UI class aims to connect students, senior citizens

BY ERIC MOORE | AUGUST 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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This fall, University of Iowa students and local senior citizens will come together to create original works of music and possibly lasting friendships.

Students in the Aging and Leisure class this semester will participate in Bookends, a class project that teams with senior citizens from the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St., over the course of the semester. There, students and seniors will meet in groups to discuss themes based on age, life lessons, and beliefs.

Dialogue from the discussions will be turned into song lyrics, and together, the class will record two songs. The name comes from the idea that students and seniors’ are the “ends” of a book.

David Gould, interdepartmental studies coordinator and creator of the class, said the project is an “intergenerational music project” in which students will meet with senior citizens five times over the course of the semester for small-group discussions.

One song will focus on the students; their goals, dreams, and what they want to accomplish. The other will be about the seniors and their reflections on life experiences.

“It’s showing how what we’re talking about in lecture really applies in the real world and trying to do something bigger than ourselves, something kind of together that will be meaningful as part of a class project,” Gould said. “And meaningful, truthfully for the students and the seniors.”

The students participating do not have to have musical backgrounds. The two songs will be composed by a student and retired professor unaffiliated with the class. The “music facilitators” will sit in on workshops to ensure the lyrics are accurately interpreted.

Bookends is based on Unfinished Business, a project Gould oversaw in a previous class. In the class, students and seniors pared up to share their “bucket lists.”

“I do so many things that are experiments. I have no idea how this will turn out,” Gould said. “But the potential to do something magical and see what happens and not know is also a fun part of education.”

Emily Light, the community outreach specialist for the Senior Center, said 12 to 15 seniors will be involved in the project with one senior matched up with two or more students.

“[It allows them to] explore a perspective that they’re not immediately familiar with,” Gould said. “It offers an opportunity for the seniors, especially, to reflect on their own lives in the context of the perspective of younger students.”

Louie DeGrazia, 78, who has been a teacher and member at the Senior Center for six years and has worked with Gould on past projects, thinks the project is “an amazing idea.”

“I think [the seniors] really looking forward to it, with real anticipation,” DeGrazia said. “The surprising part, at least to me, is how little they seem to know about older folks and how they have expectations that are simply not so.”

The final workshop and chorus practice will take place Nov. 14, and the songs will be recorded on Dec. 5.

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