Sophia Lee: My Summer at the AgeLab

by Taylor Patskanick

“What would you like to do?” This unexpected phrase molded my entire summer. This past summer, working remotely at MIT’s AgeLab, was my first internship experience. I had no idea what to expect — I naively assumed it would consist of frequent coffee runs and long hours in the “office.” But I soon came to realize that this internship presented me with the freedom and opportunity to customize my experience and cultivate my own learning. I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning of the summer to be asked, “what are you interested in? What would you like to do?” I was taken aback by these questions because I never considered I would have the freedom to create, in a way, my own fulfilling internship experience. The staff at the MIT AgeLab made it clear from the beginning that they were dedicated to the growth and learning of us young adults as we navigate academic and occupational pressures.

Through my various projects, I got a glimpse at a potential career path that I have just recently begun eyeing. Although I have not declared a major yet, I find myself leaning towards the disciplines of anthropology and religion. I often find myself contemplating what a career in academia would look like. One of the projects I participated in this summer involved a substantial amount of reviewing and synthesizing the existing literature on elder caregiving. I read a number of published works and wrote multiple literature reviews focusing on different types of caregiving, the relationship between caregiving and employment, wage penalties, and so much more. Ultimately, I am incredibly grateful to have been provided the opportunity to contribute to the MIT AgeLab’s research on the implications of an increasingly multigenerational workforce on caregiving.

This summer I also assisted in the success of the AgeLab’s 85+ Lifestyle Leaders Panel July workshop. I adored working to bring together the Lifestyle Leaders, MIT AgeLab researchers and summer interns to participate in a workshop. The July session focused on the role religion and spirituality has played in the lives of the 85+. I was able to brainstorm and ask a plethora of questions that float around in my head on a daily basis. From the questions I generated, I created a survey and a discussion guide. I learned how to use Qualtrics to digitize and distribute my survey questions to the Lifestyle Leaders. The discussion guide was used to guide the group conversations that took place during the actual Lifestyle Leaders workshop on Zoom. I am incredibly proud of the work I did for the Lifestyle Leaders project and learned a lot about doing mixed methods research with this age demographic. I only wish my summer was longer so I could continue the rest of my analyses from that workshop. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge and interest in the field of religion through this project. The Lifestyle Leaders July session was the perfect experience for my anthropology and religion-focused brain.

Ultimately, my time at the MIT AgeLab this summer was an unforgettable experience. I am so grateful to all of the AgeLab staff for fostering a safe and supportive environment for me to explore my interests and expand my knowledge. I loved learning about and participating in social science research, and I can’t wait to see how the skills and knowledge I gained from this past summer present themselves in my future work.

Sophia Lee is a second-year undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.

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About the Author

Photo of Taylor Patskanick
Taylor Patskanick

Taylor Patskanick is a Technical Associate at the MIT AgeLab. Her research explores generational and age demographic trends across domains such as housing, transportation and retirement planning. Taylor co-coordinates the MIT AgeLab 85+ Lifestyle Leaders panel and contributes to the AgeLab’s AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) program. She also manages OMEGA (Opportunities for Multigenerational Exchange, Growth, and Action), an intergenerational summit and scholarship program. Taylor is particularly interested in the role of intergenerational programming in shaping careers in aging and lifelong social and civic engagement.

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