Community Highlight: RISD works with Laurelmead

Community Highlight: RISD works with Laurelmead

Community engagement- senior citizen

Community Highlight:

As Christmas is finally upon us, we are all thinking about how we can give back this season. Maybe it’s serving the homeless, throwing our extra change in the buckets outside of department stores or donating old toys to others, either way, the spirit of giving is here.

This semester, the students from Rhode Island School of Design set out to improve the lives of others for more than just the holiday season. The seniors at Laurelmead retirement community were given something different this season – a chance to get involved with the community again.

Their professor, Claudia Rebola, said the intention is to “teach students about engaging with users and develop research methods in order to make meaningful products, not just one more commercial product on the market.”

Rebola challenged the students to address health-related issues, but not to use technology. The students went to the retirement center to conduct research and gain feedback from the elderly to help mold their project into something that the seniors would want to be involved in. The students put their plans together and went back to Laurelmead and presented their ideas to the residents.

The first group came up with “ParTEA time.” It’s a program that would teach residents to learn to cultivate herbal tea plants in a community garden. Money could be raised from the sale of the tea and be donated to a local charity. Another group thought that the seniors would like to collaborate with young students on creating public art installations, inviting the seniors to serve as mentors for elementary school children whom they are matched with through shared interests.

Some of the seniors asked questions and made suggestions to the students and that’s exactly what Rebola was hoping to happen. This was the second year that Rebola sent her students to Laurelmead.
“They are always looking for things to do and things to challenge them,” said Craig Evans, executive director of Laurelmead.

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