Reading for Shakespeare course.

Crossing the Age Divide

A majority of the requirements for my degree were already met when I transferred to Arcadia, but I still had a few to take care of, including the Global Connections Experience and Reflection requirement. My advisor, Dr. Dina Pinsky, knew that I’d need to be on campus for my senior year (thesis!) but immediately had a course in mind that could help me fulfill that requirement despite that: a service learning course called Shakespeare With Seniors.

Over the semester, we will study William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream while learning about issues that affect the senior population. We will also gain a better understanding of senior citizens first-hand by visiting a senior center to rehearse and perform the play with them. Working regularly with this community and gaining a cross-cultural perspective of society through age is what earns the course a Global Connections Experience and Reflection designation.

For the most part I am excited. I’ve never participated in a service learning experience before and I happen to love A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, I am going outside of my comfort zone.

Before I came to Arcadia, I spent some time studying early childhood development and completed a practicum at a daycare center before working in a few early education settings. Through those studies, I harnessed my own patience, understanding, and creative thinking to benefit the children I was working with. I am confident that I can bring those skills with me, but applying them to work with a population I have little experience with is intimidating.

As students, we live fast lives in comparison to many of the people we’ll be meeting. My biggest worry is being able to slow down and guide the seniors through the play on their terms, but that is also my biggest hope. Senior citizens are often faced with people ignoring them, belittling them, taking advantage of them, and rejecting their aging minds and bodies. Younger people become frustrated with them because they aren’t prepared to interact with them and the effects of growing older.

I believe that between now and our first senior center visit in October, I’ll be as prepared as possible. Celeste Walker, our professor, has taught this course many times and she’s passionate and knowledgeable about this population. She can’t predict what will happen, but she’s given us a good idea of what we might encounter. Ultimately, “we’re just playing and telling stories,” she says, and that turns my nervousness into excitement.