Students investigate aging through intergenerational dialogue
What does aging and the concerns that come with it really look like? How does it feel? What insight can be gained with age and maturity?
Through intergenerational dialogue, these are some of the questions UW-Green Bay students are investigating this semester as part of Human Development Prof. Dean VonDras’s Adult and Aging class.
“The intergenerational dialogue brings folks from Learning in Retirement (LIR) and others together with younger students to talk about a variety of issues,” explains VonDras.
The first meeting is a panel discussion led by the older adults who field questions from the audience (mostly younger students). Questions commonly offered ask: What is retirement really like? What major event or experienced most shaped you into the person you are now? At what age are you too old to…? Other topics include life goals, secrets of a good marriage, family relationships, career paths, life-regrets, and special advice about growing older.
In “part 2” of the lesson, students meet in small groups with older adults and use the “Appreciative Inquiry” method (i.e. inquiring into how we may become the change we hope to see in the world) to question life-interests and goals such as careers, leaving a legacy, bucket-list items, etc. Although Professor VonDras is the general facilitator, each small group has an interpersonal exchange that is directed by an Appreciative Inquiry script and the group’s participants.
“This exchange allows my younger students to meet and be with older adults, and to hear a first-hand account of some of the issues and concerns we talk about in class, such as, concerns for health and management of health problems that change what they do and how they may live; changes in marriages and family across the adult years; how careers occurred and the paths they took, what retirement offers, and insight into the personal meaning and experiences of life.”
There is also a direct benefit to the older participants, as they recognize they may hold similar or dissimilar feelings as their same-age peers.
“The intergenerational dialogue teaches that, whether young or old, we are all part of the same community, and that we can appreciate, respect, and learn from each other!” VonDras said.
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