Gerontology Students Do Pen-Pal Activities with Older Adults for Service Learning

Gerontology Students Pen Pals with Older Adults for Service Learning

4/20 – In the spring 2020 semester, gerontology students in the GRN 101 class engaged in pen pal activities with older adults for their service learning.

During a normal semester, students would spend 10 hours with older adults in order to enhance classroom learning and meet course learning objectives. Due to COVID-19, the students could no longer safely interact with the older adults, and thus the GRN 101 Pen Pal Program was born.

Students enrolled in three sections of GRN 101 were asked to volunteer to contact older adults in their own social networks as well as being assigned to older adults residing in specific long-term care and independent living facilitates in Pender and New Hanover counties.

All 103 students enrolled participated by contacting at least one older adult, with most contacting several weekly from mid-March throughout the semester. Altogether, 89 older adults were specifically paired with students and communicated via mail, email or telephone. Students sent notes of encouragement, activities like crossword puzzles or word searches, and arts and craft projects to brighten up their rooms.

“This semester sure didn’t end the way any of us expected it to, but this, in particular, turned out to be both a powerful and joyful learning experience for me, my students and the older adults they all connected with,” SHAHS Lecturer Elizabeth Fugate-Whitlock said.

GRN 101 Pen Pal Program