Edith Ginsberg and Sharon Rose

Edith Ginsberg and daughter Sharon Rose.

Editor’s Note: This story about the work of an MAS graduate and her mother was in preparation before the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the daily lives of older adults and created the necessity for social distancing. Though some of the events and ideas discussed in the story are not currently possible, we wanted to post the story to recognize their work and look forward to a day when we can all gather again socially in larger groups.

By Taryn Hojlo

It started with a simple problem: Edith Ginsberg wasn’t satisfied with the activities offered at her independent living continuing care retirement community.

Ginsberg, a 95-year-old retiree with an inquisitive mind and a PhD, enjoyed video lectures on a range of topics she had seen online. But she wanted live events she and her friends could enjoy at their Edgewater at Boca Pointe residence in Boca Raton, Fla.

Ginsberg enlisted the help of her daughter, Sharon Rose, a professional entertainment consultant and a 2017 graduate of UMass Boston Gerontology’s Management of Aging Services program. Together they created events that mixed video with live lectures. The program quickly became a big hit.

The mother-daughter team thought their concept could also be popular with multigenerational audiences so they tried it out at nearby Lynn University, where Ginsberg received her doctorate in Lifelong Learning at the age of 77. Another popular success.

Soon, Ginsberg and Rose caught the attention of the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization, which wanted to build its own intergenerational program to support Florida’s statewide 2019 Age-Friendly designation. Those conversations are ongoing.

Rose said her mother’s initial desires helped them develop a broad platform to satisfy both intellectual interests and social engagement from the very start.

“She is not interested in playing cards or Mahjong,” Rose said. “She needed something to keep her mind active and make friends.”

Rose, president of the Wisdom Associates production consultancy, had been no stranger to lectures. She’d attended dozens of online classes as a UMass Boston graduate student. Her business had also consulted for several eldercare documentaries.

Rose had conducted thorough research in intergenerational living and aging-in-place for her Capstone project – topics she knew she could draw upon for interesting discussions. Producing new, engaging events for the residents at her mother’s facility was an ideal challenge.

In August of 2018, the project’s first lecture drew about twenty-five participants. Soon, the crowd grew to over seventy people.

“The engagement was exciting and inspirational,” said Rose. “The conversations among the residents would last through the next two weeks leading up to the next discussion. Living in a senior living community is like living in a dorm. It’s very social and social life is key to living well and to aging well.”

Encouraged by the response at Edgewater, Rose and her mother sought  to engage and add young people in an intergenerational series of events. They got clearance from Lynn University to host a lecture series with both Edgewater residents and Lynn students.

The series began in February with the “Role of Technology and Where It Is Heading,” examining the impact of artificial intelligence in society. The event attracted more participants than the room could comfortably accommodate. The two remaining lectures, initially planned for March and April, were postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Rose had also been discussing ideas for a third series of events with Palm Beach County officials. Her intent was to incorporate much more of her MAS Capstone research into those lectures, relying heavily on intergenerational concepts.

“The takeaway from these discussions will be determining what is working and what is missing-and what can be even better. Then the community can figure out who can do what is best,” she said.

Rose considerd the lectures to be an open platform, one that could expand as more communities become interested in intergenerational learning and age-friendly living. She believed her mother’s idea might inspire others to rethink what it means to age well.

“Being part of the sandwich generation myself – having a mother who’s’ 95 and a daughter who’s 25 — I feel it’s my responsibility to understand and encourage aging well whenever I can,” said Rose.

“These discussions are the perfect opportunity to do that, and I sincerely hope that people leave these lectures thinking they can do the same,” she said.