Philosophy Students Participate in Intergenerational Course
This semester, 35 East Stroudsburg University students in the University Honors Program met every Wednesday for six weeks with students from the Older Adult Learning Center in East Stroudsburg for an intergenerational collaborative course on happiness and the meaning of life. As part of an introduction to philosophy class taught by Tim Connolly, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and religious studies, the older and younger students discussed questions about the definition of happiness and its basic components, whether happiness is determined by individual choice or genetic and environmental factors, and the connection between a happy life and a meaningful one.
For the majority of the course, the students met at the Older Adult Learning Center, located at 55 Smith Street, within walking distance of the university. The Center, which offers free courses on a variety of topics from art and poetry to science and politics, has the mission of providing a lifelong learning experience for older adult students.
For their last meeting, the older adult students visited Connolly’s classroom at ESU to offer “life advice” to the ESU students. One older adult learner, age 81, spoke about his experiences growing up during World War II, and how much society has changed since then. Several others advised ESU students to seek out opportunities for travel and experiencing new things, especially when they are younger. Still another said, “I totally enjoyed the class and sharing with younger adults. I can honestly say that I learned from you.”
The ESU students in the course also offered rave reviews of the intergenerational approach to learning.
“I found working with the older adults to be eye opening,” said Amy Strauser, a sophomore majoring in business management from Nazareth, Pa. “Not only did I learn valuable insights, but it helped me to take a step back and appreciate all that I have now.”
“Having class with the older adults offers a learning experience that the traditional classroom cannot offer,” said Kaitlyn Hafer, a sophomore majoring in business management from Boyertown, Pa. “We get to hear perspectives from people who have lived life and can offer stories that relate to our discussions.”
Since intergenerational learning offers important opportunities for students old and young, Dr. Connolly hopes to expand this style of learning to other courses and disciplines at ESU. Ultimately, the goal of intergenerational learning is not only educational, but to change society for the better.
“Because many people in the modern world live far away from their parents and grandparents,” Connolly said, “they are cut off from one of the main sources of wisdom and experience in life. Intergenerational learning tries to repair the connections between the older and younger generation that make a flourishing society possible. Universities can play a big part.”
Allison Stahl, a sophomore majoring in nursing from Washington, N.J., perhaps said it best: “You will never stop learning things; you can learn from the old and the young.”