2015 Future of Senior Care Scholarship Submissions announced the winners of their second annual scholarship program for American students enrolled in an accredited two-year college or four-year university program. Of the nearly 600 students who applied from 250 different schools nationwide, only three students were selected to receive the scholarship award. You can read the winning essays here.

We received so many thoughtful submissions, that we’ve put together a post highlighting some of our favorites. Essays are organized alphabetically by first name. Thank you to everyone who participated!

How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care or those living in assisted living facilities in your town?

Response by Aaron Guest, University of Kentucky

The nature of assisted living facilities is rapidly evolving. These changes are being driven by the changing characteristics of the older adult demographic, the increasing diversity of this aging demographic, and the broadening expectations of what assisted living facilities are expected to provide. The increasing diversity, size, and needs of the older adult population in the United States have led to assisted living facilities becoming more than a ‘facility’ but rather part of the older adults environment and community. Assisted living facilities provide health, social, mental, and personal benefits to the older adult that allows them to remain as independent as possible and to live their best and healthiest life. The expectations of the current cohort of older adults have reshaped the meaning of old age in our society and the expectations of what their long -­‐ term care facilities should provide.
The field of gerontology, perhaps more so than any other, is apt to understand these changes. My specific area within gerontology and my PhD studies, environmental gerontology, is one that seeks to understand how an individuals environment -­‐ both physical and social -­‐ affects their overall wellbeing. This includes both the community and institutional realms, where assisted living facilities are dually positioned. In seeking to understand how the environments which older adults affect their lives and wellbeing there are opportunities in assisted living facilities to find ways to increase the social and physical environments of older adults in these facilities. Socially, there are opportunities to use practices from gerontology -­‐ including our understanding of how older adults develop and utilize social networks -­‐ to design programs and activities that encourage older adults to make better use of the resources in assisted living facilities, including other residents. This program development include s both health promotion programs that include older adults remaining in their best possible health and programs to encourage social activity, which is also linked to better health, among older adults. It also includes working to develop environments, through the identification of best practices that encourage aging -­‐ in -­‐ place of residents in assisted living facilities. This includes changes in the physical and built environment, such as sidewalks, stairs, and room design that allow for the optimization of older adults utilization of assisted living services, but that also keep them connected to the broader community.
Locally, in Lexington, KY and Kentucky overall, these efforts have focused on identifying opportunities to make the surrounding community and neighborhood part of the broader assisted living facility continuum so that older adults are provide the support they need, while remaining active and engaged members of their community. Unique to Kentucky, is also the recognition that there exists a need to engage in innovative means of reaching out to older adults to make them aware of assisted living communities, especially in rural parts of the state and Appalachia, so that they have a full -­‐ range of choices in their older age. Within this, there also exist a need to recognize the diversity of residents and potential residents that assisted living facilities can serve in the state and to be sure the needs of both the rural and urban older adults are being met. An older adult, regardless of their geographic location, should be able to access and be made aware of the possibilities that exist and the opportunities they have to have a healthy and well older age. The opportunity to combine environmental gerontology into the design and operation of assisted living facilities, as is beginning to occur in Kentucky and across the United States, points to this understanding. The infusion of environmental gerontology into assisted living facilities allows for the development of engaging and inviting programs that promote older adults socially and seek to improve their health. It also allows for the design of assisted living facilities that focus on the needs and recognizes the growing diversity of the growing older adult population.

Response by Abigail Suhr, Luther College

I have heard over and over in my life that a career in the arts will never get me anywhere and the pay is horrible. The thing that most people fail to understand is that I have never been an artist for the world, I do it for myself. I have continued to pursue dance after high school because it is what I love to do. I cannot even picture doing anything else with my life. Sometimes I try to imagine the world without art and I get sad. Art, in my case dance specifically, improves my life as well as the lives of those who create and encourage it.
Each and every human is a dancer. Getting out of bed in the morning is a movement. Climbing the stairs requires muscles the contract and stretch. Whether one likes to believe it or not, humanity is artistic. We live in a world that thrives on fast paced movement. The seniors in assisted living facilities in my town and others are likely not the most mobile or fastest around, but they have active minds. Bringing dance into their living places could come in many different forms. Perhaps it is bringing in performing groups, or teaching a multitude of different classes about styles and history of dance. Either way, the residents get something out of the experience and their lives improve because of it.
By bringing in performing groups to an assisted living facility, it stimulates the minds of the older community. They are able to watch different performances and listen to music that they may not have heard otherwise. I know from my experience that performing in assisted living facilities is very valuable both to the people living there and the performers. For many years I was part of a competition team at my studio. A few times a year we went around to some communities in the metro area and performed some of our dances for the residents. I recall many times that people would come up to us after the performance and congratulate us on a job well done, tell us about their past experience dancing, or just strike up a conversation. Just bringing in dancers allows these residents a new experience of the arts, regardless of the interaction between them. That being said, if they choose to engage with the performers, they may find a new friend and similar soul.
Teaching dance classes in assisted living facilities allows the residents a whole other aspect and viewpoint into the arts. It allows them to get up and move in a way that is fun and engaging for all. Recent studies have shown that dance is at the top on lists of activities that are beneficial for the body. It can be used to improve cardio, muscle strength, muscle flexibility, or just as a light exercise to keep the body running smoothly. By offering different classes such as ballet, Zumba, and ballroom, residents could choose something that appealed to them and engage in weekly exercises that way. The classes would provide socialization with other residents as well as the instructors or other class helpers. Another gain is that it would provide a way for the residents to continue to expand their mind and keep it flexible as the body grows older.
Dance in general provides ways to activate the body and the mind. Bringing in performers to a community allows options for entertainment and socialization for both the performers and the residents. Teaching classes gives the option for healthy movement as well as socialization and stretching the mind by learning new things in a new class. While dance certainly has the potential to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities, it also has the potential to improve the lives of all.

