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Integrative Health Research That Spans the Generations

Sachiko Komagata, Ph.D. and Georgian Court student

What happens when different generations come together in meaningful ways? A Georgian Court professor’s integrative health research—for which volunteers of all ages are welcome—aims to provide insight on the impact of intergenerational activities.

The research, conducted by Sachiko Komagata, Ph.D. PT, chair/associate professor, Department of Integrative Health and Exercise Science, draws from an Intergenerational Healing Program that was conceived before the pandemic. The Ocean County Senior Services’ former HealthEASE Wellness Coalition, of which Dr. Komagata was a member, brainstormed ways to bring Ocean County’s seniors and younger generations together. When intergenerational walks – now known as Stroll for Connection—were suggested, Dr. Komagata said, “If we’re going to do this, I want to research it.”

Holistic Health stroll conversation
Before walking around the GCU campus in November, Stroll for Connection participants got to know one another with an icebreaker activity. From left: Barbara Diamontopoulos, Sheila McNeil, Patricia Golden-Gartner, and Tyler Henry.

Stroll for Connection Events—What They Revealed

Two Stroll for Connection events were held on the Georgian Court campus last fall, and another is planned for Friday, January 28. While the walks are open to people of all ages, the first two were primarily composed of senior citizens and GCU students, including Sean Ender, pictured above with Dr. Komagata.

The November 19 and December 10 walks began at the Casino Ballroom with a meet-and-greet for the dozen or so participants. They then walked and talked together on the campus, choosing the half-mile Italian Garden loop or shorter suggested route. A luncheon in the Casino Ballroom capped off the program.

Dr. Komagata’s qualitative research, which is supported by a GCU grant, includes focus groups with participants who agree to share their perspectives on the experience. Early feedback, she said, suggests that the seniors enjoyed the deeper conversations they had with the university students. “Their discussions went beyond the casual, brief exchanges they’ve had in the past with younger generations,” said Dr. Komagata, a physical therapist. And interestingly, participants reported continuing to think about those conversations days after the walk.

If Stroll for Connection continues to grow, Dr. Komagata sees potential for other ways Ocean County residents and GCU students can connect: communal dinners, arts and crafts sharing, or storytelling, for example. One goal, she says, is for people to spend meaningful time together through walking or simple activities.

The Intergenerational Healing Program is designed to include people of all ageseven younger children. Still, the connection between senior citizens and young adults, the two groups brought together in her research’s early walks, resonates with Dr. Komagata. “When older people become isolated, everyone loses out,” she said. “They often become lonely, younger people miss opportunities to learn from their experiences, and communities as a whole fail to draw on the elderly’s rich social capital. It was encouraging to witness the instant bonds that formed between the older and younger people.”

Sign Up for the Next Stroll for Connection

The January 28 Stroll for Connection will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Casino Ballroom. The public is encouraged to participate, but preregistration is required. You can either e-mail Dr. Komagata at fxbzntngn@trbetvna.rqh or call 732-987-2663. Additional details can be found on the Georgian Court Events Calendar.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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