MTSU Students ‘Cruise’ Into Fun for Course Work in Aging Health and Development Class

Apr 18, 2024 at 10:44 am by WGNS News

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University Human Development and Family Science students recently went full speed ahead with a landlocked “cruise” party held at St. Clair Street Senior Center.

MTSU students and senior citizens alike played games, did the limbo, danced the macarena and concluded the celebration with a conga line as part of coursework for the Aging Health and Development class.


“It’s a great opportunity to get some experience working with older adults,” said Human Development and Family Science lecturer Samantha Weir, who teaches the course each spring and fall. “And the intergenerational experience for the older adults is so valuable and uplifting for them.”

The class has been beneficial on multiple levels and provided life lessons for Human Development and Family Science major Sydnee Washington of Johnson City.

“I have my maternal grandparents and from this class, I’m learning ways to interact with them, and learning different stimulating activities to do with them,” Washington said.

Washington recently took ideas from some of the class activities and threw a birthday party for her 76-year-old grandmother.

“We learned in class about memory and so I made a playlist for my Nana of songs that were popular from the ’40s through the ’60s. There was a memory game we played with her and I used dressing up, used some props and decorations, and I surprised her at her house with the party,” Washington recalled.

Each Friday afternoon throughout the semester, Weir’s students alternate between visiting the senior center or Stones River Manor assisted living for interactive entertainment. They decorate, create, plan and implement all the activities themselves based on varying themes.

“The planning of the events also helps our students with leadership development and budgeting, as most of them will go on to work for fund-tight nonprofit organizations,” Weir said.

Although activities are centered around amusement, there is a purpose behind the plans.

“All activities planned must also work to stimulate the older adults emotionally, physically, and/or socially at each event,” Weir explained.

Most students in the undergraduate program plan to work with children. But one in six children in Tennessee live with their grandparents, Weir said.

“Students will inevitably encounter some grand-families along the way,” Weir said. “This class destigmatizes what it means to age in our society. It makes older adults more personable and less scary. We spend a lot of time talking about how to age positively and continue having a purposeful and fulfilling life.”

Senior center member Yolanda Pruitt of Murfreesboro said she was impressed with the activities and enthusiasm from MTSU students at the late March event.

“The entertainment was wonderful, and the games were very thought out and good. Everybody really got into it,” said Pruitt, who was admittedly competitive at all the games. “I’m going to be 78, so it’s quality of life for the remaining silver years. Being young at heart and having a social life when you’re older is important.”

Rylee Scott, a junior Human Development and Family Science major from Brentwood, said the class has opened her eyes to “what it means to age.”

“It’s definitely given me a lot more empathy and compassion towards older adults in our lives and in our society,” Scott said. “And I think it’s great for younger generations to know that just because someone is older doesn’t mean they are incapable of doing the same things we are.”

Washington had the idea for the group to lead the limbo, although some class members weren’t too sure about her idea. But in fact, it was an activity that drew in nearly every senior in the room to participate.

“Before I took this class, I had a limited perspective of what I thought someone in this age range can do,” Washington said. “But you should never underestimate somebody because they are a senior citizen.

“I think sometimes we limit them more than they limit themselves.”

Human Development and Family Science is offered through the MTSU College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.

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