Title

The Elder Mentor Relationship: An Experiential Learning Tool

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-3-2006

Abstract

The elder mentor relationship is an experiential learning tool in which undergraduate students in introductory gerontology courses are assigned to initiate and develop a relationship with an older person for the course of the semester. This pairing attempts to expose students to the value of intergenerational relationships and mutual exchange. It also provides an arena in which students can integrate classroom learning with real‐life situations and people. In addition to delineating this educational initiative, its objectives, and details of the assignment, this article provides results of a student evaluation of the project. Fifty‐nine students who completed the elder mentor experience provided feedback in terms of the assignment's effectiveness in meeting several objectives, including facilitating their understanding of gerontology. Students indicated that the elder mentor project was one of the most rewarding and instructive components of the gerontology class. Although making the initial contact was intimidating to some, the majority of the participants were pleasantly surprised at how meaningful the time spent with their elder mentors had become to them. Most discovered that many of their preconceived notions about aging and old age were challenged in a manner not possible in the classroom. In addition to the relational and gerontological insights gained, several student respondents expressed a desire to maintain their relationships with their mentors and to pursue similar relationships with other older adults.

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