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

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – A Bowling Green State University student has garnered statewide recognition for her efforts to combat negative perceptions of older adults through publication of a new book.

As part of her honors project at BGSU, Janice Buehrer conceptualized and illustrated a children’s book titled “Take A Closer Look,” which ultimately led to her selection as an Ohio Scholar In Aging by the Ohio Department of Aging.

For her work, 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 in April at Kent State University.

Buehrer, a psychology major interested in social work, said the idea for her book stemmed from an internship with the Erie County Department of Social Services where she went on a call to assist an older adult who was struggling to take care of themselves.

During the call, the county was there to facilitate connections to services that improved the person’s quality of life.

By 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 they 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.”

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 the Sandusky native connect with an area 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.”

Updated: 05/10/2024 10:01AM