Intergenerational lesson a win-win for Montclair seniors, MSU students (Letter to the editor)
Since its founding in 2015, Aging In Montclair has been the voice of Montclair’s older residents. The many programs support and educate our 600+ members and provide the social connections that are so important for a vibrant older community thriving in place.
Thanks to Ashley Ermer, Ph.D and assistant professor in the Department Of Family Science and Human Development at Montclair State University, her class called “Aging and Public Policy” partnered with AIM and connected her students with AIM members.
Pre-pandemic, when AIM members could visit Dr. Ermer’s class in person, AIM arranged for actors with the Mental Health Players, sponsored by the Mental Health Association of NJ, to present scenarios dealing with ageism and intergenerational conflict. Following each scenario, comments by students and AIM members helped to facilitate meaningful conversation about the issues being dramatized.
For several years, Dr. Ermer has invited several of AIM’s founding members to talk to her class about AIM’s programs and goals and answer students’ questions. The conversations were stimulating and enlightening, and a win-win for both groups. Her students enjoyed hearing real voices of those still “thriving in place “and leading active lives in Montclair.
For this semester, Dr. Ermer’s students partnered with AIM members for two one-on-one discussions about the facts and myths of aging, its challenges and rewards.
According to Dr. Ermer: “The students were totally engaged with hearing the voices and learning more about their older partners from their career trajectories and general life experiences.”
She elevated learning and real life with this intergenerational experience that went beyond the classroom and into the community. It’s a great example of creative collaboration, and both the students and seniors praised the experience. The interest of AIM members in the program was evident—within two days of sending an email asking for volunteers to meet with Dr. Ermer’s students, there were enough responses to create a waiting list.
It’s a unique program and I think it demonstrates the power of university and collaboration with the community, perfectly in line with Montclair’s values.
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