Response by Alexander Calco, Kent State University

Computer Science is a field of study that has become more and more prevalent in everybody’s lives as computers have risen in popularity and power over the years. Not even half a decade ago, computers took up more than half of a large room and were only affordable to universities and the government. Nowadays, roughly 70% of the world’s population has a computer right in their pocket that also acts as a phone as well as several other functions that hadn’t even been dreamt of before. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the other technological innovations and evolutions in the field of computer science such as ARPAnet (the first large scale decentralized computer network) growing into what we now know as the internet. Computer users today have more tools at their disposal and opportunities open to them than even the most well­off members of society not even 20 years earlier. With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that computers have made lives considerably easier for the elderly and will only improve in their ability to do so from here on out.
In the present day, we have made numerous technological advances that have positively affected assisted living facilities and the people living therein. One such advance would be the invention of an internet­connected pill container that opens each compartment on a timer and lets designated people know when a certain dose of pills hasn’t been taken. This way, the staff don’t need to go around distributing pills to everybody and can be immediately notified if someone hasn’t been taking their pills (since it’s a sign that something is probably wrong). Computer Science is also responsible for innovations such as voice recognition software for doctors’ medical transcripts and robotic surgical tools, which improve the lives of the elderly living in assisted care in a more indirect way.
Medical advances aren’t the only advances that have been made thanks to computer science. With the advent of the internet and services such as Skype, those living in assisted care facilities can connect with their friends and loved ones easier than ever. There’s also social networks, which can be used by the elderly to locate and communicate with old friends, co­workers, war partners, or anyone else from their past and communicate with them. Thanks to computer science, the problem of isolation among the elderly has been all but eliminated for those that have access to technology. Going out and shopping can also be difficult for older people, the internet has since resolved this problem with the advent of online shopping services such as Amazon and eBay. No more struggling with bags or having to walk around several shops to get everything that’s needed, which resolves the problems for people with limited mobility. This isn’t even scratching the surface of all the various means of entertainment that computer science provides, such as game consoles and online diversions.
In conclusion, with all the innovations we have made so far in the field of Computer Science and how they have improved the lives of the elderly, we can only go up from here.

Response by Alexander Eib, Purdue University

With the increase in age of the population, we are witnessing an unprecedented development and diffusion of technology into all aspects of life. Currently, all forms of technology in some way are used to perform routine tasks and activities. The use of technology has become an integral part of work, education, communication, and healthcare.
Technology in the form of delivery service, in-home monitoring, interactive communication, and record keeping have permanently found their place in the realm of healthcare. Much of this technology has great potential for improving the quality of life for the elderly. For example, bed-ridden people can use technology on common devices like tablets and cell phones to connect with distant family and friends. The elderly can even remain employed through the internet, no matter how bad their physical condition is. Unfortunately, evidence shows that the potential benefits that today’s technology offers are not often realized by older adults. In 2007, about 32 percent of Americans over the age of 65 called themselves internet users. Because of this apparent lack of interest, old people are largely ignored as a user group by designers and engineers.
As a mechanical engineer, I will have the opportunity to seek and develop new technology that is designed for use by elderly. If I were to pursue this issue and try to find solutions, I would focus mostly on user-centered design of consumer electronics. Products like the jitterbug, a cell phone made specifically for old people, have proven to be a success. In-home care is about the comfort of the patient as well as the health care, and I believe that technology can provide a new level of comfort when used properly. Users would be able to gain more independence and require less care from providers. For instance, apps could be developed to remind them of appointments and drug regimens. Instead of a caretaker administering all the medicine, they could just check in every few days to make sure the patient is taking the prescribed amounts at the right times. The tablet and app would have to be engineered in a way that makes it simple to use, affordable, and robust.
For some, this solution may be greatly beneficial. It could allow access to the internet, and teach them to use it in the way newer generations do. For others, it may not be so welcome. The personal care that in-home patients receive is not just about maintaining the body. It also allows for an intimate interaction between the patient and caretaker. For many patients, this is the only human interaction that they can expect to obtain. It has always been a dream of mine to design a sort of personal assistant that could help out. A robot that could provide company. This would revolutionize the quality of life for in-home care. Bed ridden patients are not independent enough to take care of pets, so this could be a new option for them. I would design a robot that would mimic an animal’s behavior. You would need to show it affection in order to keep it “happy.” This would give them something to do, and give them something to care about. It seems far-fetched, but I have witnessed first-hand the effects that being alone can have on someone. My grandfather had a severe stroke soon after my grandma died, and he was put into a nursing home. Even though he was surrounded by people like him, he felt isolated and alone. He told me that other than his wife, the only thing he missed was his dog.

