During the fall 2012 semester, students in Cheryl Cheek's Adult Development and Aging class (HDFS 249) had the experience of learning about aging from those who are experiencing it. The 21 undergraduate students visited Quincy Village retirement community five times where they were paired with residents who became their Learning Partners. These partnerships allowed both groups to better understand the other's reality.
The students learned about topics related to aging in class and then went to Quincy Village to interview their Learning Partners about those topics. For example, when they learned the Life Course Theory of development, students interviewed their Learning Partners about their lives. Then the students wrote papers combining the classroom information with the real life experiences they learned about in the interviews. In the same way, when students learned about cognition (thinking), they did activities that involved memory with their Learning Partners and interviewed them about their memories.
These activities allowed the students to apply what they learned in their courses to real-world experiences. They gave them a greater appreciation for the skills and knowledge that older people gain over a lifetime. The Learning Partners, in turn, gained the emotional rewards of helping students learn.
The visits were a great success, with both the students and the Learning Partners looking forward to each visit. The last visit this semester was a Christmas Carnival that the students and Learning Partners created together.