Rachel Scrivano

Ohio State University
2020

“The connections I made through the Scholars in Aging program are extremely valuable as I continue working toward my career in researching ways in which older adults can be socially included in society.”

As a current PhD student in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University, one of my main research interests include tackling loneliness and social isolation within the older adult community. Although I had not participated in an internship or practicum like many of the other Scholars in this year’s cohort, I was privileged with the opportunity to work on a research project called Food for a Long Life under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Shannon Jarrott. The Food for a Long Life project allowed me to gain valuable research skills related to data collection, management, and analysis while learning how important it is for researchers to involve stakeholders, community members, and participants within all aspects of a community-level research project.

Closely related to my research interests, the Food for a Long Life project is a 5-year USDA CYFAR funded research project that uses intergenerational approaches to increase food access, consumption, and education within locations that have been found to lack access to healthy foods. Due to the project’s depth, I have been able to explore different avenues related to older adult wellbeing, including the opportunity the project provides for older adults to give back to younger individuals during nutrition programming in preschool classrooms. However, due to COVID-19, this aspect of the project has been put on hold due to social distancing, but more importantly because of the project’s main initiative to assist the current needs of the community related to healthy food access and consumption. This time in history has been a learning experience of its own; I am continually learning how community-level research projects can and should adapt to focus its efforts on assisting those who need it most.

The Scholars in Aging program itself has also been eye-opening. One of the most valuable experiences included learning about a community initiative called Village Connections, where volunteers strive to assist older adults to stay connected and stay socially active within their community. Similarly, through the program’s Speed Networking event, I was able to learn about other intergenerational programs in place within the community that aim to increase social opportunities for older adults. The connections I made through the Scholars in Aging program are extremely valuable as I continue working toward my career in researching ways in which older adults can be socially included in society. Moreover, this program allowed me to understand how important interdisciplinary work is; I was able to learn from the other Scholars in the program who had different experiences and knowledge than myself. The Scholars in Aging program provided us with a social community of our own, one that I hope to continue growing with future connections I plan to make.