In year three of Aged To Perfection (ATP), an undergraduate college course imbedded on our campus, the class was fully subscribed at 25 students and had a waiting list. For 2018, an online course is projected to also be offered. In partnership with the Center for Aging & Translational Research (CATR) of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), the course was carefully designed, based on research, to encourage students to choose careers working with older adults by understanding successful aging and experiencing it firsthand. Continued demand is escalating for care service professionals with specialized training in aging. The class, offered each fall semester, is a requirement for students pursuing a certificate in Healthy Aging.
Residents are active course contributors and instructors with skill-sets matched to the goals of the course. Residents in the class confront ageism stereotypes with personal stories to help students unlearn myths thereby creating an environment for shared learning. In 2017, UWM and Saint_John's underwrote the services of Ex Fabula, a storytelling training organization, to help refine the stories by residents. The stories were then filmed for inclusion in the online program. ATP was a winner of the Promising Practices Award from the Mather Lifeways Institute on Aging. Saint_John's was named “Agency of the Year” for its work in developing the ATP course by the UWM Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and was also the recipient of the 2017 LeadingAge Innovation National Award in October. The platform of learning is breaking down the barriers of stereotypes about aging, opening the door of opportunity for new workers in the field of aging and building engagement with institutions of higher education in retirement communities.
Our vision is to share the wisdom learned with other organizations through presentations at professional conferences. Curriculum developers, Donna Spars, Saint_John's VP of Lifestyle, Mary Beth Petersen, a Saint_John's resident with a career in organizational development, and Rachelle Alioto, staff member with CATR, were presenters at these 2017 conferences: American Society on Aging, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, and International Intergenerational. Further, an abbreviated syllabus and class materials are supplied to those agencies that inquire about how to create a partnership in their community. To date, four organizations are exploring the development of a similar course.