This week was my final week in the life course scholar program. We wrapped up by presenting our Healthy Aging Projects at the Healthy Aging Symposium. It was a great feeling seeing our work over the past quarter represented in a physical form through our posters and to have the chance to speak with guests about what we’ve done and learned. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a program. I’ve grown friendships through this cohort and have learned and gained more skills than I could have ever imagined. Through the course of planning our HAPs, we gained valuable event planning, advertising, and community outreach skills. Prior to joining this program, I never really considered the state of seniors living in poverty. We always hear the term “starving children”, and we tend to see fundraisers targeted more towards children in poverty, very rarely do we ever see this for seniors. It was unfortunate to learn more about this in this program, but awareness is crucial towards being able to make an impact. It was an incredible feeling returning to the West Center and being able to provide those seniors with things as small as basic hygiene products that they may not otherwise be able to afford. This is something that we definitely tend to take for granted. I’ve been referring all my younger friends that will still be going to UCSD in the fall to take part in this incredible and life-changing program. I’d like to thank Professor Bussell and Professor Bussell for all that we have learned and for allowing me to take part in such an amazing program. I hope to carry over what I have learned from the Life Course Scholar Program into my professional career and continue to give back wherever I can.
Our inter-generational walkathon finally took place today at Balboa Park! Professor Lewis and Bussell had recommended that we reach out to existing senior walking groups to invite them to the event in order to receive a greater turnout, and this was great advice. We ended up getting a pretty sizeable turnout, and even got a few additional students from other student orgs at UCSD to show up! My primary responsibility for today was making sure to document and photograph the event. We have the email addresses of the leaders of the walking groups, so I’ll be sure to share these photos with them as well. We did make a few mistakes as we didn’t have any definitive guidelines to follow in planning this event, but hopefully if another group in next year’s cohort chooses to continue with this HAP, they can improve from our lessons. The biggest issue was t-shirt sizes! It turned out that we should have ordered much more larges and extra larges because we were left with several smalls and mediums that no one wanted because they believed they would fit too snug on them. The seniors got very excited when we told them that we would be raffling off prizes for everyone that filled out a post-event survey. So hopefully next year, if a group in the cohort chooses to continue with this event, they will be able to fundraise and have more items to raffle off. I loved the conversations I had with everyone that came out! All the seniors in attendance were incredibly grateful that we organized this event for them because they said their walking groups don’t normally walk at Balboa Park but they loved this location. Many of the seniors I spoke to had mentioned that they suffered from severe health problems before, but being physically active and joining these walking groups has improved their health noticeably. This was incredible to hear because the main purpose of our HAP was to demonstrate the benefits that an active lifestyle can have on a senior and to promote more physical activity especially in seniors in San Diego. We will be wrapping up our HAP by pulling data from the post-event surveys and completing our poster with our findings for the Healthy Aging Symposium!
This week, we did a debrief on the LBGTQ Community Center LEG. It was great to hear how it went, considering that several members of the cohort were unable to attend due to class conflicts. It sounds as if that LEG went much different than the others did because with the other LEGs that I was able to attend, there were several cohort members teamed up with one or two seniors. However, it sounds as if this one was reversed and it was one cohort member assigned to several seniors. We also did a debrief on one of the HAPs that has already taken place, and that was the gardening HAP at Potiker and I believe again at the West Center. It sounds as if their event was wildly successful and they were able to get several seniors to take part in potting succulents. The professors had mentioned that they will even try to implement this potting event into the Life Course Scholar program next year for the entire cohort to take part in. We continued with the entire cohort briefly sharing their debunking ageism communication assignments. I was impressed with the cohort’s work as there were several very unique ideas that people had in completing this assignment. Some students teamed up to create an Instagram account from the perspective of an active and fun senior. There was also a twitter account made to show that seniors can continue living exciting lives into their older years. There were a few blogs and even a bingo game! Some of these projects might be displayed at the Aging Symposium. My groups’s HAP is coming up on June 1st! Everything is coming together for this walkathon and we are very excited for the turnout that we will have.
