The phenomenological concept of ontological change, or change in self-understanding, is used to structure an analysis of the experiential impact of a college-based, intergenerational service-learning project. The semester-long project aimed to create interpersonal, intergenerational situations in which students (N = 12) could experience for themselves the lack of fit between their inherited assumptions regarding aging and the actual meaning of aging as experienced by elders. Content analysis of students' journals indicated that students experienced four temporally distinct types of experiences during the project. Students entered the project with an understanding as to how they should interact with their companions based on inherited assumptions regarding aging and the elderly (anticipation experiences). In the presence of their companions, however, the students' assumptions were revealed as inappropriate and incapable of adequately guiding them in their interactions (personal-confT.ict experiences). To alleviate the awkwardness experienced in the field, students had to reevaluate their understanding of themselves and their role in their intergenerational relationship and identify changes they could make to improve their intergenerational relationships (reevaluation experiences). Ten of 12 students reported effecting positive changes in their relationships afrer redefining their role vis-a-vis their companions (transposition experiences). Phenomenological theory provides (a) insight into the type of intergenerational relationships conducive to combating ageism and (b) a framework (journal content analysis) for assessing the experiential impact of program participation.
McGowan, Thomas G., "INTERGENERATIONAL EXPERIENCE AND ONTOLOGICAL CHANGE" (1994). Intergenerational. 40.