It’s not uncommon for players at a card table to discuss their families, how they celebrated the holidays and career plans, but those gathered around bridge tables at Central United Methodist Church aren’t often seen together.
Fifteen Wofford College students enrolled in “A Dip into the Fountain of Youth: Wellness for Life” are participating in Lifelong Learning classes with retirees who are learning bridge, chair yoga, how to buy houses at foreclosure auctions and how to read corporate financial statements. They’re also reading the book “Better with Age” together and participating in discussions about aging.
“I’m excited to bring these two generations together,” says Dr. Kara Bopp, a Wofford psychology professor. “They both benefit from the shared experience.”
Bopp’s research focuses on gerontology and the need for intergenerational interactions. She is a member of the advisory council for the college’s Lifelong Learning program, a community-wide platform that attracts adult learners who seek social and intellectual stimulation from one another. Lectures and various social events, including trips, are offered through Lifelong Learning.
Bopp’s class is being offered during Interim, a four-week term between the fall and spring semesters that allow students and faculty opportunities to explore topics and engage in projects that are not part of the college’s regular curriculum.
Students are taking note of the necessary habits to form as young adults to increase their chances of healthy longevity. They’re interacting with local retirees while also getting classroom time with Bopp that involves discussions about the examples they’re witnessing and the importance of setting goals, adjusting those goals and identifying ways to compensate for losses while aging.
“The research shows if you have a positive outlook on aging, your chances to experience healthy longevity increases,” Bopp says.
Wofford’s Lifelong Learning program has 400 members who participate in more than 120 offerings each year.
Lucy Woodhouse, director of the Lifelong Learning program, says it’s a positive and valuable asset for the Spartanburg community. Through the program, Wofford brings people of different ages, backgrounds and beliefs together in a stimulating environment that benefits the entire Lifelong Learning community. The Interim partnership is another example of how the program brings people together.
The students are learning quite a bit from the retirees, but they’re also bringing something to Lifelong Learning.
“I love having the Wofford students here,” says Bonnie-Lee Mizell, a participant in the Lifelong Learning program who’s learning to play bridge. “They bring a lot of energy. I’m getting to know Francesca (Borghese ’26) and she’s interested in early childhood education, and I’m a retired preschool teacher.”
Henry Michalak ’24, a biology major on the pre-med track from Marietta, Georgia, appreciates the relationship that he has with his grandmother, who is approaching 90 years old, and how she often shares advice during their conversations. He’s also observing Lifelong Learning’s participants’ commitment to being active and engaged.
“It’s interesting to see the range of physical ability of the older adults,” Michalak says. “They all show up and participate.”
Victoria Davis ’26, a biology major on the pre-med track from Columbia, South Carolina, arrived at Wofford in the fall and started Meaningful Connections, a campus organization focused on spending time with older adults. Eighteen students participated in a service project organized by Davis on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at the Archibald Rutledge Apartments in Spartanburg. Students and residents discussed King and various other topics.
Davis and her grandmother regularly visited people in nursing homes before she came to Wofford.
“They (individuals in nursing homes) are sometimes isolated,” Davis says. “They are underserved, and establishing connections with them is important for their longevity.”