The student, Yovana Gojnic, and her Eskaton Henson Manor neighbors share many similar interests -- cooking, gardening, reading, communicating with friends and family over the Internet, and volunteering with the students from the nearby school.
So it isn’t all that surprising how effortlessly she is connecting with fellow residents. Except for the fact that the ages of the other 90-100 residents at Henson Manor in Sacramento, one of Eskaton’s 15 affordable-living communities for older adults, range from two to three times that of the 29-year-old Gojnic.
As she works toward her Master’s degree in gerontology and public policy at California State University, Sacramento, she agreed to be the program’s first student to participate in this innovative immersion learning project, the “Eskaton / CSUS Student Living and Learning Experience.”
The year-long experience earns Gojnic program credit as she lives and learns with older adults. Consistent with the purpose of the “applied research” project, Gojnic will participate in nutrition and cooking classes, book clubs, expansion of community’s urban garden, a veterans appreciation initiative, computer training and similar projects – all of which will be chronicled for review by CSUS and Eskaton staff. A goal for Eskaton in championing the concept is to encourage peer organizations and local universities across the country to adopt the program.
Closer to home, Gojnic enthuses, “My goal is to hopefully enrich their lives as much as they enrich mine.”
Getting involved in something new is well within Gojnic’s wheelhouse. Already her experience includes serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and teaching elementary school. And currently and simultaneously, besides her CSUS studies, she is working as the sales and marketing assistant for Eskaton’s continuing care community; and training for a California fitness and figure competition this summer.
By contrast, Gojnic observes, “My neighbors love to go for walks, visit, bake and work their garden. Enjoying a more balanced lifestyle, with healthier ‘time management,’ may be the most important thing I learn during this experience.”
Note: Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, Colorado, just launched a similar, but more intensive ethnographic research project, conducted by Varsity, a Pennsylvania branding firm varsity. For more on “Project Looking Glass II” and an excellent daily blog, check http://plg.varsitybranding.com/.