Book Club Bridges Generational Gap

The University of Central Oklahoma Department of Human Environmental Sciences partnered with Bradford Village Senior Living this semester to improve communication between younger and older generations through an intergenerational book club.

Professor Glee Bertram created the book club as a project for her Aging and Adult Development Class. She said she wanted her students to understand that despite age, people have more similarities than differences.

“They have more birthdays than the students and they are here to share their wisdom,” Bertram said. “They are wise and energetic, having fun with their retired life.”

The purpose of the project is for seniors living at Bradford and students to discuss Margaret Cruikshank’s book, “Learning to Be Old.” Each week, the seniors share their thoughts and experiences related to the chapters to give the students more insight.

“There is so much more power coming from the lips of older adults from just reading a book or hearing it from me,” Bertram said.

The Bradford Village residents meet with the students every other week, with some meetings occurring at Bradford Village at alternate sessions to help students understand the space and environment the residents are living in.

Bertram provides discussion questions for each chapter to guide conversation with the Bradford Village residents so that students can write reflections on the experience each week.

“They surprise me with how high-energy they were and how much they wanted to talk to us,” said Olivia Russell, a student in the class. “They had many good responses and they were willing to answer any questions we had.”

Another purpose of the project, according to Bertram, is to break down the barriers between generations.

Bertram said that older adults normally receive the stereotype that they are old and grumpy, while senior citizens also can come up with a preconceived idea of who the younger adults are by judging their appearance.

“When you are 18 or 25 years old, you don’t really care about if you are 65,” Bertram said. “And most of the people we are visiting are from the range from 70 to 90. When you are young, 50 is old to you, but from their perspective, 50 is not old at all.”

These older adults have found many common values with the younger students. In their discussions, they give advice to the students on topics ranging from saving money to having a positive attitude all the time, especially with their age, according to Bertram.

“It was nice to hear that they never truly thought about aging until it happened to them,” said Ashley Sargent, a student in the class. “Even with getting older, they reminded us it is all about your attitude when it comes to aging and it is about how you feel in your heart and what you think in your mind.”

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