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Karyn Speidel '16

Public Health

How did the intergenerational collaboration effort come about?

 The intergenerational collaboration effort grew from a discussion in an aging and cultures class taught by Dr. Steven Parish. Dr. Parish structured the class in a way that facilitated a lot of class participation. We discovered that many students were feeling disconnected from our UC San Diego faculty, staff and retirement communities. The overwhelming consensus was that the learning experience at UC San Diego could be enhanced with more intergenerational and intercultural interaction to achieve a more inclusive and supportive environment. So, the undergraduates of this class put together an Intergenerational Center Proposal and presented it to Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews.

What is intergenerational collaboration and how does it apply to sustainability?

Environmental sustainability is not intuitive; it is learned through structures such as, economy, policy, technology, culture, demographic shifts, healthcare, immigration, education and social values. Undoubtedly, the role of wisdom from older generations is one of our most valuable resources; yet when years of experience and knowledge are not transferred and shared with our youth, this information is lost. However, when both youth and elders are invited to the table and engaged with one another in dialogue, environmental competency develops, language barriers dissipate and innovations that achieve a sustainable future can be explored, developed, implemented and disseminated.

Tell us about the intergenerational collaborative efforts and campus housing project you are developing.

Recently, we began hosting Intergenerational Roundtable Discussions. These discussions provide an opportunity for UC San Diego undergraduate students and Casa De Manana retirement community members to learn about each other's lives, build intergenerational friendships and share wisdom, insights and stories.

The first discussion was a huge success for students and residents. Everyone in the room participated. The richness and honesty of the conversation was beyond what any of us could have imagined. Students and residents shared openly to inform, relate and respect each person's views. There was even an "aha moment" when we all suddenly realized that we learned so much from each other and we do have so much in common. The experience was amazing! There is so much potential to achieve cultural competence, diminish ageism and reach environmental equity and justice for current and future generations.

One fairly new and exciting development has been the enthusiasm surrounding the intergenerational housing on campus. Intergenerational housing has been used in many different settings nationwide and has shown to improve the health and wellbeing of multiple generations and underserved populations. We are currently involved in the program development stage. We hope to add this project to the UC San Diego Long Range Development Plan so we can help to solve our complex cultural, economic, environmental and housing problems that face our campus and greater San Diego communities. 

As a public health major, how would you describe the intersection of public health and sustainability?

Public health covers almost everything we do as humans. It addresses age, culture, economics, education, environment, health, technology and many more complex and important issues. Intergenerational thinking and decision-making can potentially transform asymmetrical age relationships, increase cultural competence and improve equity, diversity and inclusion. Intergenerational programs and housing create environments that allow intergenerational learning and sharing to occur. They allow for interactive and collaborative interactions that foster the transfer of wisdom from older populations to younger ones and support elders as they transition from work to retirement. The enhanced relationship guides and empowers youth and provides emotional and intellectual support for all generations involved. One of the most exciting benefits of intergenerational relationship building and mentoring is that it provides students with the political and social capital they need to embrace leadership roles.

Special thanks to our UC San Diego undergraduate students, Dr. Harvey Checkoway and Dr. Deborah Kado, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, the help of Dr. Leslie Lewis and Dr. Mirle Bussell, Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Casa De Manana Retirement Community.