Western Michigan University is upping the ante on the study of relationships between people of different generations by sending Colette Chapp and two other occupational therapy grad students to live at a retirement community in Grand Rapids.
“The goals are to break the stereotypes of both aging and the stereotypes that each generation could have of each other,” said Chapp.
It was awkward for Chapp at first, but she broke the ice while playing poker with the residents. Since then, she has gotten to know them well.
“These people, they’re not just my neighbors,” said Chapp.
“They’re my friends, they’re my family now. It took time. It was hard at first, but the point that we’ve already gotten to is just so exciting.”
The three students are about a third of the way through their 19-month stay at Clark on Keller Lake.
Intergenerational friendships are also being formed in Ohio, where students from the Cleveland Institute of Music have taken up residence at the nearby Judson Manor retirement home.
Tiffany Tieu, who recently took a job working in Chile, lived for three years at Judson, where she played music and shared more than a few meals with fellow resident Laura Berick.
“For me, it was something that was an opportunity to use music to be part of a community and to have a really interesting living experience,” said Tieu.
“Laura is a very special person in my life.”
While the arrangement in Cleveland isn’t tied to Academic Research, it is focused on bridging the generation gap.
“Here I came to Judson Manor, where there were young adults. And life sparkled,” said Berick.
The architects of the Western Michigan Study have said they hope that by the time the students move out next year, their findings will lead to more effective communication between young and old.
But what they’re already finding out is that whether cutting cards or bread, co-habitants from different generations are finding it possible to reach common ground.