Connecting with College Students

Last month, we highlighted the close-knit connection between the town of Bridgewater and Bridgewater Retirement Community. We also have a special relationship with Bridgewater College, one which knits seniors and students together in ways that benefit both groups.

Bridgewater College is a private four-year college with a student body of about 1,800 students. The school is literally next door, an easy walk for residents who want to catch a game, a play, or a special speaker at the college. But the road goes both ways, and we get several student groups who visit the Community for different events.

Bridgewater Retirement Community and the college’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) have coordinated regular visits to Bridgewater’s seniors. We recently hosted the students for a “get to know you” bingo game. Students and residents had to work together to fill in squares asking for certain life experiences. We not only invited residents in independent living but also people on our waiting list. The event was a great way for them to witness the camaraderie between neighbors.

The Bridgewater College Eagles basketball team makes a yearly visit to deliver flowers to seniors on Valentine’s Day (sadly, this year’s delivery was ccanceleddue to a flu outbreak on the team). Other students “adopt” households in assisted living and nursing care, learning more about the residents and providing much-loved visits. The residents of the retirement community love to support the Eagles sports teams, showing up to cheer and tailgate along with the students.

The two Bridgewaters have other connections as well. Laura Spicer, our nutritionist, is on the adjunct faculty at Bridgewater College, as well as a guest lecturer at nearby James Madison University. She teaches classes on nutrition for the elderly, with students visiting Bridgewater to shadow therapists and interact with the residents. Laura was instrumental in securing a grant to build the community garden at Bridgewater Retirement Community. Students and residents worked side by side to construct the raised beds and greenhouse. Our gardeners share the fresh produce around the community, and plans are under way to have the garden supply our dining services department.

The bond between Bridgewater’s residents and students provides dividends neither side could have predicted. Our residents benefit from the energy and industry of the students, and with new studies warning of increasing isolation among young people, mixing with seniors (many of whom also suffer from potential isolation) provides intergenerational socialization, warm smiles, and perhaps some wisdom from experience.