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University class learns ways of old from seniors

Myrtle Renfroe was spinning a yarn. Or maybe she wasn’t.

The students in Dr. Amanda Diggs, International, Intracultural Studies class at Troy University weren’t quite sure what to make of what Mrs. Renfroe was telling.

“Every spring we got a good cleaning out,” Renfroe said of her childhood days. “We had to take a big dose of Castor Oil to get out all of the smoke from the fireplace and other impurities that had gotten in our systems over the winter. “

Renfroe told about lockjaw and ground itch. She told about taking a spoonful of sugar laced with kerosene to breakup a lingering deep cough.

“Young people can’t believe stuff like that but it’s all true,” she said. “Times weren’t like they are now. No. They were way different.”

Renfroe told the university students about “turning a rope” and “jumping hot peas.” She told how her mama “snatched her coattail up” and gave her a good whipping for jumping a forked stick.

“We’d set a long limb between two forked sticks and try to jump over it,” Renfroe said. “Mama said girls didn’t do things like that because our little dresses would fly up and that wasn’t proper,” Renfroe said, laughing. “I got a good licking on account of doing that.”

Other seniors at the Lillian D. Green Nutrition Center in Troy told stories that the Troy University students found interestingly amazing.

And, that’s what Diggs had in mind when she talked with Hassie Green, Center director, about having her Intracultural Studies class interview the participants at the Lillian Green Nutrition Center.

“There is so much that the students can learn from our aging population,” Diggs said. “They need to learn about issues facing our senior adults. And our senior adults have so much wisdom to share. These two populations need to be connected.”

The university students were at the Lillian Green Nutrition Center this week to conduct second interviews with the Center participants and they were eager to be there.

“Dr. Diggs said, at first, some of the students expressed concern about coming here,” Green said. “They really didn’t know what to expect. But, after the first visit, they looked forward to coming back.”

Patric Brasher didn’t realize that the senior adults share the same passion for life that he does, just in different ways.

“It’s hard to go through life and not be passionate about something,” Brasher said. “Our aging population continues to be passionate about things that are important to them. One man is very passionate about farming. And, what impressed me most is the simplicity in their lives. Most of them have lived a simple life but have no regrets. They grew up with few opportunities compared to those we have but they knew what is really important in life.”

Brasher said the seniors made him aware that, even with the great opportunities available to his generation, there are also great opportunities for failure.

“The concept of truth is very important to me and it is to these senior adults, too,” he said. “I’ve found that they are religious and much more open about their faith and that’s refreshing. College students are sometime standoffish about their faith but these people are very open about their faith and it’s very real to them.”

Sydney Sinnermann was a bit nervous on her first visit to the Lillian D. Green Nutrition Center.

“I thought it was a nursing home and that it would be really sad,” she said. “But this is a very happy place. I really enjoy talking to the seniors. I just wish we had more time to visit with them because we can learn so much from them.”

Sinnermann said she often visits with her grandmother so she has family connections with the older generation.

“I enjoy hearing their stories but I worry about those who don’t have that connection with senior adults,” she said. “Many young people are always playing video games and talking on cell phones or texting. They don’t have that face-to-face communication that is so important and that’s sad.”

As Cassie Newman has listened to the senior adults walk down memory lane, she has come to appreciate the aging population even more.

“Just sitting and listening to them tell their stories is relaxing,” she said. “I feel very comfortable visiting with them and I’ve learned so much. Their generation was hard working and they appreciated what they had and were satisfied with what they had. They have interesting stories to tell and I enjoy listening.”

As the senior adults have shared their knowledge, they have been very encouraged about those who are the future of our country,” Green said. “These young people are well educated and the world will be in good hands. And, I think it is important that the young people have realized that getting older doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, enjoy life and be productive and contributing citizens.”

Green’s point was proven when Wii Wizard Willie Wingard challenged a “hotshot” university bowler to a match, which was billed as “youth against wisdom.”

Wisdom won.

“He (Casey Gardner) didn’t have a chance,” Wingard said, laughing. “I bowled a perfect score eight times. He’d have to go nine or ten times to beat me. I feel better today than I’ve felt in two weeks.”

Wingard conceded that there are many things in which Gardner or any of the university students could beat him.

“They’re smart,” he said. “They know about things that I can’t even pronounce. I grew up when times were hard but I’m glad that I grew up when I did. I’m just glad that I made it to this time.”

The students nodded.

“We’re glad, too,” they said. “We need that connection to our past.”