- Project Description
The Intergenerational Mental Health project focuses on intergenerational relationships during a pandemic; more specifically, it looks at how people from different generations are keeping in touch despite stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and social distancing. This project is targeted toward an audience of college students and older adults, as these two generations have been amongst those most affected by COVID-19. College students across the US had to move home early, with many summer internships and jobs being cancelled. Adults over 60-years-old are most at risk of contracting COVID-19, making it imperative for them to distance from younger generations. As a result, both generations are struggling with feelings of loneliness and worry about the uncertainty, which is taking a toll on mental health. While struggles of young and old seem different, research on intergenerational programming suggests that the best way to ameliorate loneliness could be to bring them together.
We originally sought to focus on Davidson College’s Adopt-a-Grandparent organization, but revised our project plan to focus on our research and Instagram account due to the pandemic. We maintained an audience of Davidson College students, while our geographic reach increased after students had returned home all around the world. We do not need to speculate the impact of our project on our audience, as we have received feedback from our Instagram followers via post comments. Students say that our project has been uplifting and positive in this uncertain and stressful time.
- Individual Roles & Responsibilities
- Updated the decision log, which included making to-do lists and taking notes on meetings with Davidson faculty and students
- Older adult mental health literature review
- Facilitated communication with people that we worked with throughout the semester
- Young adult mental health literature review
- Maintained and up-to-date Google calendar that was used to schedule group meetings
- Intergenerational programming literature review
- Project Goals & Objectives
Our overarching goals were to create an accessible website about the benefits of intergenerational programming and to inspire intergenerational interactions. The objectives helped us meet these goals.
Research Objective: “Identify 10-12 sources we will use and initiate contact with community sources”
We accomplished this objective by identifying and analyzing 10 sources that helped us understand the intersection between mental health and intergenerational programming. We also met with our community sources Georgia Ringle and Gloria Fortuna, Dr. Kristi Multhaup, and Jack Casey.
Outreach Objective: “Create Instagram and Twitter account to publicize project and gather info on intergenerational relationships”
We accomplished this objective by creating Instagram (@intergen_davidson) and Twitter (@intergen_dav) accounts. We followed accounts of established intergenerational programs and Davidson College in order to gain an audience. We gained over 100 followers. We also utilized our own hashtag #intergensnapshots in our posts. Uploading an Instagram post more than twice a week maintained a relevant social media presence, where people liked and commented.
Writing Objective: “Connect academic research with the information gathered from Davidson students’ experiences with intergenerational programming/ interactions to create a cohesive database for Intergenerational Programming”
We accomplished this objective by using our academic research conclusion (that intergenerational programming and interactions are beneficial) as a basis for our #intergensnapshots social media campaign.
Design Objective: “Make an engaging and accessible website through interactive design”
We accomplished this objective by changing our website layout multiple times in response to student and professor usability feedback. We aimed for a minimalistic and professional website. We experimented with various plug-ins and ended up using an Instagram plug-in to display our posts, a block link plug-in which was displayed at the bottom of all web pages, and a photo slider that displayed external links. We used the WordPress Accessibility Checker, Wave, and ColorPick extensions to test accessibility and work through specific changes like text color.
- Project Activities & Process
When we met with Georgia Ringle and Gloria Fortuna, they helped clarify our project focus and directed us to Adopt-a-Grandfriend (AAG), the intergenerational program on-campus (See Decision Log: Interview with Georgia). Next, we interviewed Jack Casey to learn more about AAG (See Decision Log: Interview with Jack). We originally planned to get involved with AAG by attending events and talking to members. Then, we met with Dr. Multhaup, a psychology professor whose research interest is cognitive aging (see Decision Log: Interview with Dr. M). She suggested looking into Becca Levy, a prominent scholar in the field, and we ended up utilizing Levy’s research in our literature review. After we switched to virtual learning in March, we chose to make our Instagram a central point of our project, since we could no longer meet with the grandfriends in-person. At that time, we also revised our Sustainability & Outreach plan. We turned in our literature reviews later than planned, but this did not deter us from our overall goals. We relied heavily on the literature review for our project development and the prototype 1 content. The research served as the foundation for our Instagram campaign to promote intergenerational relationships. In shifting our focus toward the pandemic, we read an article in The New York Times about the importance of intergenerational relationships during the pandemic, and a letter from President Patton at Middlebury College about looking out for both types of seniors (college seniors and senior citizens) during the pandemic (See Decision Log: Restructuring). During the usability class session for prototype 1, we took notes on the changes to be made and fixed them for prototype 2 (See Decision Log: Usability) . In response to the feedback, we revamped our entire website for prototype 2 by changing to a minimalistic theme which let our research and content take the forefront (See Decision Log: To Do Prototype 2). We then met with Suzanne and Sundi outside of class to get usability feedback on prototype 2 (See Decision Log: Usability/Professors). Lastly, we edited our website to improve its accordance with UX design principles (See Decision Log: Website Edits).
- Accomplishments & Lessons Learned
We achieved all 4 objectives outlined in our strategic plan. We were most successful in meeting the research, writing, and outreach objectives (see section 4). Since our website’s purpose was to compile the research on intergenerational programming and mental health of the focus generations, the 10 sources we used for the literature review greatly contributed to our website’s content. Additionally, we achieved more than we had originally planned for the outreach objective. Not only did we utilize Instagram and Twitter, but our Instagram became a focal point of our project. We met our design objective (see section 4), as our website was accessible based on usability feedback and accessibility testing with Wave.
Working with an information-heavy topic, we want to publicize everything that we have learned about the importance of intergenerational relationships, but users are not inclined to read sections with a lot of text and no images. We learned to take into account the user when designing our website. We added more photos, shortened lengthy paragraphs, and incorporated headers and pull quotes into our literature reviews to make the content easier to read. Overall, our project has a strong and engaging backbone. Our topic became very relevant during this unprecedented time, and we adapted the project in order to take advantage of this context. Had we had more time, we could improve our Twitter account. While we engage with our Instagram almost daily, our Twitter has been untouched since creating it. It is important to engage with readers on various platforms to create a larger and more diverse fan base that can spread the word faster and through more avenues.
- Works Cited
Casey, Jack. Personal Interview. 18 Feb. 2020.
Levy, Becca R. “Rigidity as a Predictor of Older Person’s Aging Stereotypes and Aging Self Perceptions.” Social Behavior and Personality, vol. 36, no. 4, 2008, pp. 559–70. ProQuest, DOI:10.2224/sbp.2008.36.4.559.
Paton, Laurie. “April 13 Letter from Laurie Patton.” Received by Suzanne Churchill, 13 April 2020.
Ringle, Georgia and Gloria Fortuna. Personal Interview. 5 Feb. 2020.
Zaveri, Mihir. “To Battle Isolation, Elders and Children Connect as Pen Pals.” The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2020. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/us/coronavirus-seniors-pen-pals.html.
- Decision Log – The decision log includes usability feedback, project to-do lists, class notes, records of tasks accomplished and decisions, and meeting notes.
- We used Canva to create Instagram story posts.
- Website screenshots – See the progress we made.
a). Prototype 1.
b). Prototype 2.
PLEDGED: CE, MS, NS