Intergenerational learning sparks dialogue at UM-Flint

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It's not often that college-aged students get the chance to learn alongside senior citizens, especially in an online environment. That's changing now, thanks to a new program called SPICE developed by three UM-Flint faculty members and funded through a grant from the Gerontological Society of America.

SPICE stands for Senior Program Intergenerational College Experience. It's an 11-week course taken by university students and older adults in Flint and the surrounding areas. The students interested in SPICE are interviewed prior to joining the program. Older adult participants learned about this opportunity via community agencies in Genesee county and UMHealthResearch. Classes are held online once a week, with lecture topics ranging from distracted driving, heart disease in women, grandparenting, anthropology, and more. After the lectures, university students and seniors discuss what they have learned with one another and compare how their life experiences influence their perceptions and opinions. The sessions are held over Zoom and university students are available if there are any tech questions or concerns.

UM-Flint faculty and members of the newly developed Center on Aging Sheryl Groden, Jennifer Blackwood, and Allon Goldberg, are the driving force behind the program. Lectures so far have included professors Nick Kingsley (with expertise in chemistry), Megan Keiser and Lyn Behnke (leaders in nursing), and Toko Oshio (an expert in early childhood education). All lectures are free. The intention behind this project is to have more seniors engage in learning at UM-Flint. SPICE promotes an accessible experience for lifelong learning.  These lectures are currently held over Zoom but as SPICE continues and it becomes safe for lectures to be held in person, in-classroom intergenerational learning will be another milestone for the program.

"This is just the beginning. We hope to make this [program] different and continue to make the campus itself more age-friendly for seniors in this community," explains Jennifer Blackwood, associate professor of physical therapy.

Those interested in getting involved, or looking for more information, should contact Sheryl Groden at

Emily Clark is a Communication Assistant with the College of Health Sciences. She is a Communication major.