KSU class builds bonds between generations

Joe Harrington

Ted Ruhig is a former member of the California state legislature and writes a column for a Sacramento-based newspaper, Spectrum. Today, he turns 90.

Ruhig participates in a special topics course in the School of Family and Consumer Studies and says he enjoys working with Kent State students. Every Friday, Audrey Kraynak’s Activities for Intergeneration Experience class meets in Room 176 of the Gym Annex to interact with Ruhig and other seniors.

The nine students pair up with the nine seniors to do physical activities, such as catching marshmallows with their mouths without using their hands. Also, the class hosts a new speaker every week, featuring graduate students like Jodie Luidhardt, who came on Friday to talk about fiber in diets. The course is part of the Adult Development program that Kraynak has been a part of for nearly 10 years.

“The purpose of the class is to help the Kent State students become more comfortable with older people and to contribute to the health and well-being of the older persons involved,” Kraynak said.

The class was started in Spring 2004 and Kraynak said it has been a success ever since. Brandi Bowers, senior Human Development and Family Studies major who wishes to one day manage a day-care center, heard about the class through her adviser.

“At first I was reluctant to take the class because I’m not a fan of Friday morning classes,” Bowers said. “But now I can’t wait to come. I love it and I don’t care how much sleep I get Thursday nights.”

Bowers says the class has taught her a lot about building relationships with seniors and although she wants to work with children, feels the class has made her more prepared to work with any individuals.

“It’s not about the learning, it’s about the experience,” said Maggie Krivak, a senior Human Development and Family studies major who wants to become a school counselor. Krivak said the course has allowed her to relate to people with different backgrounds.

For the seniors, the class is a way to develop close and personal relationships with younger students and provides exercise and recreational activities. Ruhig said it is important for college students to interact with seniors because people are living longer. Ruhig said in the 1900s, average life expectancy was 45 years, but now people could very well live as long as he has.

“I like it because it lets me interact with the students and keeps me active,” Ruhig said. “I’d rather work away than wither away.”

When the class met Friday, the students and seniors celebrated Ruhig’s 90th birthday with cake and refreshments. Ruhig offered everyone in the room advice before he blew out his candles: “Keep plugging away,” he said. “And don’t worry, you’ll be there too.”

Seniors interested in joining the class can contact Kraynak at [email protected] to receive an application form and more details. Older adults must have medical releases to participate in the physical activities.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Joe Harrington at [email protected].