During her first week on campus, Sarah Dalgleish visited Kendal at Oberlin for Oberlin College’s annual day of service.
“A cool place with amazing people,” she thought.
Sarah’s interest in Kendal continued to grow, and as she looked for a topic for her Winter Term 2018 project, she decided to combine her interest in radio journalism with older adults.
“I thought it would be interesting to compare my college experiences with theirs, and also to find out why they choose to come back to Oberlin,” the 20-year-old sophomore explains.
She worked with her college advisor and Michele Tarsitano-Amato, director of Kendal’s Creative Arts Therapy, to develop the project.
The result? A series of podcasts that feature a handful of Kendal residents, primarily those who have ties to the college—alumni, or former faculty and staff—talking about their decision to return to Oberlin.
Intergenerational Opportunities at Kendal
One of Sarah’s interviewees was Ken Cheek, who met his wife Jane when they were students at Oberlin College.
The couple had planned to spend their retirement years on Cape Cod, but after living there several years they realized resources were limited for older adults. During college reunions, the Cheeks often visited friends who were residents at Kendal, and during one reunion decided to tour the life plan community.
They moved to Kendal in 2015 and are now involved in lots of activities, many of them intergenerational:
- Ken has been active for three years with “Ars Moriendi: Death and the Art of Dying,” a college course in which first year students are matched with Kendal residents for conversation and relationship-building during weekly visits.
- Ken has taken classes at Oberlin College, which are free with permission of the professor.
- Ken volunteers for Stormy Day, a program that provides supervision and activities for school-age children of staff when local schools are canceled because of weather.
- The couple volunteers at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, which is owned by the college.
Ken knew little about Sarah’s project when he was asked to participate. “I knew it was with a student and I said fine,” he says, adding that the intergenerational opportunities at Kendal are “phenomenal.”
“A Conscientious Objector” is the title of the podcast featuring Ken. “She was really a very good interviewer,” Ken says.
Other titles in the series about returning to Oberlin are:
- “Love at the End of an Era” (Ron and Chris Price)
- “As Far from Home as I Could Go” (Dwight Call)
- “The European Fulbright Diet” (Marjorie Porter)
- “In Protest for Pianos” (Robert Follet)
- “The Organ Player in Finney” (Allen Huszti)
What was the common thread running through those interviews? “People loved the intellectual stimulation at Kendal and not being isolated. In Oberlin, they said there are tons of opportunities to see events and get involved with Oberlin College students. They just really, really loved Oberlin as a place,” Sarah says.
Additionally, Sarah did a podcast about dementia education with resident Elizabeth Hole and another one about the early days of the women’s movement with resident Erika Pilisy.
Lifelong Interest in Radio Storytelling
Sarah grew up in Boulder, Colorado and by age 8 was listening to This American Life, a weekly public radio program featuring entertaining and illuminating stories about real people. Her Oberlin College admission essay focused on her love of podcasts and oral storytelling. She is an English major and plans to pursue a career in radio journalism.
Last summer she interned at a community radio station in Boulder and did an oral history project featuring her next-door neighbor, an African American man in his early 90s who was active in the civil rights movement and worked as a seismologist.
“He had so many stories,” Sarah says.
Kind of like many Oberlin residents, she discovered.
“Before this project, my concept of older adults was that they were wise and knew everything, and were ready to step back and relax,” she says.
During her interviews at Kendal, she discovered older adults who were not interested in stepping back and relaxing, but who wanted to continue to learn, be active and engaged in the many pressing issues of the day.
She discovered Kendal was indeed, “a cool place with amazing people.”
Visit Kendal at Oberlin's podcasts page every week for a new episode of Sarah's interviews with Kendal residents.
In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.