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Adopt-a-Grandparent is a co-learning experience

Manchester senior, Taylor Parks chats with Jean Mayhew, 95, her partner in CMU's Adopt a Grandparent program. "It's really quite special," Mayhew, a retired CMU professor, says of the program. "It's good being around young people, it's uplifting."

A small square tile decorates 95-year-old Jean Mayhew's wall with a quote by Hunter S. Thompson that she strives to live by every day.

"Life's journey is not to arrive safely at the grave in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out, shouting, 'Holy shit, what a ride."

Mayhew is a resident of Maplewood Assisted Living in Mount Pleasant. She is partnered with Taylor Parks as a part of Central Michigan University's Adopt-A-Grandparent program, sponsored by the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center.  

"It is really about forming a family bond," said Elizabeth Morgan, Adopt-A-Grandparent student coordinator. "We call them co-mentors (because) they learn from each other." 

Students in the program interact with their senior partners for an hour each week, traveling to Maplewood or Andahwod Senior Care. Parks said she decided to take part on the program because of her major in recreational therapy and desire to work in senior centers. 

"I love older people. I think they are fun and I like learning from them," the Manchester junior said.

Students in Adopt-A-Grandparent have mandatory training once a month, which includes lectures given by professors with experience or research with older populations. Students who participate in the program are required to commit to one year. 

During their weekly meetings, Parks and Mayhew typically talk about how they are doing and Mayhew's family. Sometimes the pair play bingo with other Maplewood residents or go to holiday parties.

"We chitchat," Parks said. "I want to have her teach me how to crochet."

Mayhew crochets hats for newborns at the McClaren Central Michigan Community hospital for volunteer hours and the fulfillment the deed brings. She is also a retired professor from CMU.

"It's fun for me to be around young people. It's not too pleasant living with old people all the time, it's not uplifting," Mayhew said. 

Parks said she especially enjoys Mayhew's sense of humor. They have been partners for less than a year, and described their first meeting as a pleasant one. 

"I was very comfortable with you and you were funny right off the bat," Parks said to Mayhew. "I like hearing about your family and how you were a professor."

Mayhew said her relationship as an adopted grandparent for Parks is special and incomparable to any other type of relationship. The quote on the wall is Mayhew's life motto, and she does her best to apply it to all aspects of her life.

"I truly believe it and I am living it," Mayhew said. "As Ralph Waldow Emerson said, ‘I will not go quietly into that good night,’ and I'm not going to."