March 12, 2013

Ithaca College-Cornell University Project Will Teach Retirees About Environment

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This spring, Cornell is partnering with Ithaca College on a project that will teach the elderly about the scientific study of and preservation of the local ecosystem.

The project, “Retirees in Service to the Environment,” is a collaboration between Cornell, Ithaca College and Longview residential community. It seeks to educate older adults on issues such as energy use, waste management, soil contamination, water quality and health through workshops.

Many of the workshops will involve fieldwork in Ithaca College’s Natural Lands, which are “Ithaca College’s version of the Cornell Plantations,” according to Prof. Jacob Brenner, Ithaca College, environmental studies and sciences.

Furthermore, participants will be required to assist local schools in environmental education for five hours a week and participate in a follow-up stewardship program this summer.

Students from Ithaca College will have the opportunity to teach as a team with scientific presenters at the workshops as well as volunteer out in the field with Longview residents after they have graduated from the training, according to Dr. Rhoda Meador, director of the Gerontology Institute at Ithaca College.

The program’s “trans-generational” aspect — engaging both students and the elderly — is especially important, according to Brenner.

A flyer for RISE describes one of the goals of the program as “[providing] opportunities for retirees to remain physically active and socially engaged” in the hopes of creating “an ‘army’ working and thinking to push environmental work ahead.”

Studies have shown that participants in environmental stewardship gain substantial mental and physical health benefits, according to a University press release. Volunteers in environmental work are half as likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who are not involved in such work.

“Participants are able to help their community while benefiting from the work themselves,” Meador said.

The launch of RISE in Ithaca follows prior pilots of the program elsewhere in the U.S.

RISE has been implemented in the last five years in various communities including some in Florida and New York, according to Prof. Nancy Wells, design and environmental analysis, who is also involved in RISE.

“RISE is an evidence-based program,” Wells added.

While there have been RISE programs throughout the country, the one in Ithaca is “unique in that it aims to include students as much as possible,” Meador said.

Original Author: Emma Quigley