By: Greg Tiller
When you walk into a nursing home, you don’t expect to see little kids playing and elderly residents exercising, but when you walk into Grace Living Center, this might be the first thing you see. Grace Living Center isn’t like other nursing homes and over the past month, Jenks Sociology students have gotten to experience it first hand.
According to an article on the Washington Post, at 72 million living members, the “Baby Boomer” generation is the second-largest living generation in the United States. This generation of people have been born between 1946 and 1964, and they make up roughly 23% of the country’s population. As this large generation continues to age, this brings about many issues that need to be addressed and a major problem will be the need for assisted living facilities. It just so happens that Sociology teacher Danielle Frost has dedicated an entire unit of her class to studying the aging population and helping her students get first-hand experience.
“I think it’s important for students to experience things outside of what their typical age group is,” says Frost. “Just so they can see societal issues and possibly start thinking about issues such as whether their grandparents may need a retirement home one day or their parents or something like that, they’ll be able to have more ideas other than what’s just in a textbook.”
Grace Living Center isn’t just a retirement home, however. In fact, due to a twenty-year partnership with Jenks Public Schools, they also have a Pre-K/Kindergarten multi-age classroom in the building. The students visiting Grace got to spend a lot of time with the little kids as well. Tricia Travers, who teaches the Pre-K class, believes the visit left quite an impact.
“Our Pre-K and Kindergarten class loved having the high school kids come into our classroom to learn and play,” said Travers. “It also gave our little ones an opportunity to be the leaders and teach the high schoolers how our classroom works and what it looks like to go to book buddies and exercise with the grandparents.”
During the visits, Frost wanted her students to study the interactions between the little kids and the elderly residents. The little kids have a big impact on the mental health of the residents and many of them see their interactions with the kids as the highlights of their day. The relationships built even extend way beyond the classroom, and Kindergarten teacher Katy Wilson gets to watch the relationships grow.
“There is one grandma that a student was very close to and he has now moved onto West Elementary but he still comes to visit and that grandma is always very excited to see him,” said Wilson. ”When we had our 20th-year celebration one of the students, who was in middle school now, came and found his buddy he used to read with! It was very sweet to see them interact again.”
The Sociology students covered many different issues facing the baby boomer generation such as the growing need for alternative housing and problems facing medicare. As the years pass, the need to address these issues grows stronger and stronger. Katy Stephens, a junior who is taking the Sociology class, had no idea how dire these issues were until the unit on aging began.
“It was really interesting to think that that will be me one day and this might be what life is like when I’m this old,” Stephens said. “It was eye-opening to see that and made me realize we need to help people like that instead of judging them based on appearance.”
While the issues facing baby boomers may not seem important to High School students right now, the economic repercussions will definitely have a major affect. It’s important to take some time for us to study the issues and work to produce conclusions. Afterall, someday we will all be in the same position.