An essay by Dr. Jennifer Sasser, gerontology program director, was published in the International Journal of Reminiscence and Lifelong Learning in January 2015.
Dr. Jennifer Sasser, human sciences chair and gerontology program director, published an article titled Ever Hopeful, Always Dreaming in the January 2014 issue of Educational Gerontology.
Excerpts from Ever Hopeful, Always Dreaming: Life Course Lessons from V. by Jennifer Sasser.
Several years ago I began hearing from some of my students and colleagues about this amazing woman named V. Again and again I was told that I absolutely must meet this V. person because she was an "older than average" student who had come to my university to complete her undergraduate degree and, perhaps, continue on with graduate studies.
When I heard that she was close to 90, I must admit to thinking that it was quite wonderful that the age diversity at my university was so wide—imagine the potential richness of a learning community that has students representing different life course phases, from just out of high school to extreme later life!
I also heard from her advisor that she was writing her undergraduate senior paper on a "good old age," laying the groundwork for what she hoped would be a future master's thesis and, perhaps, a published (and wildly successful) book. I became even more compelled to figure out how we could bump into each other, explore some ideas together, see if I could be of any support to her as she worked on her long-term scholarly (and, it turns out, deeply personal) project.
And then, guess what happened? V. showed up in my spring term 2010 Women's Issues in Aging seminar!
White haired, sparkly-eyed, and very genteel, V. quickly became the heart of our learning community, our touchstone, because she'd lived so much life and had been through so much and—and, this is crucial—had reflected upon her experiences, good and bad and everything in between.
The work she and her classmates and I did together in that seminar is some of the most embodied, holistic, and meaningful learning of my life.
Jennifer Sasser leads the gerontology program and Department of Human Sciences at Marylhurst University. She teaches several courses in aging and the life course, and she maintains a blog at GeroPunkProject.org.