Posted February 28, 2007

A generational connection

The Center for Intergenerational Learning’s Time Out Respite Program allows students to learn from their elders and also about themselves.

Photo by Joseph V. Labolito / Temple University
Dale Drews (right), a retired Temple sociology professor, learns to use a computer with Temple student Sonthonax Vernard during one of their

weekly visits. Vernard, an economics and accounting major, visits Drews on a weekly basis as part of the Time Out Respite Program.

The memory of her great-grandmother brought Yvonne Beaufort, a freshman in search of a major, to a training session for the Time Out Respite Program one Saturday morning.

Beaufort’s great-grandmother had spent time in a nursing home. While she and her family came to see her every day, Beaufort noticed that not everyone was so lucky. Some of the residents had no family to visit them, she said.

Because of this, she decided to try and alleviate their loneliness, Beaufort said.

“I used to go visit my great-grandmother’s neighbors,” she said.

The memory of Bud, her partner in checkers for two years, brought biology major Lauren Cardinal to Time Out. She

used to be the Game Lady for a nursing home during her high school years, and Bud was her lone regular.

“He was like family,” Cardinal said of Bud. “This is an opportunity to gain new family members like Bud.”

It was experiences like these, and in some cases the desire to find a job that might lead to a vocation, that brought Beaufort, Cardinal and a group of about 28 other students to a training session for the Time Out program in February.

The Time Out Program is administered through Temple’s Center for Intergenerational Learning and pairs young people with seniors in need of companionship and family caregivers. The program gives seniors a respite from their daily care routine, said Susan G. Smith, Time Out’s director.

“Caregivers and their elderly relatives really appreciate the students’ visits. This program is so important because it helps the elderly to remain living in the community and to reduce their sense of isolation,” Smith said. “The program really helps to reduce the stress on the caregiver.”

More than 60 young people, many from Temple and some from other colleges including Penn State Abington and the Art Institute of Philadelphia, interviewed for the program, with 28 attending the training session, Smith said.

Students are paid $7 an hour and work at least eight hours a month. They are matched with a senior for 14 weeks and can select the families that they’ll be helping, Smith said. To participate in Time Out, students must undergo a criminal background check, provide two references and have a flexible schedule, she said.

During the training sessions, students learn about caregiving issues, Alzheimer’s disease, activities to engage elderly people, and what it means for an individual to receive hospice care.

The Time Out program operates a lot on word of mouth, Smith said. Caregivers tell others in similar situations and students recruit their friends and families as Time Out members, Smith said.

As part of the training, students heard from those who are already in the program, Sarah Santucci and Sonthonax Vernard. Both students shared how the program has enriched their lives and the part it has played in helping them decide what path their lives will take beyond college.

Sarah was looking for a community service activity and found Time Out. She’s been with the same family since joining the program and looks at her time as a caretaker not as a job, but as a calling she plans to continue as a gerontologist, she says. She’s a pre-med major.

“I have always wanted to work with the elderly,” Sarah said. “This has solidified my goal. This doesn’t feel like a job.”

Before coming to Time Out and working with a retired Temple professor through the program, Vernard was on his way to taking his economics and accounting degree into the business world.

He decided to take a chance on Time Out after seeing the happiness in his mother’s face when she came home at night after working as a caregiver. He soon learned that the joy she felt was connected to the interactions that she had with those she worked with.

After experiencing those interactions himself, the business world became less appealing. Healthcare management replaced a straight business career as a goal, Vernard says.

“I’ve been in accounting firms, but I didn’t like the environment,” he said. “I like the interaction [with the man he works with] more than money. I even see him in the summer — that’s how strong the connection is. This has been a great and wonderful experience.”

For more information on the Time Out Respite Program, call 215-204-6540 or visit the program’s web site at