By PHYLLIS HODGES
Gannon University’s Dr. Stephanie Adams became excited when she discovered the Bridges Together program online that promotes interaction between young and older adults. As an assistant professor for the school’s Occupational Therapy doctorate program, she recognized it immediately as a good fit for the school’s OT curriculum and its community outreach efforts.
Bridges Together is a nationwide program with a mission “to educate, empower and connect generations in order to transform lives today for tomorrow.” It offers hands-on training and tools for professionals—teachers, gerontologists, and others—to enable them to create meaningful links between the generations within a community. Andrea Weaver, founder and executive director of this program, began this work on intergenerational programming in 1991.
Adams agrees with the Bridges Together philosophy—that interaction programs are a vaccination against ageism and a prescription for longevity. They allow older adults to stay socially engaged and reflect on their lives while sharing their experience and wisdom. In turn, the youthful participants experience being treasured by an older adult as they aspire to lead active, healthful lives. A grant enabled her to institute an eight-week program at Gannon in September and October.
Adams serves as facilitator for the one-hour weekly sessions comprised of about 20 participants (50-50 students and residents). “The residents attend multiple sessions; the students vary from week to week,” Adams said. “They share time together while engaging in student-guided activities to prompt conversation and reflection on various topics,” she said. “This inter-generational opportunity allows the OT students and (the) elderly (participants) to learn about one another. These exchanges promote social, emotional, physical and cognitive communication as well as help them to understand and appreciate all stages in life.”
The Gannon Ruskin campus, opened in 2015, now has about 250 students enrolled and has continually expanded with a targeted enrollment of 500 in mind. It offers doctorate programs in occupational therapy and physical therapy and master’s degrees in athletic training, sport and exercise science and physician assistant. Collectively, including the Erie, Pennsylvania, campus, Gannon is serving more than 4,000 students who are pursuing online and traditional associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Visit the website (gannon.edu) for more information.