When a resident at Morning Pointe Senior Living and Memory Care died in 2020 after a battle with COVID-19, a Franklin College student’s photo was found on a table in his room. The student had taken a 2019 College seminar called “Life Examined: In Pursuit of Your Best Self.” The seminar paired students with residents at Morning Pointe’s Franklin location to encourage visits and dialogue about the differences and similarities between generations.
The student whose photo was found came back to the College the next semester with an interest in gerontology. Associate professor of sociology Jason Jimerson, Ph.D., decided to continue the course in the fall of 2020, even though students could not visit the senior citizens in person due to the pandemic. Jimerson and Mary Beth Piland, life enrichment director at Morning Pointe, encouraged correspondence via personal letters, and helped coordinate intergenerational video calls and Zoom chats.
Jimerson said, “My inspiration for this was that I was very close to my grandparents and my great-grandparents, but also my father and mother. They recently passed away, and I learned a great deal from them.”
Jimerson hoped his students also would benefit from socializing with elders. Conversations overheard included admiration and advice. Gordon Dunn, 99, said, “The pre-World War II culture that I was born in and the culture we have today postwar are completely different in many ways. It’s difficult to understand and accept the culture of younger people. What they believe and do is different than the way I was raised. I appreciate the younger ones, I believe in the younger ones; they’re our future. Regardless of how I feel, they’re going to be all right.”
Kosmo Wojack ’24, from Hawaii, considered the importance of keeping in touch. “Gordon taught me to always stay active,” Wojack said. “Gordon’s advice was, ‘Talk to your family more, and keep in contact with people from home,’ which I should do more.”
Other conversations led to insights about what life was like growing up in the first half of the 20th century.
The new technology was exciting, recalled Virginia Tyte. “We were one of the first houses to have TV,” Tyte said. “Every weekend, everyone in class would come to our house. We would put it in the window, and people outside and in the neighborhood would watch.”
In an effort to relate, Ty Wright ’24 recalled a time when he didn’t have access to TV. “I got in trouble when I was younger, and I couldn’t watch TV. It was the worst week of my life,” he joked.
Markiah Miller-Kees ’24 learned her Morning Pointe acquaintance died in October after contracting pneumonia. Miller-Kees never was able to meet her in person. Still, she gained a lot from the interaction.
Miller-Kees said, “She acknowledged stuff happening in my life, and how amazing it was I overcame it. I’ve been through a lot not many kids have, but she made me feel smart and strong. She always told me to live your best life because you don’t know when you’re going to be here, or not.”
In 2019, Jimerson had students conclude the course by telling the senior citizens what they learned from them.
“The Morning Pointe residents came to campus and watched the students give presentations,” Jimerson said. “They were almost like eulogies for the living.”
Students who took the 2020 course asked the senior citizens to reflect on when they were younger, and lessons they learned.
Joye Hardin, 94, said she would tell her younger self to enjoy life to the fullest.
“I remember going to a seminar years ago,” Hardin said. “One thing the speaker said was, ‘If you want to be successful in life, when you meet someone make them feel important, and you will be successful.’ I think I have been successful. Life is good. Life is fun. There are ups and downs. I’ve enjoyed life to the fullest. I’m happy with my life, and I’m happy with what I’ve done with it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: By Andy Bell-Beltaci
Reprinted with permission from the Daily Journal.
Edited for length and content.
POSTED Jun 28, 2021