Inter-generational Learning, A Further Bond Explored.

Our time as a society is unprecedented in terms of our ability to develop positive opportunities for multiple generations to live, work, play and learn together. We have more forums, research and technology available for exploring these opportunities to make this a “society for all ages”.

One such forum is the upcoming 43rd annual Canadian Association on Gerontology conference Oct.16-18, 2014 in Niagara Falls. The theme title is Landscapes of Aging, which is appropriate in that it explores a wide, bountiful horizon of “emerging possibilities”.

As shared in my April 29 post, I see strengthening inter-generational bonds as one of those unique possibilities on that landscape that we dare not miss, like the rare passing of a comet. What we can learn from each other in that passing is a rich experience for everyone.

At this year’s conference, I am chairing the Saturday morning Divisional Symposium: Inter-generational Learning within Formal Educational Programs: Older Adults and Younger Students. My presentation within this is tilted Inter-generational Learning Partners: Learning through Lived Experience at the Undergraduate Level, focusing on my Sociology of Aging course developed at York University.

In this course (2013-14) eight older adults were invited into the undergraduate classroom and the students learned empirical and theoretical perspectives on aging and later life through “lived experience”. The majority of the students were in their 20’s and did not inherently have knowledge of this area of study. Both the students and the older adults regularly interacted in this university class, which is an innovative method of linking these generations.

My paper shares the experience of inter-generational learning through comments and reflections gathered throughout the academic year. A phase two expectation is to conduct a more formal rigorous research study. What makes this even more interesting is that there are many layers to consider in the perspectives of each generation, from cultural attitudes and norms, to social class and income levels.

Ultimately, through this experience and through any ongoing research, my hope is that those who participate in this kind of interaction will have challenged the negative stereotyping of each generation and achieved more awareness of the effects of ageism in daily life.

Suzanne Cook

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