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Sara Bartlett Awarded 2018-19 Learn by Doing Scholar Award

Sara Bartlett, a lecturer in the Psychology and Child Development Department, was awarded the 2018-19 Learn by Doing Scholar Award in the category of planned and in-progress research for "Effectiveness of Intergenerational Service Learning Programs for Psychology of Aging." The award is one of only two granted each year and is accompanied by $1000 and formal recognition during Fall Conference 2019.

Sara Bartlett, lecturer in Cal Poly Psychology and Child Development Department
Sara Bartlett

During the fall 2018 quarter, Bartlett’s Psychology of Aging class engaged in a service-learning project called the Lives Well Lived Project. This was a collaboration with Sky Bergman, creator of the documentary Lives Well Lived, and a professor in the Art and Design department at Cal Poly and senior residents at The Villages, an independent living retirement community. "Lives Well Lived" is a documentary featuring interviews with several older adults who are examples of “successful aging” (Rowe & Kahn, 1999), meaning they are largely free of disease and disability and are active and enjoying life. The interviews center around important historical events the interviewees were a part of, as well as their advice for living a life well lived. This project created a bridge between college students studying aging, and older adults at The Villages who, like the interviewees from Bergman’s film, are examples of how one can age well.

First, the students traveled to The Villages and watched "Lives Well Lived" alongside the residents and then mingled with them afterwards. Next, one or two students were matched with each resident who participated in the project. During three more encounters, the students and residents took turns interviewing each other using the same questions used in the film. The students took what they learned from interviewing the resident and made a memoir document for the resident. Examples of memoirs included life history summaries, posters, and even a scrapbook. Bergman also took pictures of the student/resident pairs which they all got to keep. At the end of the quarter, students wrote a term paper on their experience, and they gave presentations about what they learned during a "wrap party," which the residents also attended, held in the University Art Gallery on campus.

When describing the experience, students stated, "I liked having the opportunity to connect with someone from an older generation that wasn’t a family member. I gained a valuable friendship and lots of advice. I can have friends of all ages and can connect with people not just my age.” They also said they gained a new perspective on aging and realized there's still much to enjoy late in life. Residents stated they appreciated "getting to know the great students" and that the students "were so friendly. I felt like they could be my great-grand-kids."

Bartlett and Bergman plan to do this project again during the 2019-20 school year and look forward to expanding it to other retirement communities in San Luis Obispo.

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