Response by Alexandra Cochrane, D’Youville College

In my studies I will be learning about different types of injuries and how to treat them. This is very important because many seniors get injured easily due to weak bones. This can be defined as osteoarthritis, which is the inflammation and degeneration of bones. People with arthritis often have very stiff joints, mostly because they avoid movements that increase pain. By not moving arthritic joints, the stiffness and pain only get worse. Therefore, people with arthritis can often benefit from physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach people how to work out stiffness without further damaging their joint. This is especially useful for seniors receiving in-home care because after being taught how to work out the stiffness in an office setting, they can do it themselves at home. Physical therapy also is useful after an injury, such as from a fall or after joint surgery. The goal of physical therapy is to get a person back to the point where he or she can perform normal, everyday activities without difficulty. Seniors obviously cannot do everything that they did everyday as a teenager because bodies degenerate, but they can preserve good range of motion so they are able to move on their own as they age. Physical therapists provide exercises designed to preserve the strength and use of joints, which is very important for every day movements. Physical therapists can show patients the best way to move from one position to another and can also teach patients how to use walking aids such as crutches, a walker or a cane, if these aids are necessary for them to move around comfortably. Many seniors receiving in-home care are put on bed rest due to physical or health issues. Bed rest helps reduce both joint inflammation and pain. Physical therapists can provide exercise that patients can do even while in bed. These exercises can make them more comfortable while they are in bed or even make them well enough to move around more.
There are many other ways physical therapy can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in my town. Some examples of conditions that physical therapy can be valuable to are Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Stroke, Vertigo, Incontinence, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and many other conditions. Physical therapy can help seniors in about every area of health care imaginable. Many seniors are very dependent on taking many medications every day. A physical therapist helps seniors address health challenges, achieve and maintain desired levels of fitness, and recover from or avoid injury. In many cases, a physical therapist can even help do all of these things without the use of any medication, which will help patients save money and time. Having to remember to take multiple medications every day can be a very nagging task. Improving physically can make it so seniors are less dependent on their medications. Physical therapy can give seniors back their independence by increasing joint mobility and making daily tasks easier. This would obviously improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care. My major of study, which is a Bachelor’s Degree (BS) in Exercise and Sports Studies and a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree (DPT), can help improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care by helping with joint stiffness, preventing and treating injury, and improving a wide variety of conditions.

Response by Alexandra Perrault, University of Cincinnati

Imagine sitting down with your grandma for a nice home-cooked meal– and tonight she made your favorite dish. If it were me and my grandma, she would serve a big pan of classic lasagna with a bottle of wine. I would serve myself a slice and dig in to the yummy layers of noodle, sauce and meat. But now imagine that instead of serving herself the same slice, grandma has to blend her piece in a food processor, and instead of pouring her own glass of wine, she has in front of her a thickened glass of flavored water. This style of dining is the reality for many seniors in assisted living, and enjoying a normal meal with their loved ones is just not possible.
As a future speech-language pathologist (SLP), my role in the lives of seniors in assisted living is a big one. It is estimated that an SLP’s caseload is overwhelmingly filled with patients with swallowing disorders, followed by patients having trouble with memory and spoken language due to a variety of causes. Making sure seniors are safe when eating and drinking is a huge responsibility, and one that I am excited to fulfill in my career as an SLP. Modifying diets and assuring patients are able to swallow safely is not always easy with seniors. Many do not want to eat or drink if the food is pureed and the liquids are thickened. Because of this, counseling patients is a huge part of an SLP’s role to ensure their safety and proper nutrition. It takes a special therapist to convince a senior to eat and drink modified foods for their own safety, and I believe I would especially excel in this counseling role.
However, it is important to acknowledge that many assisted living homes have only one SLP for all residents at the facility – this person cannot be around for every meal to feed and monitor dietary intake for all of these patients. Certified nurse assistants (CNAs) or other medical staff, are often responsible for the feeding and nutrition of residents. Therefore, it is crucial for SLPs to collaborate with other professionals to adequately train them on proper feeding techniques, monitoring fluid intake, warning signs of aspiration, and other necessary strategies so that patients are safely monitored. This training is important not only for the safety of the patients, but it is also important because it can foster successful patient – caregiver communication between a variety of medical professionals. Having well-trained staff who are responsive to patient concerns is a huge way to improve the quality of life for residents of assisted living.
Overall, SLPS are a vital part of the success of assisted living homes for the services they provide in relation to swallowing, as well as the therapy they provide to patients with traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, and more. The ability to communicate basic wants and needs, to communicate with loved ones, to remember important information, to utilize problem solving abilities – these are all necessary to having a positive quality of life and SLPS are a huge component in achieving these goals.

