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Stillman College Students Forge Friendships with Elderly

11/22/2013

Students in Dr. April Kendrick’s Psychology of Aging course are making friends in unlikely places.  The class explores physical, mental and social changes related to the aging process, and students are required to venture off campus and interact with the elderly. 

“Students need to see that what I’m teaching is applicable.  They need to see that these are real people with real lives.  Meeting them helps dispel stereotypes we might have about what it means to be an aged person,” states Dr. Kendrick, who has developed partnerships with local agencies that provide support for an aging population.  

Recently, her students spent the day at the Pine Valley Retirement Community, where they helped residents set up for a Christmas Bazaar.  Prior to the event, students unloaded equipment from vendors and they decorated dining halls and hallways.  Once their tasks were completed, the class lingered to serve food to the elderly and socialize with them during the bazaar.

According to one student, Jalin Smith, the elderly and the students had a different perspective of each other after the bazaar. “Students were able to see that everybody who is old is not sad and lonely,” and the residents were able to see “that not all young people are bad.”

“They were so overjoyed to see us, and they kept saying great things about us,” says Smith. “I think it was important for them to see positive young people who want to contribute to society.”

Smith, who arrived at 9 a.m. on the day of the Pine Valley Christmas Bazaar, did not leave until 5:30 p.m.  “I came really early to help prepare, and I stayed until it was almost over,” she says, adding that many of the residents are “bubbly” and “still have spunk.”

Smith, whose aunt has Alzheimer’s disease, knows that aging can be difficult.  However, she is grateful that Dr. Kendrick’s class gives students a balanced perspective.  “She is an excellent teacher, and the class is fun.  We’ve learned that people who maintain good health, believe in a higher power, remain socially active, and have something to look forward to often age well.”

Students in the class are required to do at least five hours of volunteer work at Pine Valley or at Caring Days Adult Day Care.  They are also required to create a digital story about an elderly individual.  While some students plan to write about family members, others are writing about individuals they met at Pine Valley.

Dr. Kendrick, who knows her share of well-kept seniors, recently dined at Outback with a 100 year old and a 99 year old.  “They were so funny.  We were laughing and having a great time.  It gives you a glimpse of what life can be like when you’re 100.”

Recently, Dr. Kendrick’s students learned that her class might get much more than a glimpse of their new friends.  Shortly after the Christmas Bazaar, the residents of Pine Valley made a surprising announcement.  They plan to take a field trip—to Stillman!  

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