Coverage from Callaway - Seniors Teaching Students
In this week's Coverage from Callaway, some mid-Missouri college students learn life's lessons from people who know best because they have lived them. And, by learning those life lessons, students gain more than just a passing grade.
Westminster College students thought they were working on just another assigment. They never thought their classwork would improve their lives and those of some Fulton senior citizens.
Two generations inhabit this area, divided by a street. The college is on one side of 4th Street, and the Fulton Senior Center is on the other. Each generation tended to stay on its own side, until a Westminster English class brought students across the street to help seniors write their life stories.
"We're talking about autobiography theory, and we're reading a lot of autobiographies," explained student Candice Crawform. "And also, it gives us a chance to learn about how we're writing an autobiography for another person."
And seniors are great subjects for students' papers.
"I like when students understand that people have a long history, and they have a lot of great stories," said Carolyn Perry, head of the English department. "And it's helpful if we all have time to think back on our lives, but you need some age to do that."
Dorotha Jones Meinhardt dug out dusty pictures to reminisce about her past.
"I enjoy visiting with people," she said. "You know, when you get old, you don't get to talk all the time. And I can talk, that's one thing I can do."
Seniors interact everyday with people their age. But, a younger generation can add a sense of excitement.
Dr. Steven Zweig, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri, said such cross-generational interaction helps both groups.
"The value of bringing people together from very different generations like that is that they can learn a lot from each other and still appreciate each other," he said. "And I think that that is a particularly satisfying thing for both generations."
Zweig said seniors benefit by enhancing socialization, stimulating learning, increasing emotional support, and improving their health. He said young adults and children benefit by enhancing social skills, improving academic performance, decreasing drug use and increasing stability.
Students will give seniors their own copies of the finished project. Then, seniors can make more copies for their relatives.