Creating a custom, intergenerational program for Roosevelt Island

 Monica Wassel, PRYDE Scholar

Monica Wassel, PRYDE Scholar

My research with PRYDE focuses on intergenerational programs: programs that help combat ageism and bring youth and older generations together by sharing in experiences through a common activity. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to continue my PRYDE research in New York City, with funding from Cornell Cooperative Extension. I was able to take what I was learning about working with communities and program design in the classroom and apply it to real life. The goal of my internship was to integrate Cornell with the Roosevelt Island community by working with community members to develop and eventually implement an intergenerational program. With the opening of the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, forming strong relations with and giving back to the community is increasingly important.

Before designing programming for Roosevelt Island, I focused on assessing the needs of the community. My days consisted of interviews with community members and volunteering at the Roosevelt Island Senior Center and in the only doctor’s office on the island. Immersing myself in the community and interacting with its members face-to-face really helped me better understand their needs and interests. More importantly, I formed relationships with the amazing people I met and enjoyed listening to each of their unique stories.

I knew that I could offer one of two evidence-based programs previously developed by the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research: the Building a Community Legacy Together (BCLT) intergenerational program or the Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) program. In my interviews and discussions with community members, however, I found that neither program would completely fulfill their needs. The community members were interested in aspects of both programs.. Based on what I learned through these interviews and discussions, I worked to adapt and combine the two programs into new programming that connected older people and youth, focused on the environment, and encouraged community interconnection and outreach.

Assessing the interests and needs of the community in my summer internship was such an essential and important step in program development and allowed Cornell and PRYDE to provide programming to Roosevelt Island that would be interesting, useful, and as successful as possible! Furthermore, my internship gave me the experience and opportunity to fully understand that working with communities is an essential element of translational research.

I returned to Roosevelt Island at the end of January to further discuss future implementation of an environmentally-focused, intergenerational program adapted for their needs and interests. We hope to have an environmental workshop day this spring that brings the island youth and elders together for entertaining discussion and a combined volunteer project.

Monica WasselComment