Archived Voice Articles

Bringing in the aging

By Sally Jongsma

Dr. James C. Schaap wants the first year students in his English 101 class to engage issues and decide how they think about them. To encourage such engagement, he focuses on several big themes and asks students to form an argument or theme or assertion about some aspect of the topic and write about it. So far this year’s students have looked at Generation Y, at Native America, and most recently at aging.

Former placement coordinator Jo Faber reflects on her experiences as a retiree.

Former placement coordinator Jo Faber reflects on her experiences as a retiree.

Last year when his students began thinking about aging, he showed them a film about elderly people talking to young people. This year he decided to make the experience more interactive.

“I figured we could do better than that.” he says. So he invited nine retired professors and staff from Dordt College to come and answer questions put to them by his students.

The result was an engaging hour of conversation that included the inevitable advice, genuinely good stories, and heartfelt reflections. Students asked questions about whether elderly people feel marginalized and how it feels to lose certain capabilities. The visitors gave advice that recommended students live with passion and be open to learning. And they told stories about living without water and electricity and being beaten with rulers in school. They reflected on their fears of becoming grumpy old people, an increasing awareness of dependence on God and thankfulness for his blessings, and wondering whether young people will resent having to support the growing numbers of elderly.