Response by Alicia Gonzalez, Grand Valley State University

My major of study has a multitude of ways of helping those who receive in home care in my community. In the field of speech language pathology, a speech therapist can provide in home aid. As an individual’s health decreases with age a speech therapist can provide in home speech care. Patients with dementia can learn mechanisms and techniques for remembering world and sentence structure for daily communication. If an individual has faced a stroke or a heart attack a speech language pathologist can help the individual cope with their new speech difficulties. As age increases and health risks become more prominent speech language pathologists are needed more and more. Speech is one of the most essential forms of communication and losing that can be devastating. Due to this speech language pathologists can work as a form of in home care to help the individual maintain a normal functioning life and be able to work towards keeping their former communication skills.
Audiology, which is another field in my major, can aid those with in home care as well. Typically, as age increases hearing of an individual decrease. At times hearing may even nearly leave the individual. A loss of hearing can negatively impact an individual’s standard of living as well as their forms of communication with friends, family and others. Many older individuals find it necessary and helpful to begin using hearing aids. A hearing aid needs to be fitted and adjusted properly due to the amount of hearing loss. There can also be uncertainties and negative views associated with wearing a hearing aid. An audiologist can come to the home and access the patients hearing to determine if a hearing aid is the right fit, as well as the extent of the hearing loss. Once it has been determined a hearing aid is helpful then the audiologist can bring in different options and help fit the elderly individual with the right hearing aid for their lifestyle. Having to start wearing a hearing aid can be something that is hard to deal and cope with. An audiologist can explain and aid the individual in beginning to wear the hearing aid as well as accessing the increased hearing with the hearing aid. If a certain hearing aid is not the right fit, then an audiologist will switch it to a different one.
Both fields in my major can be used to aid those who decide to use in home care. Speech Language Pathology and Audiology both benefit the elderly with their constantly changing forms of communication. Both speech therapists and audiologists are able to travel to homes and help with the disorder from the comfort of the home. Speech and hearing are two things that can be devastating to lose as your health is decreasing. Whether a patient needs in home care due to dementia, a heart attack, stroke, car accident, TBI or just due to decreased health speech therapists and audiologist are necessary in the aid for the individual. They are able to help cope and learn mechanisms for living the life that they used to live with their speech or hearing disorder.

Response by Allison Dona, University of Oregon

My majors, General Science and Spanish, can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities because these majors will allow me to apply to medical school and become a physician: one of the most relevant people in the lives of residents in assisted living facilities. Some physicians are more effective in helping the elderly than others, and the combination of majors I am pursuing will make me more relatable and understanding when I graduate. The colloquia classes I take through the honors college and the multi-cultural experiences I have through my Spanish major give me a more extensive world view and allow me to understand and have more patience with different types of people. This combination of majors, along with my experience from seeing three of my grandparents receive aid from assisted living facilities, will make me a better doctor and improve the lives of seniors in assisted living in my town.
One of the most significant issues I have encountered in assisted living facilities is a lack of personalized care. Some doctors and caregivers try to treat the senior’s physical conditions as quickly as possible in order to get to the next patient. Many facilities need to hire more staff and provide further training for their caregivers. Some residents do not get the care that they need and mistakes are made because the staff is spread too thin or is undereducated. Unfortunately, I will not be able to aid in the addition of new staff to assisted living facilities through my career. However, there are other ways I can lessen the load on the caregivers and make their jobs more rewarding.
As a physician, I can help improve this issue by giving individualized care to my patients and treating each senior with the respect they deserve. Also, keeping an open line of communication with the assisted living staff instead of merely sending orders would be helpful. Indeed, instead of making the caregivers feeling stressed or confused about their tasks because of a lack of understanding, I could help explain why each treatment or amount of special care is important for each patient. For example, certified nursing assistants often dread when doctors prescribe medications such as milk of magnesia. It is understandable that cleaning up for patients on laxatives may not be ideal, but explaining why these medications are so necessary and beneficial to the residents can make the job less of a struggle; the staff can be proud knowing that they helped that individual. Similarly, suggesting appropriate language when speaking with residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is extremely important. For example, instead of criticizing or correcting people with these conditions, caregivers should be supportive and encouraging. Instead of merely giving the staff orders, explaining the methods behind the medications and how to have better relationships with the residents will improve the quality of care in assisted living facilities. Better care will positively impact seniors in assisted living facilities both physically and emotionally.
My majors and future education will give me the authority and ability to help the staff and residents in assisted living facilities because, in addition to my extensive medical training, I will have studied and worked with people of different backgrounds and better understand what they need in order to thrive. I believe that better lives for seniors in assisted living starts with improving the morale of the staff that work in these facilities. The caregivers deserve to feel proud of their work and have legitimate understanding of the tasks requested of them. Better communication and cooperation between physicians and assisted living staff will greatly improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities.

