The Perspectives of Community Members on a Pilot Intergenerational Service-Learning Project
Author: Kayla Broughton
Faculty Supervisor: Neda Moinolmolki, Ph.D.
Community Partner: St Marks Towers
Service-learning is considered a credit-bearing educational activity, in which students engage in structured activities that meet communities’ needs. The literature on intergenerational service-learning is predominantly focused on the benefits of service-learning for students rather than for residents. The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the effects of an intergenerational service-learning program on elderly residents of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized non-profit residential apartment community for low-income seniors in the southeastern region of the U.S. Because of the lack of programs specifically involving the socialization of senior citizens within this particular rural setting, the establishment of service-learning programs may be extremely valuable. College courses are well-positioned to provide such service-learning opportunities. Students in an Adulthood and Aging course had been involved in the development of three social and recreational events throughout the duration of a semester. The purpose of these activities was to help stimulate intergenerational dialogue, promote the acquisition of socially responsive knowledge, encourage healthy socio-emotional well-being, in addition to, further establish a sense of community for both residents and students. Qualified residents were invited to take part in a focus group. The elders were asked to discuss the positive and negative impacts of the service-learning project, what students and elders had contributed to each other, and suggestions for improvement. Major themes that emerged were the positive benefits of social interactions (both socially and cognitively), increased intergenerational understanding, hopefulness for the future of humanity, engagement in generativity, and eagerness to continue such service-learning projects. Implications for future intergenerational service-learning programs will be discussed.