The Canadian Institute for Seniors Care at Conestoga College has completed a two-year project that created intergenerational mentorship and learning opportunities, connecting more than 65 seniors and their care partners with nearly 2,000 students and more than 75 faculty members and staff to promote seniors’ acceptance, inclusion and volunteerism. The impact of the program has been felt by seniors and their families and care partners, as well as students and employees in the college community.
A two-year project created intergenerational mentorship and learning opportunities, connecting more than 65 seniors and their care partners with nearly 2,000 students and more than 75 faculty members and staff.
“Although our sessions have come to an end, we have found that seniors remain eager to share their expertise, care partners continue to seek out opportunities to learn more about supports for seniors, and faculty are reaching out to inquire about our capacity to support more mentoring and learning sessions,” said Lauren Crutchlow, project development officer.
Funding for Learning Together: Bridging the Generation Gap, provided by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors program, was granted in 2020 when COVID-19 began impacting social engagement for seniors as well as students’ learning experiences. Michelle Heyer, chair, Seniors Care, said both these challenges presented really unique opportunities to connect seniors and students.
Through online mentoring and learning sessions, seniors shared their experiences with a range of topics, including what it’s like living at home for as long as possible and what it’s like to live with dementia. Through a semi-structured format students had the opportunity to ask seniors questions. The online sessions fostered meaningful intergenerational connections and purposeful conversations that met both seniors’ and students’ needs, transferring lived knowledge and experience between the generations.
Heyer said the sessions have provided students with a window into the lives and challenges of our seniors - an invaluable experience that cannot be achieved through a textbook. Feedback from students has suggested the same - in addition to boosting their knowledge and skills, students have said the sessions provided unique insights that they may not have had otherwise.
Over the last two years, more than 65 mentoring and learning sessions have been held with topics related to aging: elder abuse, aging with pride as members of the 2SLGBTQ community, aging in place or living at home, transitions through the health care system, living with chronic disease, and the impact of COVID-19.
While most sessions were scheduled in collaboration with faculty from the School of Health & Life Sciences to help students achieve course outcomes they would otherwise achieve through in-person placements, Heyer said faculty from other departments have also inquired about opportunities to host session on specific topics.
Faculty have also said that the stories shared by seniors and their care partners have expanded their perspectives, deepened their understanding and given them inspiration for lessons.
The Canadian Institute for Seniors Care, led by Dr. Veronique Boscart, the CIHR/Schlegel Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Seniors Care, focuses on education, workforce development and applied research to develop highly qualified personnel to improve the quality of life and care for Canada’s growing population of seniors.