Response by Amanda Ezigbo, University of Baltimore

Upon reading several reviews about assisted living facilities in my community these were the most common concerns: safety, smelly environments and unhelpful staff. As my eyes glazed over a final review, my heart crumpled into a heap, re-reading and processing a resident’s observation. “No way…,” I thought to myself, “Isn’t that considered neglect?” Many facilities statewide are not holding their promise to support healthy living for their residents, with my town included. While not all issues pertaining to assisted living facilities are severe, being a reliable service should not be handled lightly. Families are entrusting these services with the lives of their elderly loved ones, working hard to pay the expenses that come with assisted living. It is disheartening to see some facilities not carrying the responsibility to foster comfortable care for all the money they charge. This is especially important to me because, my major of study, Business Administration, has shed light on what it means to thoroughly construct an organization that supports its customers. Moreover, I believe Business Administration can help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living communities by ensuring these facilities fulfill their duty in accommodating each of their residents.
Not many of us know what it is like to be a senior citizen. In order to serve the population of seniors in any community, owners of assisted living organization must examine the structure of their business. Owners should address whether the purpose of their organization emphasizes the customer first or profit first. Facilities less concerned with financial gain position themselves to accommodate the needs of their residents. Equally, their customers have become the center of their business. These organizations discuss topics such as: determining what kind of living space is best fits the residents’ needs, valuable food options and, security systems necessary for the external environment.
Part of successfully structuring an assisted living business is ensuring each aspect represents the “customer first” vision. This elicits an imperative ingredient my major calls the cross-functional perspective. In an organization there are different functions, which are the essential parts that help create the product or service promised to the customer. These functions are known as marketing, information systems, finance, accounting, operations and human resources, with more added depending on the size of the organization. One can think of business functions like parts of a human body; while each part has its own role, the parts work best collectively.
To establish a supportive assisted living facility, each of these departments must work together; decision-making within these separate functions should align with mission statement of the company (that is, the purpose of the company). For example, suppose the mission of an assisted living facility was “to become the most trusted community for seniors in all of Montgomery County, MD.” Each function will come together to determine what is means to be the most trusted facility and, make decisions based on those findings. Furthermore, the marketing function will conduct consumer research on the elderly in need of their facility; results will yield information such as lifestyle choices and buying habits which can help effectively direct advertising. The human resources function creates thorough training for individuals who will be working with residents. The information systems can equip the facility with secure software needed to keep track of records, patient and employee schedules. The operations/ production piece can develop various ways the facility can deliver valuable service. The finance and accounting function, often grouped together, calculate the money needed to meet accommodations of their residents, allocating the finances appropriately. Allowing the assisted living organization to work cooperatively will impact all staff members designated to deliver quality service. I believe that the structure of these businesses will impact the leadership of each facility, demonstrating what it truly means to put customers first and profit second.
Today, many elders in my community as well as in other communities deserve the utmost support to lead healthy lives and, I have found that Business Administration offers some wonderful suggestions. Though it cannot be done overnight, much success can be seen in ensuring assisted living communities are reliable-relentlessly accommodating the needs of their residents.

Response by Amber Blackledge, Slippery Rock University

“Dzień dobry” I said to Helena the first time I saw her since helping her to bed the night before. I beamed as she smiled back recognizing good morning in her first language, Polish. I had practiced the correct pronunciation at least a dozen times, until I felt it was recognizable. One chilly evening she returned the favor by suggesting I drape a sheet over my shoulders; she insisted she would not tell because I was like family. My experiences as a Medical Assistant, Hospice volunteer and CNA have solidified my desire to diagnose and treat patients as a PA. I want to bring knowledge and compassion to medicine, particularly to geriatrics and underserved populations. There is no greater reward than positively impacting the lives of others and bringing smiles to their faces.
My journey to become a physician assistant has already helped me to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. I started by gaining clinical experience in a nursing home. This experience confirmed my desire to work with the elderly. I loved being an advocate for them and ensuring they received the care they deserved. I also enjoyed seeing to their emotional and spiritual needs. Many healthcare providers lose their empathy and are only there to do a job.
I have continued improving the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities by becoming a hospice volunteer. While working in the nursing home I noticed these patients in particular were in the most need of respect and attention. I also assisted patients with activities of daily living to maintain independence. As a hospice volunteer I provide companionship to the residents and make sure they are comfortable and have everything they need. This year I made several types of items to contribute to baskets made to give the patients as Christmas presents.
As a physician assistant I will be able to continue helping in even greater ways. Physician assistants are trained as patient advocates. They are able to have a direct impact on patient care to ensure quality of life. Without good health patients will not be able to enjoy the benefits offered both inside and out of assisted living facilities.
Physician assistants are going to have a growing impact on the conventions of assisted living communities. Physician assistants will be involved in patient centered medical homes, as part of a team they will work with other medical professionals to provide excellent care to seniors. In the patient centered medical home model, physician assistants will have the ability to lead the medical team to be patient advocates.
The environment created for patients and practitioners in patient centered medical homes will inherently improve the lives of seniors. As a physician assistant I will assist in the continuum of care. The American Academy of Physician Assistants believes the training, education and team based clinical approach will be essential to medical centered care homes. Working as a team will help seniors maintain their independence, often patients suffer from polypharmacy or ineffective physical therapy. These issues can be avoided if health care professionals across specialties work as a unit. In addition by employing physician assistants to care for the elderly in assisted living homes will drive down costs, yet another benefit for seniors.
By becoming a physician assistant I will become part of the solution to the provider shortage that is affecting all seniors, including those in assisted living facilities. Improving access to care will allow more time for practitioners to see their patients in office and their patients in medical homes. Reduced wait times will also become a reality. Shorter wait times is also a benefit, I will be able to see patients in a timely manner, reducing the chances of a common cold developing into something more serious.
While in assisted living homes I have seen physicians rush to see patients in the assistant living homes and return to their other patients. As a physician assistant I will be able to free up time and ensure the seniors in assisted living homes receive the necessary attention.
I hope that I can continue impacting the lives of seniors in assisted living centers. As a physician assistant I will have even more opportunities to be involved in improving their care and ensure they receive the attention and care they deserve through my work and volunteer opportunities.

