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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 8, 2007

Senior Citizens Are Encouraged To Participate In "Legacy Letter Project"

People age 50 or older who have learned life lessons along the way are encouraged to share that wisdom by writing a letter to University of Iowa students.

The "Legacy Letter Project" is accepting letters through May 1.

The project is sponsored by two programs within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Leisure Studies and Aging Studies, along with the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center and the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

Organizers ask that letters be written by people who live in Johnson County or have ties to the Iowa City area. They also request that letters include a story to demonstrate each piece of advice. For example, instead of simply saying, "study hard," a writer could describe an experience that spurred the suggestion.

David Gould, a Leisure Studies lecturer, will collect the letters. E-mail him at, or send letters to 219 Macbride Hall, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242. Writers are asked to include their contact information, and indicate that organizers have permission to reprint the letter. Gould also plans to send UI therapeutic recreation students to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to assist senior citizens who need a hand drafting letters.

The Press-Citizen plans to help publicize the letters, and the UI will create a Web site where students can read them. Excerpts of letters and photos of letter writers will be displayed at the senior center during the June 1 Gallery Walk.

Two experiences inspired Gould to launch the project.

For the past five years, he has assigned students to interview senior citizens for a class. Each time, he's amazed at how many students lack connections to grandparents or other older folks in the community. Gould said that's a shift from past generations, which often grew up with grandparents living nearby.

Over the summer, Gould wrote letters to celebrities who at one time were at the top of their field, asking their advice for his students. Former model Carol Alt stressed the importance of balancing career and family.

Looking back, Alt said she realizes that many of her accomplishments are fleeting, and that she regrets missing moments with family by spending too much time on the road. "Does the new generation of grads know that I was on the cover of 700 magazines?" she wrote. " . . . Where was I when my sister had her child? Modeling in Paris. When my grandmother died? Shooting a movie in Miami."

The Legacy Letter project will give seniors a chance to share their stories and provide a keepsake for relatives interested in preserving family history, Gould said. Students will "learn from these voices of experience -- what advice they would pass along, and what really matters in life," he said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,;