By Morgan Vanwickler & Pavel Zlatin- Art Director & 1851 Staff
Lasell is now recognized as an Age-Friendly University (AFU); it is the first college in Massachusetts and second in the U.S. to hold this title.
With Lasell Village located on campus, the college is able to embrace the AFU initiative with ease. Through the work of the Fuss Center, Joann Montepare, Kim Farah, and the support of faculty and administration, Lasell will continue to grow as an AFU.
In 2015, Montepare was awarded the Talk of Ages grant from the Talk of Ages Summit in order to research ways universities in Massachusetts could become more age-friendly.
Following the summit, Montepare and Farrah were invited by the president of Dublin City University Brian MacCraith to visit and work with a small international team through the university to create and finalize this set of principles, which are now endorsed by The Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE).
Lasell became an AFU after President Michael Alexander approved this endorsement, which was then sent to MacCraith, along with the AFU Network Coordinator Kristine O’Kelly and AGHE.
Montepare recognized the support she had from faculty and the administrators on both sides of campus. “They’ve really given me the opportunity to not only explore this initiative, but to have Lasell become a leader in it,” said Montepare.
Becoming an AFU has numerous benefits for students. To start, it brings student awareness to the concept of aging. Within the next couple decades, “There will be more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 50,” said Montepare.
Lasell gives villagers and students a chance to experience intergenerational education by allowing villagers to take almost any class on campus. While Village residents are not eligible to take all classes, some professors invite them to generate discussions by adding an intergenerational perspective to the subject matter.
Associate Professor of History Dennis Frey tries to get the Village residents involved in many of his classes, particularly his multidisciplinary courses.
“In the history courses, the students get to talk to the eyewitnesses,” said Frey. “Those conversations bring history to life. It reminds everyone that the past is about memories, complexity and different perspectives.”
While the most common way for students to have an intergenerational education experience is project-based, some classes like Lyric Poetry are taught entirely in the Village and typically have quite a few residents enrolled.
According to Professor Frey, one reason why some courses can’t be taken by the Village residents is the enrollment caps. “Once a class fills, the villagers can’t get in,” said Frey. “What I would like to see is the situation when a course fills a cap, but the villagers would still be able to come in and audit the course.” This way, the villagers won’t be graded, but they will still be able to participate in a course.
Frey has noticed students generally respond positively to their intergenerational experiences. “Most students seem to like it,” said Frey. “There have been a couple instances where students in my classes did not enjoy the experience. Sometimes villagers and students are not seeing eye-to-eye. Humans can be complicated.”
The Age-Friendly University concept is also beneficial for those aged 65 and older. Charlotte Winslow, a Village resident, is currently enrolled in a watercolor painting course. “What I enjoy most of all is I love talking to [fellow students] because I taught all my life and I’ve always had young people around me, and therefore it’s a joy to be back with them again,” said Winslow.
There is so much knowledge and information to exchange with one another. The intergenerational initiative sets the tone for a productive and thoughtful approach to Lasell’s connected learning philosophy.
“It benefits the students, but it is also benefits the villagers,” said junior fashion merchandising major Kendall Allerton. “It allows you to see a different perspective, and in a history-like setting, it can be very helpful.”
The most recent example of this intergenerational initiative was launched on March 20 titled Project Funway, a fashion show hosted as a fundraiser for the Lasell Village Benevolent Fund. Senior fashion communication major Hannah Amorello was in charge of “background research, music arrangement and serving as a link between the Village and the college.”
Students and villagers were invited to come dressed as any character they like and participate by strutting down the runway. The MCs for the night were “Julia Child” and “Emily Dickinson,” who gave brief introductions of each character.