to receive a nearly $13,000 grant to implement an Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults program. This one-year grant will be used to enhance connections between undergraduate students and older adults in the community.
CIC launched this new initiative with support from the AARP Foundation to encourage colleges to create or extend programs in which students help low-income older adults (ages 50 and older) tackle key life challenges.
Shenandoah University’s Intergenerational Service Practicum will give 12 undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in building intergenerational connections with older adults in the Winchester community. Six students each semester will engage in a stipend-supported service-learning practicum at the Winchester Senior Center (WSC), a day center operated by the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA), serving 40-50 active adults age 60+ at the Center and delivering meals to 50 homebound older adults.
“Throughout the years, our psychology students have done a wonderful job with their outreach to the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Adrienne Bloss, Ph.D. “Scott King has done an amazing job of leading this initiative and encouraging his students to get involved. I’m excited for this continued partnership with the SAAA, as well as the ability for students from other programs of study to participate in such a worthwhile effort.”
Each semester, two students from each of three university programs (psychology, public health, and exercise science) will be selected to participate in the practicum. Each program’s practicum placements will center around building connections with WSC participants, with psychology students focusing on improving participants’ quality of social interaction, public health students focusing on improving participants’ nutritional knowledge and behaviors, and exercise science students focusing on improving participants’ fitness, balance, and flexibility.
Grant funds will support more than 1,400 hours of student service at the center over the course of the 2017-18 school year, lessening demands on regular staff and allowing them to focus more time and energy on serving homebound low-income older adults through a meals-on-wheels program.
The practicum expands a partnership created in 2012 by Associate Professor of Psychology Scott King, Ph.D., which paired a psychology course and the Winchester Senior Center to promote intergenerational cooperation and reduce ageism among college students and older adults. Dr. King, along with grant co-authors, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Barry Parker, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Public Health Audra Gollenberg, Ph.D., developed goals for the practicum after consultation with SAAA Executive Director Cathie Galvin and WSC Director Tina Landis.
CIC President Richard Ekman said, “CIC hopes that this pilot project will serve as a first step toward the development of a national network of programs on independent college and university campuses that promote intergenerational interaction between students and community members.”
The 21 colleges and universities will be part of a new network of colleges that the AARP Foundation hopes will help establish best practices for engaging students in meeting the challenges of older adults—hunger, safe and affordable housing, income-generation, and social isolation—in the communities surrounding college campuses.