Macedon Native Melissa Cook is building intergenerational relationships by adopting an elderly match through Project Generations, a weekly visiting service organized by Ithaca College and Tompkins County Office for the Aging.
The mission of Project Generations is to enrich older adults' and volunteers' lives by bridging the gap between the generations. Volunteers help fulfill seniors' needs through providing companionship, mental stimulation, and social support. By pairing elders with Ithaca College student volunteers Project Generations aims to reduce the social stigma and recognize older adults' value as community members with rich life experiences to share.
Benefits of intergenerational relationships to seniors: Enhanced socialization: Intergenerational relationships fill a social need for elders providing a sense of purpose in life; stimulated learning: Older adults learn new innovations and technologies from their younger counterparts - motivation and commitment to intergenerational programs comes when they feel they have contributed to their development; improved health: Older adults who regularly volunteer with youth burn 20 percent more calories per week, experience fewer falls, are less reliant on canes and are less likely to suffer from depression.
Student volunteers and elders are paired based on personality, hobbies and skills such as knitting, baking or playing card games. Once paired, the partners meet weekly throughout the year and participate in activities based on interests and the cognitive and physical abilities of the elderly partner. Some pairs prefer to simply chat with one another, where other pairs work on projects or take walks together.
This year, Project Generations has successfully matched 45 elderly community members with Ithaca College students for weekly visits. At the 2013 Ithaca College Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs Recognition Ceremony in April, Project Generations received the President's Volunteer Service Award, Student Organization of the Year Award, and Outstanding Service Organization Award.
For more information on Project Generations visit www.projectgenerations.org.