York County's Intergenerational Learning Center
Since Fall of 2015, Generation Connect has been helping students train older adults on smartphones and tablets at local seniors centers. We've been privileged to collaborate on this project with Dr. Mary Ligon of York College of Pennsylvania.
One of Dr. Ligon’s many contributions was the idea of prompting students and older adults to interview each other at the end of the project using the StoryCorp app. It’s fun and meaningful!
This year, Dr. Ligon and I decided to join the fun and interview each other by answering the following questions:
- How do you want to be remembered?
- Why is it important for older generations to interact with younger generations? and vice versa?
For more on this project, check out the video from the Fall 2015.
Mary - My name is Mary Ligon and I am 52 years old.
Michael - My name is Michael Potteiger and I am 29 years old. Today is November 29, 2016 and I am speaking with Mary, who is one of my mentors, and we are recording this interview in York Pennsylvania.
We will start with this question. Both of us will be answering this question. I'll ask you first: how would you like to be remembered?
Mary - I would like to be remembered as a cheerleader. I was not actually a cheerleader in school but I think one of my gifts is being an encourager. I try to use that gift and be encouraging to family members, try to encourage my students, try to encourage people that I interact with on a daily basis. Your words are important and you can lift people up or bring them down. I try to use my words for the positive, and I really want to be remembered for that.
Michael - You do a good job of that. You have encouraged me a lot.
I think the way that I would like to be remembered is as a problem solver or an innovator. I like to help people with their problems and try to come at it from a unique perspective. I love interacting with people that are much different than I am, that come from different backgrounds and have different problems than I do. I try to understand their problems and take my unique perspective and come up with solutions to their problems that they may not have otherwise come across. That’s something I really enjoy doing, especially the part of getting to know people that are different than me.
I also like being creative and trying to think outside the box. When you do that type of work, it doesn't always turn out how you think it might, but you can really learn a lot from those experiences and grow from them.
Mary - I’ll say back at you: I recognize that in the work that you do, you do think outside the box and come up with creative solutions.
Michael - So my question to you is... We do a lot of intergenerational work together, and I know you are really passionate about that. It is part of your ikigai. So why do you think it's important for older generations to interact with younger generations?
I think older generations can learn a lot from younger generations. They can keep up with the time so to speak. They can be energized by those relationships. I think it also gives them a chance to share the lessons that they learned. Young people can benefit from that, but I also think it's helpful to share those experiences. You benefit from helping someone else. By older generations interacting with young people, they can learn, they can be energized but they can also have a sense of purpose by helping folks by sharing experiences that they've had.
Michael - I do not want to put you on the spot too much but can you think of any examples from your personal life where you benefited from interacting with younger generations where you really grew from the experience? Whether it was your kids or your students, where you just had some type of insight from working younger generations?
Mary - I don't know if I had an insight but I'll share an example where I felt I had a sense of purpose working with a younger person. I have a lot of students that come through my classes, and every now and then, I have a special mentor in relationship with the student. About two years ago, student named Jess graduated from York college, and she had a major in therapeutic recreation, which I did. She also minored in gerontology, which I have an interest in. I felt like I was really able to help her find her passion. It was just a neat and special relationship.
She put a post on Facebook, describing a relationship. I felt really important; it just made me feel really good. One of my friends commented on the post and said something like, “I bet you get that all the time.” That sort of rub me the wrong way. I did not like that post. I responded to it by saying no I really don't get that all the time, but if I get that one time, if I just inspire one person, that's enough. So that's how I felt in that situation.
I'll turn this back around on you Michael and I will ask you why do you think it's important for younger generations to interact with older generations?
Michael - I think one of the primary reasons I think it's so important, and there's a lot of reasons I think it's important… There are a lot of stigmas about aging and I think we all fall victim to those stigmas occasionally. One of the things that I've noticed from my experiences interacting with older generations: when you get to know the individual people behind the stigma, a lot of those concerns that you might have about growing older, don't necessarily go away, but you are looking at them from a different perspective. You are seeing that there is a lot of joy and wisdom and positive experiences later in life.
To build off of that, it gives you a better sense of empathy, understanding some of the challenges. When you meet that person, and it's really specific and personal, and you see some of those challenges, it helps you grow as a person. It helps you be a little bit more mindful in your every day life and have compassion for people of all ages, when you start to understand some of these challenges and realities of growing older.
So as we wrap up I would just like to tell you that I really enjoy working with you and value the project that we have worked on with the iPad and mobile technology here at White Rose senior center with your college students. I think very highly of you. I really enjoyed our interaction, and I hope that we can continue to work together in the future.
Likewise, I think this project is the start of more to come here in York County.