Response by Amber Koch, Grand Valley State University

My major of study is Radiation Therapy. Radiation is used to treat cancer, and prevent recurrence. The risk of cancer increases with age, and it can cause severe health defects. For seniors receiving in home care, radiation treatments can be used as a means of curing their cancer, or for palliation for pain and other negative effects involving later stage cancer. I believe radiation therapy is extremely beneficial to seniors, particularly those receiving in home care.
For this program I learn a lot about cancer, do research on the many different types, along with on- the-job training in oncology centers. The field of Oncology is unfortunately growing and changing, with technology and advancements of the disease. Although cancer is a very negative thing for anyone to go through, my field of study is helping to fight this terrible disease. Advancements in the knowledge of the disease and its treatment have vastly improved its outcome. Those over the age of sixty-five are the largest group dealing with cancer. During my clinicals this year, the majority of the patients I have worked with are seniors. This program has given me hands on training for caring for elderly patients, and I have learned more about their needs.
I believe that in home care is very beneficial to someone who has a difficult to deal with diagnosis, and has a hard time taking care of themselves. It helps them to be a little more comfortable during this rough time; and cancer patients, of any age, often require more care due to the demands of the disease and its treatment. Radiation can be a better treatment option for older people, because chemotherapy can be very hard on their bodies, and surgery can also be very tough on them. Radiation is much less invasive, some have very little side effects, and it is a quick outpatient procedure. Also, most of the time, a course of radiation therapy treatments is shorter than a course of chemotherapy, and has less healing time than surgery, if any. If a tumor is causing issues due to its size or location, such as compression or pain, radiation can reduce that. Even if a patient is very ill and their outlook is not favorable, radiation can often still help to make them have a better quality of life. These aspects are very important to the older patients, so they can spend more time with their loved ones, instead of in the hospital.
At the hospitals I’ve trained at, I see nothing but loving, caring people and positive attitudes. To be in the field of oncology, I believe it is our duty to make the patients more comfortable, and be uplifting to them in this dark time they are going through. Seniors, along with those of all ages, need people who can be that ray of hope for them, and that is what I want to do. This major has really pushed me forward in terms of caring for the elderly in particular, but also patients of all ages.

Response by Amelia Hill, Washington University

I love interacting and exchanging knowledge with the various youth I meet throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. My goal is to open a non-profit organization that will enrich the lives of today’s youth, seniors and adults, not only in my community, but nationally and international as well. My goal is to create a multi-cultural, learning, safe-haven for children from all walks of life. A place where children can learn, display their talent, have a nutritious meal, prepare for the workforce, as well as interact with children from other cultures, building bridges and breaking barriers. So often adults want to separate children because of various beliefs, family values, etc. My goal is to build an organization where children and adults of all ethnicities can express themselves freely as they acknowledge and appreciate their own culture as well as those of other races. Together we will bridge the gap that society has hindered for years. Through workshops and focus groups my goal is to implement informative/educational seminars such as:
Offer free senior classes and allow the youth to teach seniors various computer skills.
Invite seniors to mentor the community through home economic classes, empowering youth to cook and sew.
Offer opportunities for the seniors of the community to take the young people fishing, also plant a community garden this way young people will develop a respect for nature.
These programs will empower the youth and enrich adults/seniors as well. Like the saying goes, “Knowledge is power,” people are hopeless and destroyed due to the lack of knowledge. I want to build an organization were the words, “I don’t know” will no longer be an excuse, meanwhile building the self-esteem and restoring self-worth and hope to individuals globally.
I have completed my Associate in Science Degree in Human Services, after completing my bachelor’s degree my goal is to obtain a Master’s degree in Social Work. I am an active volunteer not only at church but throughout the St. Louis community. As a school teacher and volunteer, I often encounter under privileged children and families throughout St. Louis. I realize the great need for education, substance abuse seminars, and various community outreach programs for the entire family to enjoy together. I am currently waiting for my non-profit status to become finalized in the state of Missouri by the spring of 2016. I have done community service with various organizations throughout St. Louis such as: Better Family Life, Room at The Inn, BJC Outpatient Mental Health and West End Community Counsel just to name a few. Through the knowledge and the experience I have gained from the community as well as Washington University. My goal is to become a powerful vessel that God can utilize to bless His people. When you are living an unselfish lifestyle enhancing not only yourself but the lives of others, it’s priceless this is real success, knowledge, power, and money are nothing if you don’t share it in a genuine way with others. This is my ultimate goal and accomplishment.