Our intergenerational walkathon is two weeks away! We have about 35 people (outside of our group) signed up to attend this event that we were able to get by reaching out to existing senior walking groups in the community. We are hoping to work this week on getting more to come out! We had another site visit at the LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest this last week; however, I along with several of my other classmates, were unable to attend due to the timing of this site visit conflicting with our other classes. I was a little sad about this because the LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest was probably my favorite site to visit last quarter. In our next class, we will be presenting our debunking ageism communications assignment. I’m really excited to see all the different ideas that members of the cohort had in doing this assignment. I had settled on an informational booklet as my project; however, I know that a lot of people got very creative and had unique ideas such as creating social media accounts from the perspective of a senior! We will also be presenting a brief sketch up of our HAP posters that will be due later on in the quarter. Following our walkathon event, we will be sending out a post event survey for all the walkers so that we can obtain some quantitative results and data that we can use in completing our poster. We’ve already sent out our orders for t-shirts for the day of the event, that were thoughtfully designed by some members of our group. We are just counting down the days until the event!
This week, our debunking ageism communication assignment was due. I chose to narrow my topic on debunking ageism myths regarding the tech industry! While leading tech companies openly publicize their organizational diversity data in terms of ethnic and gender composition, little data has been shared about the age makeup of the tech workforce. However, Visier, a cloud-based analytic application designed to answer critical workforce strategy questions, published their findings from an aggregation of anonymized and standardized workforce databases to debunk ageism in tech myths, and I referred to the findings of their research for this assignment. I published the findings into a neat and portable booklet. I focused on debunking four myths: (1) older tech workers are valued less; (2) older tech workers experience a drop in salary; (3) newly hired older tech workers are not paid equitably; and (4) older workers in tech resign at higher rates. Visier provided analytic proof to debunk all four myths, and I published the data in my booklet to support my findings. Yet despite these findings that older workers in tech are increasingly rated as top performers as they age compared to non-tech workers, there is systemic ageism in tech hiring practices. Tech hires a higher proportion of younger workers and a smaller proportion of older workers than non-tech. I included in my booklet some suggestions of important steps that employers can take to ensure they root out the risk of ageism in their workforce, and acquire the best and brightest talent available, regardless of age. One of these steps is keeping in mind that, as with ethnic and gender equity, age equity is a cultural issue — if pockets of ageism exist within your organization, you will need to devise plans to address them not only via better HR practice and policy rollouts, but through culture change. Another step would be to develop hiring practices that specifically do not screen out candidates based on the length of their unemployment — while this report focused on systemic ageism, many individual stories suggest older unemployed workers struggle to get hired, and studies indicate recruiters screen out candidates that have been unemployed for longer periods of time. Companies may be missing out if they don’t consider the age composition of specific teams, departments, and business units and how managers can build diversity. Legal issues aside, designing a recruitment strategy around younger generations can be shortsighted from a business perspective. Older workers tend to be more loyal, and an over- representation of millennials in the workforce can impact retention. My group is continuing to work on our intergenerational walkathon HAP, which will be taking place on June 1st. More updates to come!
This week, for our class site visit, we re-visited the Gary Mary West Center. We arrived with conversation cards to ask any people that were willing to stop by and chat with us. We walked around the center offering snacks to people in the building as an incentive to stop by and have intergenerational conversation with us! I ended up chatting with one woman for the entire duration of this visit. She said she was born and raised in Mexi-Cali, but that now she lives with her daughter in Chula Vista. She told me her daughter is unaware of the fact that she visits the West Center because she chooses to quietly slip out and take the bus to get there while her daughter is out at work. She said it takes her over an hour to get there via bus, and she chooses not to let her daughter know about this because she doesn’t want to seem like a burden on her, which is a common theme among elders living with their family that we have discussed in class. Once she realized that I am Indian, she got very excited and let me know that India is a country that she’s always wanted to visit because she loves the food and the culture so much. I feel like I bonded more so with this woman than I have with any other individual from any other site visit. I’ve been going through some personal things lately, that I haven’t had the courage to share with any other friends. But there is something oddly therapeutic about venting to strangers. Once I opened up to her about these things, she felt comfortable enough to share with me some personal things that she’s been suffering through lately. She enjoyed conversation with me very much as well, I believe that we both talked with one another for two hours! We were the last two people left still engaging in conversation by the end of inter-generational conversation, and I felt bad that I had to cut off our talk so that I could drive my carpool back to campus. She told me she was grateful for our talk and I packed her a few granola bars to take with her. This was an experience that truly moved me, and I hope to have similar experiences at our future site visits!
