A girl walks through campus with a backpack.
BGSU senior Janice Buehrer was named an Ohio Scholar in Aging for her Honors College project that explored portrayals of aging. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell)

BGSU senior recognized statewide for authoring children’s book to combat negative perceptions of older adults

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Ohio Department of Aging honors Janice Buehrer for work that examines perceptions of aging in a creative way

By Nick Piotrowicz

During an internship experience as a student at Bowling Green State University, senior Janice Buehrer saw firsthand how she could put her degree into meaningful action.

Through an internship with the Erie County Department of Social Services, Buehrer, a Sandusky native, went on a call to assist an older adult who, after a loss in her life, was struggling to get around or take care of her living space. 

During the call, however, the county was there to facilitate connections to services that improved her quality of life.

Simply by listening to someone in need, Buehrer saw social work at its best: With a revamped living space and connection to health services, the older adult suddenly was getting the help she needed. 

“By the end, it was like she had been sent back 10 years: she was moving great, she was excited her house was cleaned and she could remain in her home. It was like a whole new person,” Buehrer said. “I was just thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, we really made a difference for someone.’ I saw how much someone listening helped her, and I just wanted to keep doing that.”

Working with older adults left a lasting impact on Buehrer, a psychology major interested in social work who turned the experience into a research project focus that has been honored at the statewide level.

As part of her Honors College project at BGSU, Buehrer conceptualized and illustrated a children’s book called “Take A Closer Look,” which combats negative perceptions of older adults. 

For her efforts, Buehrer was selected by the Ohio Department of Aging as an Ohio Scholar In Aging, which allows undergraduate and graduate students to gain valuable experience in the field of aging. 

A female student sits at a table and holds up her book, titled "Take A Closer Look"
Janice Buehrer's children's book, "Take A Closer Look," aims to combat negative perceptions of older adults. (BGSU photo/Craig Bell)

Buehrer was invited to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus for a session on age-related policy making and also presented a poster at the Ohio Association of Gerontology and Aging conference, which was held April 11-12 at Kent State University. 

Through her classes at BGSU and her internship experience, Buehrer explored new ground within her field and discovered a professional path that interested her.

“I was really drawn to working with older adults even though I loved working with children as well,” she said. “It was easy to connect with them and I noticed problems that I had never noticed before simply because I had never worked with that population.

“Research shows there is a disconnect between what it’s actually like to live as an older adult versus what we expect aging to be, and because I’m more of a creative person, I thought I could gear a book toward changing how individuals view older adults.”

Dr. Vivian Miller, a BGSU assistant professor in social work who served as the faculty advisor for Buehrer’s project, helped Buehrer connect with a local senior center to set up a focus group for the project, during which Buehrer listened to the groups’ thoughts on how they are portrayed as older adults.

By visualizing the project as a book, Miller said Buehrer found a creative way to spread a research-informed message. 

“Incorporating research into this creative project does so much good – the target audience of this book is children, but the adults who read this book to children are similarly impacted by the purpose and storyline,” Miller said. “Additionally, working with community members to uncover their wishes on how to be perceived - or not perceived – as aging adults allowed for the individuals’ stories to be heard, to give older adults space to share what’s important to them and to possibly benefit from the positive experience of contributing to Janice’s creative research project.”

Through her experiences at BGSU, Buehrer said she found a career path that fits her. 

“I always thought I wanted to take just the counseling route, but when I did this internship and the project, I saw you can still go out and help people,” she said. “And if I have the clinical specialty, you can do both counseling and be hands-on in the field. The more I thought about it, the more I liked that.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 04/26/2024 09:55AM