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Archive for Friday, May 21, 2010

Bridging the generation gap

Older adults, Baker students share life lessons and wisdom

Baker University students this semester have met with partners from the Lawrence Senior Center to share advice and stories. Marian Brown, right, reads some of the essays students wrote with their elders for one assignment. Her writing partner, Stephanie Brown, is at left.

Baker University students this semester have met with partners from the Lawrence Senior Center to share advice and stories. Marian Brown, right, reads some of the essays students wrote with their elders for one assignment. Her writing partner, Stephanie Brown, is at left.

May 21, 2010

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Young, old learn together at Baker

Students at Baker University worked together with elders in the community to learn life lessons and pass along advice. The program was a new idea this past year and the professor responsible hopes to continue it. Enlarge video

Baker student Kyle Weinmaster, right, listens as his essay partner, Chuck Benedict, tells a story.

Baker student Kyle Weinmaster, right, listens as his essay partner, Chuck Benedict, tells a story.

Members of one generation reached out to another Thursday afternoon at the Lawrence Senior Center.

Students from Baker University have met with partners from the senior center throughout the semester, and the groups have exchanged wisdom, advice and stories about their lives.

It’s all part of Baker sociology professor Jacob Bucher’s course on the “life course,” and the different experiences people have at various stages of their lives.

For one of the students’ assignments, they paired up with a senior citizen, and — inspired by a National Public Radio series — wrote an essay together titled “This We Believe.”

The students and the seniors also each read “This I Believe,” a collection of essays outlining a variety of viewpoints on their core values.

On Thursday, the class and the seniors met as a group, and introduced one another to other participants. Nearly everyone said the project had an impact on them. The seniors said they appreciated being exposed to members of the younger generation with solid values and who possessed an ability to think.

The lessons were at times unexpected — students said they got crash courses from everything on dealing with death to how to use Hallmark cards to say things when you can’t quite find the right words.

“We learned everything we didn’t expect to learn,” said Stacy Yowell, a Baker sophomore studying sociology.

Many, like 84-year-old Chuck Benedict, said he enjoyed spending time with the students, like many of the others who participated in the project.

“All of us, we were always looking forward to the next meeting,” Benedict said, saying he enjoyed sharing his knowledge with members of the younger generation. “There isn’t a question I’m afraid to answer.”

Kyle Weinmaster, a Baker junior, said he appreciated being paired with Benedict, who is twice a widower.

“Since Chuck had such a strong faith, it helped him get through both deaths a lot easier,” said Weinmaster, a member of Baker’s football team. “I’d kind of lost that. … He made me rethink my faith.”

Weinmaster, Benedict and Matt Griffin, another student who worked with Benedict, were all scheduled to go out to lunch Monday, even after the assignment was over.

Like many others in the class, they hoped to maintain their newfound friendships for a longer term. That’ll probably mean trips to Baldwin City next year for Benedict, as he cheers on Griffin’s soccer team and Weinmaster’s football team.

“I’m going to have to bring a sucker or something so I can stick it in my mouth and they won’t be able to hear me yelling,” Benedict said.

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