This week we reconvened in the classroom. We did check ins with everyone regarding our current stress levels in the quarter. It felt nice to be able to share these thoughts with our classmates in this safe space. We also did a follow up regarding our last two site visits. Then, we met with our HAP groups. We’ve finalized a date for our HAP and we were fortunate enough to link up with an existing walking group to make our walkathon of all ages much more feasible. We’ve decided how we want to spend our budget on the event as well. We are planning on ordering Gatorade mix from Amazon, buying bananas, granola bars, and water bottles from Costco, buying Target gift cards to raffle off at the event, getting balloons from the Dollar Tree to decorate the event and signal the beginning and end of the route, and ordering event t-shirts to hand out to attendees. We estimate that this will amount to about $775. Professor Lewis and Professor Bussell told us that they will place the orders for us and go with some us to pick up the food items from Costco. I believe that we have settled on a t-shirt design for the event, and we have finalized a flyer as well! We are planning a group site visit soon to try to designate a route for the day of the event. Now our main focus is getting word out and trying to get as many attendees to come to this event as possible.
We had our second learning exchange meeting (LEG), and this time it was at Casa de Mañana! This was our third visit to this site, and we even saw some familiar faces. There were fewer people in attendance at this LEG than there were at Bayside, so our class divided into much larger groups, and the focus was placed more on the Casa residents to speak than on us. I was in a group with a couple that had been pilots together before they had retired. They told us they had flown several very important people in their days, and they had even brought a picture that they had taken with President Reagan! They told us that back in the day, it was legal to own bobcats as pets, which came as a surprise to all of us! They brought pictures they had of their pet bobcat that they had rescued from the wild, and it had co-existed with their other cats! They said she was a very tame animal, and she was incredibly loving and would cuddle with them every night. This LEG seemed like a much different experience than the Bayside one, because at Bayside, we had all collectively spoken of our lives at 20; whereas at Casa, it was only the residents that got the chance to speak of their experiences. I think I personally preferred the Bayside experience because when we also got to share our stories, I felt that we connected with the participants on a deeper level. Next week, we’ll be back in the classroom and we will be getting even closer to the dates of our healthy aging projects!
We had a learning exchange meeting (LEG) at Bayside titled “My Life at Twenty”. We were originally supposed to partake in another Zumba lesson; however, the location had changed and the room could not fit our class in addition to those already in attendance. After they wrapped up their Zumba session, we walked in and gathered in groups to share our stories of our lives at twenty with the individuals in attendance. A few of them had recognized us from the last Zumba session! The individual my group spoke with has lived in America for 60 years now and had originally immigrated from the Philippines. He said he had immigrated here because he was enlisted in the United States army. He had immigrated along with his wife, who was also in attendance at Zumba! He told us stories of how a hamburger from McDonald’s used to cost 10 cents, and how a gallon of gas used to cost 25 cents. His children are now about the ages of myself and of my classmates and he told us that he would love nothing more than for them to do and to study what they are passionate about it. He said his parents had made him go to school for engineering and he hated it and resented his parents greatly for it. He spread this message along to myself and my peers and told us that money does not matter if we aren’t doing what we love. I loved this experience of hearing his life stories, and I’m sure it lit up his day to be able to share these stories with us and reminisce on his days.
This was our first week back after spring break! We’ve already started planning our Healthy Aging Project for the quarter and my group submitted a proposal for an intergenerational walk called “Walks of Life”. We took into consideration that it might be difficult for some seniors to take part in walk that spans several miles, so we are planning on making it span no longer than 1-2 miles or about 3 kilometers. To make it intergenerational, we are planning on reaching out to UCSD students and even local high school and elementary school students to attend the event. We are currently trying to finalize the venue, but due to the lengthy time it takes to secure permits for outdoor venues in conjunction with our restricted timeline to make this event happen, we are struggling a little bit. However, if we cannot secure a venue that requires permits, we have a few venues in mind that are public places that will not require such permits. This healthy aging project aims to establish a sustainable event that fosters intergenerational interaction, connections among community members, and increase awareness of healthy and accessible physical activities such as walking. Studies have proven that seniors that partake in regular physical activity, such as walking, have a reduced likelihood for chronic conditions and have improved heart health. We hope to inspire the seniors that partake in this event to become more physically active. We have a budget of $800 and we are going to start seeking sponsors to cover certain costs for the event such as snacks, water, t-shirts, and flyers. It’s going to take quite a bit of effort to make this event happen under a restricted budget and timeline, but I have full confidence in my group and in myself to accomplish this!