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‘Bridging the Generation Gap’

MSHS students, Mill Creek residents share stories during interview program

A group of students from Marquette Senior High School’s health occupations course gather around a resident of Mill Creek Assisted Living to chat and share stories during the “Bridge the Generation Gap” multi-generational interview program.

MARQUETTE — Individuals born generations apart have much to offer one another, as they can swap stories about growing up in vastly different times, share unique perspectives and create enduring bonds.

For this reason, Marquette Senior High School students in the school’s health occupations program participated in the “Bridge the Generation Gap” multi-generational interview program with residents at Mill Creek Assisted Living, giving around 40 students and 10 seniors a chance to learn from a different generation.

“Quality of life for both children and senior citizens means communication,” said Beth O’Connor, director of activities at Mill Creek Assisted Living. “‘Bridge the Generation Gap’ interviews give these young students and the seniors here at Mill Creek an opportunity to improve communication, learn new skills, encourage both groups to accept people of all ages, give direction and purpose and alleviate isolation for elders.”

Small groups of students met with one to two residents at a time, taking turns asking questions on many topics to learn more about each other, and the similarities and differences between their lives.

“They discuss school, growing up, clothing styles, careers, cars, music, and family. When I go around and check on the groups, I hear a lot of laughter by both the students and the residents,” said Ronda Manninen, who teaches the health occupations course at MSHS. “It appears the residents enjoy sharing their life stories with the high school students and high school students are fascinated hearing about life before technology.”

A resident of Mill Creek Assisted Living, center, smiles as she speaks with a group of students from Marquette Senior High School’s health occupations course during the “Bridge the Generation Gap” multi-generational interview program. The interview program was beneficial for students and residents, organizers said, as it helped them learn more about the lives of other generations while building relationships and communication skills.

It’s important for the health occupations students to interact with residents, Manninen and O’Connor said, as there will be a growing need for providers to work with seniors because the number of senior medical patients has risen by over 50 percent in the past 20 years and is likely to continue increasing as people live longer.

“In class, we discuss empathy and good communication skills and this activity allows high school students to practice both,” Manninen said.

Furthermore, O’Connor noted that “many of these students form strong bonds with our residents and are interested in volunteering here at Mill Creek or applying for employment.”

The interview program is an important part of the course’s overall aim to give students real-world experience with health care fields, Manninen said, noting students will also visit the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, as well as Brookridge Heights Assisted Living and Memory care this fall.

During the winter semester, students will have the opportunity to do clinical internships at a wide range of places in the community, such as the hospital, dental offices, veterinary offices, physical therapy clinics, assisted living facilities and “many other industries that support giving high school seniors a chance to gain experience in a potential career before graduating from high school,” Manninen said.

For those who wish to do a clinical internship at an assisted living facility, the interview experience gives students a valuable introduction to interacting with residents, O’Connor and Manninen said, noting it can lead to a number of options for students to get more experience at Mill Creek.

“After this visit, Beth encourages the Health Occupations students to apply to be an after school volunteer or once they graduate, to apply for a job as a care aide,” Manninen said. “The Health Occupations students can also do one of their clinical rotations at Mill Creek during the second semester gaining a more in-depth experience caring for the residents at Mill Creek. This is a great way for students to gain experience interacting with residents instead of just job shadowing.”

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.