Panel probes for solutions to ageism in society

Members from all areas of the Geneseo community joined in a discussion regarding problems associated with ageism in Geneseo Interfaith Service Project’s third annual discussion on “Engaging with Aging: A GISP Community Dinner & Dialogue” on Tuesday Feb. 10.

The conversation served as one of the featured events in the GISP series, a program initiated by the White House’s service challenge to create safe environments where members of different faiths can unite to discuss a multitude of topics on college campuses across the country. The initiative was set after in response to the way Muslims were being treated across the nation post-Sept. 11. The mission of the program is rooted in the idea that if people of different faiths join and work together, they open the doors to finding commonalities and understanding.

Associate Dean of Leadership and Service Thomas Matthews organized the GISP Committee. Matthews explained how each year, the program explores different topics, with this year’s being “intergenerational conversation and understanding.”

GISP once held a “Sharing Our Stories” discussion on how different faiths face hunger cross-country and how they tackle climate change, where Native American leaders expressed their faith in Mother Nature as their spiritual guide.

At this year’s GISP Community Dinner & Dialogue, the talk centered on forming better bonds on an intergenerational level with the main theme “Am I My Grandmother’s Keeper?” Local pastor Reverend Nancy Lowmaster of the Central Presbyterian Church, Director of the Livingston County Office for the Aging Karen Smith and visiting associate professor of economics Joel Kincaid, all spoke about how the younger generations should approach these conversations and talking across generations.

Lowmaster emphasized that humans “should be caretakers of every creation.” “We are each other’s keeper,” Kincaid added. The general idea of the discussion was to get both students and members of the Geneseo community thinking about what can be done as a collective whole to solve these problems.

“What I have marveled at, for example, are events like Martin Luther King Day where students talk with some of the elders and I get comments from students saying, ‘We really enjoyed talking to those guys from Nunda,’” Matthews said. “They always enjoy speaking with our students, too.” According the Matthews, the goal of the conversation was to promote the idea of spending time with other generations.

Matthews noted that he hopes to start up a respite program where students would help caretakers take breaks in their daily care for the aging right at the Interfaith Center. “We are working with the Office of the Aging to develop a respite program, giving a break to that care provider so that they can go shopping or get their hair done,” Matthews said. “Every family is affected by this. The more we can learn and know about these issues, I bet we could ask every student on campus and we could hear some story about someone that they know.”

Matthews expressed an extremely positive outlook regarding student contributions to society. “I’m an internal optimist and I believe we can solve these problems,” he said. “If five students went out and did something, they can make a difference.”