With a goal to integrate learning connections between diverse generations, an organization at Texas State University aims to enhance the way people think of and care for the elderly.
Generation Connections was formed in 2010 and is a multidisciplinary club in which students, staff, faculty and campus groups learn about what it means to grow old and how to care for the aging population. One of the main goals is getting different generations to communicate with one another.
“We are trying to eliminate ageism and prejudice against older people in America among students and provide the opportunity for different generations to dialogue, do things together and interact with the elderly,” said Dr. Christopher Johnson, faculty advisor of Generation Connections and sociology professor.
Opeyemi Olopade, president of Generation Connections said many young Americans today don’t have much experience with the elderly, which is one reason why an organization like Generation Connections is essential.
“A lot of students don’t even know what it means to grow old or what it means to live with elderly parents,” Olopade said. “Some people don’t even know who their grandparents are.”
Many elderly people don’t have access to the best care, but members of the organization express receiving visitors can be very helpful to a senior’s health.
“The elderly, especially the elderly in San Marcos, are kind of put to the side when it comes to care, but the power of love and having one-on-one relationships is very important for maintaining health, and it’s much better than just taking drugs to help with these diseases,” Olopade said.
Generation Connections focuses heavily on teaching people about diseases in the elderly population such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, because it’s a common part of the aging process.
“It’s just one of the things that happens when you grow old,” Olopade said. “It’s not a disease that people should run from, it’s something you can learn about and help them.”
The organization wants to raise awareness about the idea of person-centered care for elderly residents and residents with dementia, which is taking the time to understand each resident as an individual and avoid stereotyping.
“We are trying to look at the person first because they don’t really have an actual cure yet, so we want to work on how to help the person and let them have some control of their lives,” said Amanda Couve, dementia and aging studies graduate student and vice president of Generation Connections.
The club also organizes trips to host activities and events at elder care facilities in and around the San Marcos area. Before each visit, volunteers will learn different ways to communicate with residents.
“I will be teaching them both nonverbal and verbal communication techniques specifically for people with dementia,” Christopher said.
Creating bonds between generations allows for more learning opportunities.
“We need to learn from elders because their approach to things is different than ours and because their perspective is so different than ours,” Olopade said. “We have to blend the two perspectives so we can produce a better community.”
Sometime in the future, Generation Connections would like to assist Dr. Johnson with his plans for dementia-friendly airports and dementia-friendly cities.