The Colgate Scene
May 2008

Bridging the generational gap

Senior Emily Sherman talks to residents at Community Memorial Hospital after giving her presentation on the COVE alternative break trip to New Orleans.

Senior Emily Sherman was grabbing coffee before leaving for this year's COVE alternative break trip to New Orleans, when the barista at the Barge mentioned that the trip would be of interest to her mother, who lives in the extended care unit of Community Memorial Hospital in Hamilton. By coincidence, Sherman is a team leader for the Adopt-a-Grandparent program, which pairs students with elderly residents of the hospital for weekly visits and planned events such as bingo, manicure nights, and holiday parties.

This suggestion gave Sherman the idea to show the residents a film by junior Robert Keo, who documented the work Colgate students had done over winter break to help homeowners devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "They were angels to go down and do something necessary that so many of us don't," said resident Betty Jones. In addition to becoming impassioned by the film, Jones noted the educational aspect of the students bringing a piece of the outside world to her and others who spend the majority of their time in the hospital. "It got a lot of us to start thinking a little bit more than just what the newspaper says," she explained. "It makes you wonder what can be done to help that's within your power."

Sherman urged residents to send cards, letters, and donations as well as encourage family members to pitch in. "Emily empowered them to help out with something that seems out of their control," said sophomore Kathleen Onorevole, who sat next to her "adopted grandmother" Marie Branigan.

The bond between Branigan and Onorevole is evidence of the program's overall success. For the past two years, Onorevole has been visiting Branigan every week to talk about local history, share photos, and "sometimes just play Yahtzee." They have met each other's families, with Onorevole bringing hers to visit Branigan on family weekends, and Branigan's husband giving the student a tour of the local area.

"I'm always interacting with people my own age, so it's nice to talk to Marie and other residents — people outside my age range who have so much perspective," Onorevole said.

"She's just like a granddaughter," added Branigan.

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