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Program combats ageism by students living with seniors

WALLINGFORD, Conn. – Victoria Kozar, such as many of the students, a meeting with one of her best friends in high school.

The now 23-year-old, who attended the Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, says she and Beth lived in the same building and spent hours talking about everything from boyfriends to bake.

Her other friends are usually surprised when they find out that Beth Eichelman is 91 years old.

“I don’t need to refer to her as my older friend Beth,” she said. “She is not like the other grandma. She is just one of the girls.”

Kozar, of New Milford, was one of the first students to take part in the Quinnipiac Students-In-Residence Program, which had her life during her last year on the 2016-17, at Masonicare at Ashlar Village, a retirement community in Wallingford.

Intergenerational learning is not new. There are dozens of programs throughout the country that have opened for assisted living facilities on the campus or given to senior citizens access to college class. But only a few, such as Quinnipiac, in fact, the generations live together.

The idea of the program is to break generations of stereotypes, combating age discrimination and introducing students to the possibility of a career working with the elderly.

On Friday, Ashlar Village welcomed Cathleen Smith, a law student. Smith has her own apartment and will provide a minimum of eight hours of service per week in exchange for housing.

“I’m really interested in the life of elder law and I find that the best way to make people to be with them, listen to them,” said Smith, 23. “So I’m hopeful that this year I’ll learn about their lives, but also how to help them.”

Kozar, who apply to medical schools, says the program has helped steer her to a career in geriatrics. She helped run a jewelry-making club and a baking class in the centre. Residents would ask her to help with the computer, tablets and technology.

“It’s nice to have someone who is young, who is lively, that smile, that talks to us,” said the 85-year-old resident Clarisse Miessau, who wore a Quinnipiac University T-shirt Friday welcome Smith. “That is what they have done for us.”

Kozar said that she and the other students get just as much, if not more, of the program by means of living history lessons. A number of the women in the middle, she said, had distinguished careers in science and medicine — breaking down the barriers that they are now able to walk through. All of them, ” she said, happy to share their stories and expertise.

“This place is more of life than many of my college classrooms,” she said. “My friends wanted to spend more time there than anywhere else.”

The experience inspired her to start an organization, “Old and New Friends,” that brought other Quinnipiac students to the centre.

John Morgan, a university spokesman, said that is clearly in the higher education community that the elderly are an untapped resource. He said that the next step can be to a Masonciare resident lives in a university dorm.

In Ohio, students from the Cleveland Institute of Music, his life in the Judson Manor retirement home since 2010.

Kristina Kuprevicius, the center’s director of marketing, said that the scheme provides a built-in audience for the students and welcome interaction with the younger generation for seniors.

“Between the two sexes, there is a lot of comradery, which begins to build up, because as a resident told me,” We have no baggage together, ” she said. “Students can ask people about certain problems and how they should react to their parents, and the seniors are kept up to date by the students.”

Kozar said that the students have learned that the elderly are not necessarily the weak and the elderly residents have learned that Millennials are not necessarily turned in on itself, ” she said.

J. P. Venoit, the chief executive of Masonicare, said when she became involved in the Quinnipiac program, he assumed that the students would come in, do their work with the elderly and spend the rest of the time in their room studying.

“That’s not been the case,” he said. “They don’t go through the motions. The fully-involved. That is the interesting part. It turned out to be something much better, a lot more than we thought it would be.”

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