Today I met my PAL for the very first time. After speaking with her I learned that she has a daughter in Australia that she visits once a year and that she has traveled a lot her whole life. What surprised me is that I found out she is a nurse. Because she is older than me, I didn’t actually think she would still be able to be employed. I learned that even I have stereotypes ingrained in my brain that need to be changed. Just because people are older, it doesn’t mean they sit at home all day.
I really enjoyed this intergenerational program because it has already taught me so much in one day. It was a bit of a challenge at first because I don’t have grandparents and it was nice to be able to sit down with someone older than me, full of wisdom and stories. She has hearing aids but laughed about it and it didn’t bother her if she didn’t hear something right away. She is funny and witty, I enjoyed myself with her and can’t wait to meet up with her again next week.
Suzy Tavakoli, graduate student in Pharmacy
After my experience in PALETTE in Motion today (and the entire program) I have a better appreciation for working with older adults. I realized that just because older adults do not always move around and participate in as many activities as they did when they were younger, it does not mean that they do not wish they could. It is important to let them do what they feel comfortable doing, but also invite them to participate in any activity because they might just need an extra push to engage them. My PAL also commented once that she loves seeing young people do great things and interacting with us made her day better, so it shows how important it is to keep relationships with older adults. I also have noticed that a lot of the PALs are very excited and happy to be a part of this program and that makes me excited that I could be just as energetic as them when I am an older adult. Today showed me that these older adults really want to be included and we should never exclude them because of any preconceived notions that they are unable to participate because of their age.
Jennifer Dilger, graduate student in Physical Therapy
After today’s movement art class (as well as previous classes) I have gained a better understanding of intergenerational programming. It is a coming together, both those of younger and older ages, in order to move towards a common goal as a team. In this case, it is practicing and having a better understanding of the day’s dance concepts. It is not as difficult as it sounds. Working as part of a team, we have learned to communicate our opinions on picking the next choreographed move as well as taking into account each other’s limitations. This is one of the most important things I have learned as being part of this program – communication.
We, as individuals, must learn to communicate clearly, reflect back to show an understanding, and practice other forms of communication – those that only come with experience, in order to not just communicate with older adults, but others as well. Clear communication allows a better understanding of each other. For example, giving an opportunity for our PAL to pick the next dance move has shown me that I was wrong in my thinking – older adults are “not with the times”. This is a stereotype that I no longer hold and one that others should not. An older adult may just not have been given the opportunity to show what they know. Overall, I have taken away from PALETTE in Motion, that we must all work on being patient in communicating with others.
Waimin Khuu, graduate student in Pharmacy
I am not going to lie, I was an ageist before this class. Even walking into the first class, I was skeptical about how it was going to go. I was pleasantly surprised. Working with the senior volunteers these past few weeks has definitely opened up my eyes to a lot of things. It has been so interesting to see the differences between the student and the senior volunteers. During the first class, it was apparent that the professional students were extremely self conscious but most of the senior volunteers were not shy or afraid to experiment with the different dance motions. It has been so fun watching everyone grow more and more comfortable week by week. Sharon, my PAL, has so much spunk. Most of the senior volunteers have so much more movement in them than I thought possible. A lot of people underestimate the abilities of seniors, especially when they see a walker. But, this past weekend, a PAL with a walker performed a beautiful duet with one of the pharmacy students. It was amazing to see how someone who I thought was going to have so little movement create something so beautiful.
Attending this class has definitely eliminated any fear that I may have had about aging. The fact that all of the older PALs have made it clear that you can age beautifully and you learn so much along the way is inspiring. I never saw myself being friends with any of the PALs really but I have a dinner date planned with Alice and Sharon this Friday. Overall, I am so grateful that I was given and took this opportunity to work with all the PALs in the PALETTE program.
Shivangi Bhatt, graduate student in Pharmacy
Today was the first PALETTE in Motion class and it was an experience that was completely different from what I expected. Because I am a pharmacy student, I do not participate in classes like this at all so it was a great change from the normal class setting. But beyond learning in a different style than lecturing, the PALETTE in Motion class showed me how I can learn about the older population through movement. All of the PALs that attended the class came in with a positive attitude and an openness to learn. My PAL, Alice, was vibrant and talkative from the moment we all sat down next to each other. All of the other seniors were also very excited to do different warm up exercises and flex their creative muscles. More than anything, they seemed to enjoy doing something that most of them were not used to. They were able to step outside their comfort zone.
The different exercises showed me how age stereotypes are completely wrong and how ageism does not truly reflect the aging population. All of the older women that attended the class were all willing to learn new dance exercises and have fun and none of them perpetuated the stereotype of a stubborn old person. Everyone was enjoying him or herself and laughing. Although this isn’t a class where we purposefully teach each other, I could see the intergenerational learning occurring. While we learn to breakdown any stereotypes that we may have lingering in our minds about older adults, the older adults learn that the younger generation still enjoys their free spirits and they do not have to conform to negative connotations and jokes existing in the media. This also can relate back to Pharmacy because I have now witnessed how aging occurs differently with everyone. It’s important to tailor care according to a person’s needs and we cannot just group all older adults into one category with general stereotypes. It is important to stay focused on the needs of that patient alone. As evidenced by the group of PALs in attendance today, everyone has their own feelings about their age and this group definitely felt young and enthusiastic. I look forward to learning and experiencing more through the program and bettering my ability to care for patients in the future.
Archana Raghavan, graduate student in Pharmacy