Service: Bringing Generations Together

At Mercer, we often talk about the importance of service-learning. Our students strive to apply the skills they learn in the classroom to make a positive impact on the community and world around them. Through a new program at Mercer, two students are doing just that.

Junior Ava Nguyen and senior Elise Colquitt moved into senior living center Carlyle Place, Navicent Health in August 2019 as part of Mercer’s Intergenerational Housing Program. They weren’t sure what to expect, but they have been deeply impacted by the friendships they’ve formed this year.

The Intergenerational Housing Program was created by 2019 graduates Carson Outler and Anna Stallings and was modeled after a program in the Netherlands. This program is unique to Mercer because there are only a handful of colleges and universities that have programs like it.

The program’s goal is to foster relationships between generations to help combat loneliness, depression, and health-related issues. Human interactions can have a positive impact on health, and many of the residents at Carlyle Place enjoy creating friendships with younger generations.

“Seniors who experience loneliness easily fall into depression. Forming those meaningful relationships between young adults and the elderly can help decrease those negative health consequences.”

Carson Outler, ’19, co-founder of Mercer’s Intergenerational Housing Program

Even though the goal is for Mercer students to impact the lives of the senior residents, Ava and Elise feel like they have been impacted more. Living at Carlyle Place has expanded their views of society, increased their confidence, and better developed their interpersonal skills.

“In general, there is a barrier between the younger generation and the older generation and I think this type of project really breaks down the barrier. By having relationships with people that are so much older (or younger) than you, it breaks down barriers and it helps you realize you have a lot more in common than you realized before.”

Elise Colquitt, ’21

Ava and Elise love all of the residents—especially their neighbors—and enjoy getting advice from them. Because the residents speak from experience, their words have a much deeper meaning.

“This program has really allowed me to develop interpersonal communication skills and put what I learn in class to use. It’s really cool to learn something and translate it into your own experience.”

Ava Nguyen, ’20

Ava and Elise host activities for the residents throughout the week and enjoy eating dinner with them in the dining room. Some activities include: art classes, dancing, gardening, movie nights, tailgating, and technology workshops. Elise has enjoyed being tutored in Spanish by an Argentine neighbor, and they both love sharing conversation with their friends over dinner.

“Our residents absolutely love engaging with younger generations. We have a lot of residents whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren are not living nearby. When they have the opportunity to interact with someone of that age, they really enjoy it.”

Susan Bankston, Carlyle Place

Loneliness can be a multi-generational problem, but the residents at Carlyle Place don’t feel as lonely anymore. Ava and Elise have gained a few honorary grandparents in the process as well. Together, they are helping bridge the generation gap by forming friendships that bring comfort and support to everyone involved.

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