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OT Students Help Senior Citizens Stay Safe at Home and in the Community

Occupational Therapy students sit at the table to have dinner with their patients.

Occupational Therapy students enjoy lunch with their patients as part of the Let's Go programming.

Occupational therapy students from Kean have been making house calls to help make senior citizens safer in their homes and communities.

Under an $8,000 grant from AARP NJ, seven students in the OT master’s degree program taught fall prevention, conducted home assessments and modifications, and took their elderly patients out of their homes and into their neighborhoods.

“We went on a trip to a local diner and enjoyed a nice lunch together,” student Danielle O. Hicks said. “I realized how much of an impact the program had on them. They were able to identify the benefits of getting out in the community and the risks that come if they do not.”

The students worked under the supervision of registered occupational therapists, conducting 535 sessions with patients in six subsidized housing facilities throughout the Fall 2018 semester.

"Anytime students get to practice therapeutic skills outside of a traditional setting like a hospital or rehab unit, they grow professionally," said Assistant Professor Claire M. Mulry, OTD. "In this program, Kean OT students provided primary care and aging-in-place services to vulnerable people while increasing their competency as professionals who must be ready to care for our nation’s aging population.”

Each week students ran at least one activity for the older adults, such as an exercise group, chair yoga or tai-chi group, based on the residents’ preferences. These groups sought to improve participants’ balance, mobility and overall health and wellness.  

“Being a part of this programming helped me grow as a future clinician and as a more confident and stronger person,” student Melissa Scammacca said.

Senior citizens who participated in the project received equipment at no cost to improve their safety at home.  

“The best part was connecting the older adults with their community and the services available to them,” student Alexandra Marks said. “One of the patients told us that she had never been on the free bus that takes them to the mall each week, even though she lived there for 11 years. We gave her and her peers the support they needed to use the bus and get out of the house safely.”