New collaboration aims to address social isolation and wellness needs of older adults
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted two things: although prevention and management techniques are well-intentioned and effective, social distancing strategies can have serious consequences for older adults who are already at risk of contracting the disease. sickness ; and university students have had fewer opportunities to learn in traditional settings. Bridging these two paradigms is a collaboration between the Graduate College of Social Work and the College of Nursing at the University of Houston to mitigate the unintended consequences of the pandemic in Houston by connecting Houston-area seniors with students from the HU of both colleges.
“The goal of this study was to address the social isolation and wellness needs of older adult program participants while providing opportunities for social work and nursing students to practice engagement skills. , assessment, intervention, and communication that are critical to their future success in their fields,” reports Lola Adepoju, research director of the Humana Institute for Integrated Health System Sciences at UH, in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.
According to the results – objective achieved. The team found the weekly phone interactions to be fruitful, building trust between students and older adults.
Of the 707 participants, the proportion of older adults who reported being alone fell from about 84% to 40%; the proportion of severely lonely seniors fell from almost 16% to just over 12%; and 48% of the sample said they no longer felt alone.
Participants came from the Third Ward, East End, Alief and Northwest Houston communities -; unique low-income neighborhoods, some of which are adjacent to the University. A total of 177 students from the Graduate College of Social Work and the College of Nursing have been trained to engage virtually with their assigned senior at least once a week. The training included tips for active and thoughtful listening, as well as guidelines for introductions, incident escalation, and referral to local resources and services.
For older people in particular, COVID-19 has exacerbated the need to adapt to technology and social change. Virtual doctor visits, grocery delivery and online banking are just a few of the activities seniors have had to incorporate into their lives. This program provides an opportunity for budding young health professionals to help this group learn how to perform these tasks. Many attendees expressed their appreciation for the help provided by the students, and the students were able to follow through on their personal desires to help those in need during the pandemic. »
Patricia Schrader, Clinical Assistant Professor, UH College of Nursing
Many participants have been helped to schedule their COVID-19 vaccines, as an example of the important roles the program has provided.
“Social isolation and loneliness are just a few of the many community needs that can be met through multi-sector partnerships and programs,” said Sheara Jennings, Humana Endowed Chair in Social Determinants of health at the Graduate College of Social Work. “It is timely for public and private entities to explore common interests and work together to develop innovative and impactful programs that support population health.”
Adepoju, OE, et al. (2022) Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships During COVID-19: Providing Virtual Field Opportunities for Student Learners and Addressing Social Isolation Among Older Adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology. doi.org/10.1177/07334648221087120.