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‘Old Friends and New’ to pair elderly with students
Senior Victoria Kozar wants to expand intergenerational friendships between Quinnipiac students and the elderly residents she lives with at Pond Ridge through a new organization, “Old Friends and New.”
At the beginning of this semester, Kozar moved into Masonicare at Ashlar Village as a student-in- residence. This program was set up by the university and gave students the opportunity to live among the elderly community in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Now that Kozar has been living at Pond Ridge for about half a semester, she is planning to set up a pairing program through which students from Quinnipiac will be paired with residents from Pond Ridge.
Kozar got the idea from her adviser and clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy, Erica Defrancesco. During one of their conversations, Professor Defrancesco pitched this idea.
“It’s called ‘Old Friends and New.’ It’s actually named after the blog that I created,” Kozar said. “Basically it’s going to be similar to like a Big Brother, Big Sister and Best Buddies… one of those types of [organizations].”
Kozar plans to distribute surveys to both students and residents who are interested to look for similar interests and backgrounds and pair them from that feedback. From there, the club will have monthly meetings and different events.
Sophomore occupational therapy major Catherine Hill hopes to make new friends outside of the norm.
“There are a lot of stereotypes around the elderly and I believe working with this club will help show others that a lot of them aren’t true,” Hill said in an email. “Not every elderly person is grumpy and lazy, a lot of them are very friendly, exciting, outgoing and active.”
The organization’s big kickoff event was a Halloween party on Monday, Oct. 31, where students and residents were able to mingle and hit it off. The first meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Kozar is looking forward to being more of a mentee, after being a part of Best Buddies and other organizations similar to this one.
“I have been a part of similar clubs like this… I’ve been more on the mentoring side, so it’s nice to kinda flip the table a little bit,” Kozar said. “Being here and having friendships like we have, it will be so nice to share that with other students, too.”
There are still some walls that need to come down logistically before the organization can hit the ground running. Due to the fact that this club will be off campus, “Old Friends and New” is still in the planning process.
“I sent in my constitution. I met with a couple people from Quinnipiac. I met with some people here [at Pond Ridge],” Kozar said. “There’s a lot of liability with the [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and whatnot, so we still have some boundaries we have to go past. But besides that, it’s been smooth sailing.”
Just recently, Kozar put on a fashion show at the facility with some of her friends. She said the residents loved it because there was so much energy. Afterward, there was a reception and everyone was sitting, talking and listening to music.
“We were playing all oldies music and the residents were like, ‘What do you guys listen to?’ so it was so funny. We were all dancing and singing,” Kozar said. “After that, the residents said they were on board.”
Kozar’s sister Hayley also plans on joining the club and believes that what her sister is doing will help bridge the gap between the elderly and young adults due to technology and societal changes.
“[Victoria] is really taking her student residency above and beyond by tying the Quinnipiac student community to the Pond Ridge elderly community,” Hayley said in an email. “My sister puts her whole heart into the places that strike up her passion, and the Pond Ridge community as well as the geriatric population are among these things.”
Victoria hopes to get the pairs made by the end of the semester. She has a big reveal planned for the residents, similar to that of a sorority big-little reveal. She also has a goal of establishing an executive board for the club that will include both students members and resident members.
“We do want the residents to be so involved as well because we want to do what they want to do,” Victoria said. “There’s a few who sat me down and were like, ‘We’re gonna be in charge here, missy.’ They know what they want and we’re trying to be receptive to that.”
After getting set up at Quinnipiac, Victoria hopes to stretch the idea of this club nationally. Right now, her main focus is Quinnipiac, but she has been in contact with Southern Connecticut State University and Yale University, who are interested in potentially adopting the club at their schools.
This program aims to cross generational lines in several ways.
“We have a little bit of the grandparent relationship, but it’s a whole lot of seeing each other as peers as well. It’s nice because we’re at an age where there is a balance,” Victoria said. “It’s good that we can talk about our lives and things like that but also they like to take us under their wing.”
Victoria hopes that this club will help expand interest in being a part of the student-in-residence program outside of the School of Health Sciences. She also hopes “Old Friends and New” will help students break out of their college bubble.
“It’s funny because I actually talked to one of the residents about this… there’s so much going on outside but you get so absorbed,” Victoria said. “But they were telling me that I don’t realize there’s a bubble [at Pond Ridge] too… they see stuff on the news but they don’t hear it from people who are living it. So it’s so great that we’re able to pop each other’s bubbles and fully take it all in and be able to experience it all together.”