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The Eastern Echo Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Ypsilanti Senior Center partners with EMU to become 'intergenerational hub'

The Ypsilanti Senior Center, located in Recreation Park just a few blocks away from Eastern Michigan University’s campus, is entering its sixth decade of serving Ypsilanti residents. The primary focus of the Ypsilanti Senior Center has been to provide programming, activities and support to community members in their older years. 

However, over the last several years, the Senior Center has begun widening its programming to address the needs of those across generations. 

It all started when Generations United, a national network of organizations focused on supporting people across generations, came to the Ypsilanti Senior Center. They had received a grant to study social isolation and approach a response to it through an “intergenerational lens.”

“There are so many similarities, the younger people have social isolation, also. They had some of the same issues seniors did,” said Monica Prince, director of the Ypsilanti Senior Center, of the opportunity to begin connecting people across generations. “We've been working towards the Senior Center becoming an intergenerational hub.”

Prince, an alumna of EMU,  enjoys collaborating with the University. And learning to use technology is certainly not the only way the Ypsilanti Senior Center and Eastern Michigan University are working together. Other areas on campus, including the School of Social Work, the Occupational Therapy Department and the School of Nursing, have partnered with the Center to bring informational sessions to the wider community.

But that doesn’t mean programming for seniors will be going away any time soon. In fact, one of the Center’s most popular programs, a beginners’ technology class taught by Eastern Michigan University students, is primarily for older adults in the community.

Through Engage @ EMU, the University’s bridge to the community, students have the opportunity to teach older adults the fundamentals of technology. These ‘Tech Coaches’ are trained, compensated and have the opportunity to participate in departmental research as well. The program has been a hit in the Ypsilanti community.

“We found that [after our classes] they were less anxious in using the devices, they’re more excited to communicate and use their devices and they actually look forward to logging on and using their devices as well,” Alicia Jones, assistant professor in the Occupational Therapy department at EMU, said.

The pandemic may have planted the seed for this intergenerational programming, but the collaboration between EMU’s Digital Connection Corps and Ypsilanti’s Senior Center remains a priority for both organizations.

“It’s always going to be a need,” said Deirdre Gingras, graduate assistant for Engage @ EMU.

Students interested in learning more about the Ypsilanti Senior Center or the Digital Connection Corps can visit https://www.emich.edu/engage/community/digital-connecting-corps.php or https://ypsiseniorcenter.org/.

Students interested in becoming Tech Coaches can email dleight1@emich.edu.