Response by Amelia Zann, Grand Valley State University

Communication is a major need for seniors receiving in-home care. Their communication abilities may decrease as they age, as a result of normal aging or other medical problems. Strokes, brain injuries, and dementia can affect how seniors are able to communicate with their caregivers and loved ones. Their ability to communicate with those around them affects their quality of life and a decrease in that ability to communicate can have devastating effects on their mental health. Not only must they be able to talk to their providers and their families in order to explain what they need help with, communication is also essential to maintaining relationships. If a patient cannot explain or communicate to a nurse or caregiver their needs, where they feel pain, or how intense the pain is, it becomes difficult for the caregiver to do their job and provide for the patient in an effective manner. If they cannot communicate to their friends and family, it becomes difficult to socialize and form connections with others.
Speech-language pathologists work with their patients to increase their communication abilities. Some may work on increasing vocabulary after a stroke in order to help gain some independence. They may work on receptive or expressive language abilities involved in understanding others, organizing their thoughts and forming clear sentences. Other speech-language pathologists can help seniors with the physical components of sound production if they have trouble after a brain injury caused by a severe accident. Speech-language pathologist can also help seniors with their social speech cues, such as when to speak, the formality or informality of their speech, and how to express themselves.
As people age, some may lose the ability to communicate with others using vocal communication. The senior may have lost their hearing and can no longer understand those around them, or they may no longer be able to speak themselves. Though there is no vocal speech possibly anymore, speech-language pathologists are still able to help. Through the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices like low-tech picture boards or high-tech communication apps, speech-language pathologists can teach seniors a new way to communicate that does not require hearing or speaking. This allows seniors more independence in navigating the world without needing a caregiver or family member to accompany them and interpret. Using AAC can allow seniors to continue ordering food or ask for help in the supermarket because they still have a way to communicate with others.
Speech-language pathologists are an integral part of helping the senior’s family understand their condition. Speech-language pathologists not only help their client, but also those who interact with the client on a daily basis. They act as a resource for family members, answering questions and helping the family adapt to new ways of communicating with their loved one. Speech-language pathologists bring family members into the process of rehabilitation and teach them the strategies that the seniors are using so that they can also help during the recovery process.
Speech-language pathologists can also help seniors who have no problems speaking or communicating. Seniors who have trouble swallowing should seek the help of a speech-language pathologist. They can receive helpful exercises to help with any of the phases of swallowing. If they have a major problem, a speech-language pathologist can also recommend them for surgery to correct the issue. Swallowing problems are very serious because they can result in food entering the lungs or choking. This can be especially dangerous for a senior living at home who does not have 24-hour care or monitoring by a family member or caretaker.

Response by Amy Gensale, George Washington University

I am enrolled in the masters level family nurse practitioner program through George Washington University. Nurse practitioners can increase the number of primary care providers available to patients thereby decreasing the amount of time between appointments and lead to a more comprehensive individualized health plan. As a nurse practitioner I can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town by just being readily available. As a nurse practitioner, I think assisted living facilities would be the perfect opportunity to host everything from vaccination clinics to yearly physicals to making sick calls to ease some of the burden of having to travel to the doctor’s office for these sometimes simple yet vital matters. Seniors that live in assisted living can sometimes travel to such appointments on their own, but for those that need to find a ride or think they are bothering their loved ones, having to travel to their doctors office can inhibit them from doing so. Infrequent doctor or medical visits leads to poorer overall health. I believe having a nurse practitioner on site or that checks in daily would ease some of the burden of having to go elsewhere to be seen by a medical professional, and make life just a little easier for the residents, which is the aim of “assisted living.”
Another benefit of having a nurse practitioner on site is the extra time nurse practitioners traditionally have to interact with patients compared to physicians. Nothing is worse than hearing a story where a patient had to obtain a ride to a doctors appointment, maybe a family member had to take off work, then waited for an hour or so to see the doctor, then only had a 10 minute session where all of the patients concerns could not be voiced due to being rushed in and out of the appointment because the doctor was running behind schedule. Nurse practitioners traditionally have a lighter patient load, which allows more time to be spent with each patient, which leads to a more trusting patient-provider relationship. I think having a nurse practitioner on site, or one that comes to check in on the residents every day would provide continuity of care and increase trust in the medical field. Trusting their medical provider is key to maintaining optimal health. Patients must trust that they can honestly discuss symptoms with their provider which in doing so may make them fear they will lose their independence. I have often heard patients say “I don’t want my doctor to convince my family to put me in a home.” I can envision an assisted living setting where I am the nurse practitioner and all the residents know me, and I know them. I become not only their medical provider, but also a trusted friend. I think families would also be at ease knowing their loved ones have convenient access to a medical practitioner if/when it is needed that knows their medical history and cares about the outcome.
I thank you for your kind consideration of me as a recipient for this scholarship. I have worked in a hospital setting during my seven year career as a nurse, but am excited to go into primary care and really be the glue that holds my patient’s medical care together.

