Worcester State University
Intergenerational Urban Institute

Irving Yarock Award, 2003

The Age Center’s seventh Irving J. Yarock Award honored three organizations devoted to the ideals that “Learning is both powerful and ageless."  The Intergenerational Urban Institute of Worcester State College, the Worcester Institute for Senior Education at Assumption College and the Consortium Gerontology Studies Program of the Colleges of the Worcester Consortium are all organizations promoting lifelong learning and building bridges between generations of students.


The Intergenerational Urban Institute (IUI) at Worcester State College combines the talents of college students of all ages to meet the challenges that face an urban environment. By creating a learning community of young, middle aged, and elder students, the IUI fosters growth in knowledge, skill development and interpersonal relationships that enable people to work effectively in service to the wider Worcester community. The IUI grew out of the energy unleashed on the WSC campus when elders who came to take advantage of free education asked the question:  “Now, what do I do with all this knowledge?”


IUI students have been involved in teaching English to elder immigrants, mentoring teen moms, becoming family mentors to struggling families, and tutoring primary schoolchildren in reading. They are part of the initiative that’s tackling the problem of hunger in Central Massachusetts and making computer technology accessible to retirees. Each year the IUI sponsors Intergenerational Community Forums on issues that unite the generations.


"Older students are a sheer delight," said Maureen Power, PhD, professor of Urban Studies at Worcester State College and director of the IUI. "Having younger and older students in class together dispels many of the stereotypes the two groups have about each other."


Doris Herrmann, a retired administrative assistant and Urban Studies senior, took the lead in coordinating the IUI K-3 reading program and helped to initiate this program at the Senior Center in Hudson. Helping elders teach children to read is rich, rewarding and fun," she said. Herrmann has mastered the challenge of taking classes with students who are the same age as her grandchildren. "There’s a lot of give and take between the generations," she said,  "We¹re all learning from each other." Power noted that, "Active aging is a popular term in the field of gerontology. It means if you keep your mind alive, the body follows."

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