Students and seniors partner together

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Julie Patterson, 26, and Jean McDaniel, 87, might be 60 years apart, but you would never know by talking to them.

“A lot of times, we just fall into a conversation and before you know it, an hour has passed,” Patterson said. “She’s really inspired me because she’s been through a lot of adversity, how optimistic she is.”

The two were partnered over the spring semester for a psychology class at Shenandoah University that Patterson was enrolled in. Now in its third year, the “Adult Years and the Aging Process” class partners its students with seniors at the Active Living Center in Jim Barnett Park and has them completing activities together and learning about their lives.

Scott King, associate professor of psychology at Shenandoah University, said the class is a required elective for those headed into occupational therapy and added that it’s a good way for students and seniors to break down any negative stereotypes they might hold of each other.

“They see that not all old people live in nursing homes,” he said. “Some are just as active as they are. And for the congregants, they see that not everybody in the college generation is as selfish and narcissistic as we hear in the news.”

Over the course of the semester, the 19 students in the class organized a variety of fundraisers, including a T-shirt sale, bake sale, rummage sale, raffle and multiple fundraising nights at local restaurants, and raised $2,227 for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging. The psychology class presented a check to the agency on Tuesday.

Catherine Galvin, executive director of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, said the money will be used to expand its Meals on Wheels program. The program delivers meals to housebound seniors in the region.

She said the money received from the class will be able to provide about 367 additional meals, and advised students to highlight fundraising skills on their resumes

Students also wrote keepsake letters to their seniors, which were delivered on Tuesday.

King described them as the final paper for the class.

“When I was grading these papers, I enjoyed it thoroughly,” he said. “Not because I enjoy correcting grammar, but because it’s clear that you put a lot of heart into it, and a lot of effort into them.”

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com