Class Project Unites Generations, Forms Unique Friendships
Lexington, Ky. – November, 2008 –
For Caroline Kelly, going to a nursing home is not a routine activity. After meeting Arnold Joseph, however, it is an activity she plans to continue.
Kelly is a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences where she plans to major in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Joseph is a resident at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center. This unlikely duo was brought together an assignment in one of Kelly’s classes.
The Introduction to Communication Sciences and Disorders course instructed by Dr. Robert C. Marshall, requires students like Kelly to design and participate in a variety of activities to further their understanding of health care issues concerning the elderly.
Specifically, the program that Dr. Marshall developed, called UK Connect: Operation Elder Outreach, helps students learn more about elderly individuals with speech, language, hearing and swallowing problems through personal contact.
The students are put into one-on-one situations with nursing home residents. Nurses, activity directors, social workers and other staff members choose the elderly candidates for visitations and each of Dr. Marshall’s students are required to visit their assigned resident a total of four times.
“Scheduling each visit gives the recipient an event to anticipate and look forward to,” said Dr. Marshall. “Students are encouraged to learn as much as possible about their senior partners, to make observations about how aging might have affected their communication, and to engage seniors in activities of interest to them.”
In Kelly’s case, she was able to learn about her 87 year old resident’s extraordinary past during her visits.
Joseph’s strong ties to WWII brought the duo closer together. In 1935, Arnold Joseph became a Jewish immigrant after his family sent him to live in the United States. The rest of Joseph’s immediate family stayed in Germany and tragically his mother, father and sister were all victims of the Holocaust.
The students are not only expected to visit and share stories with the residents, they are also required to develop a visitation log to document any activities the students plan for the residents.
“This log reflects the unbelievable creativity and great compassion the students have in choosing activities to do and issues to discuss with senior partners,” said Dr. Marshall.
For instance, Arnold teaches German words to Caroline and reviews her term papers. Those teaching experiences are activities that Caroline would log.
Operation Elder Outreach resulted in over 300 scheduled student visits to senior citizens in Kentucky nursing homes during this past year. The project is a part the student’s service learning goal that the College of Health Sciences mandates and makes a major part of its curriculum. The reason for the mandate is that service learning links students in higher education and their respective intuitions to the community.
“This program is an overwhelming success because students and seniors appear to truly enjoy the experience,” said Dr. Marshall. He plans to repeat the project next year and for many more to come.
“I admit I was nervous about the visit at first because I have never been comfortable in nursing homes, but now I realize that this experience gives me an opportunity to work with people that are different than me,” said Caroline. “That is what absolutely makes me love my involvement in the project and why I plan on visiting Arnold even when it is no longer a requirement.”