Response by Amy Hoefer, College of Saint Mary

So many people jump into the world of healthcare hoping to change the world, and to really make a difference. While my notions are not misguided, I know that there is really only so much one person can do. I do know that geriatrics has become more of an up and coming field, and I recall the experiences that my great grandmother’s had in their assisted living homes. The first experience I had as a visitor was when I was a young child, going to the nursing home five or six times a week to see my Great Grandma Stieneke. She lived in the assisted living side of the home and was then moved to the nursing facility when she got older and her health began to get worse. During her time there, she had a lot of fun experiences and got to know the staff quite well, as did my family and I. Even when she reached her last few days, the smiling faces of the staff were still there to offer a warming welcome even in the sad days that were inevitable. My other Great Grandma, Margaret, stayed in a living center in Louisville, Nebraska, which claimed to be the best of its kind in the entire state. We would pay her a visit one a week or so, and I noticed the clear differences in the facility in comparison to the one that my other grandmother lived in.
So by this point in this essay, you as a reader are probably curious as to how this relates to what exactly I can do to improve the nursing facilities in my local community? After observing these two very different homes, I came to realize that there were some serious underlying issues that were causing these institutions to not operate at their optimum level. In a hypothetical scenario where I could possibly oversee a retirement community, I would attempt to implement a certain level of expectations for all the staff involved, primarily on the healthcare side of things. One big issue that I saw was the understaffing that was happening on a constant basis. Unfortunately, the lower side of the pay scale in those institutions comes with other troubles, thus causing a trickledown effect on the residents of the community. If you were to start at the top, by ensuring proper employee regulatory benefits, besides insurance, such as P.T.O. time, additional vacation time, etcetera this would inevitably be better for the residents. I have definitely learned that people need consistency in their routine, so giving them a friendly, happy staff, who are present on a consistent basis is essential for providing a safe and happy environment for the residents of the home. This poses the question of money, which there never seems to be enough of for anyone. Well, theoretically, with less employee turnover and less money spent funding new employee training, it would be put into salary increases for existing employees and funding better programs for residents. On place that most institutions sees a lot of loss and inconsistency with is in the cafeteria. While state regulations dictate the “bare bones” meal plans, providing healthier and most fresh options could help improve rapport amongst residents as well as provide the staff with a sense of moral accomplishment by providing healthy and tasty options for the residents.
I know that these seem like complicated and round-about ways of improving life for individual residents by a nurse, however I feel that if I pursue my masters in Nursing and Administration, I have the true potential to make a difference. These are big issues that are affecting my local assisted living homes, and I feel that returning the power to the “little guy” employees will help to boost morale, giving them reasons to put care and compassion back in their jobs, which is the solid foundation on which these very institutions are built on. Starting with the base of the issue presents us with the ability to create a happy and healthy environment to help seniors settle in to their new home.

Response by Amy Riddle, South University

A growing need for primary care is caused from the increased and aging population, rise in chronic disease diagnoses, and millions of Americans signing up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (Budd, Wolf & Hass, 2015). An increase of 13 percent in 2010 of adults 65 years and older will rise to 20 percent in 2030. The number of residents in assisted living facilities is expected to rise congruently as well (Stachel, Bornschlegel & Balter, 2012).
Decreases in medical students choosing primary care have also added to the national health care crisis (Odell, Kippenbrock, Buron & Narcisse, 2013). New research has stated that NPs could decrease the demand of primary care shortages (Shuey, 2013). While one third of visits for primary care concerns are seen by NPs, physician assistants, and nurse midwives, only 48% of NPs work in a primary care setting (Budd et al., 2015). A need to understand reasons NP students choose primary care in rural, underserved areas is important to decrease healthcare shortages in America.
It is estimated that in 2025, twenty percent of primary care services will be lacking practitioners to provide safe and adequate care (Poghosyan et al., 2014). The World Health Organization (WHO) defines primary care as the first contact for need based on patient focused comprehensive health care. Primary care includes patients of different socioeconomic statuses, all ages, range of health care needs, preventative care, various geographic origins, and acute and chronic health care issues (Rasmor, Kooienga, Brown & Probst, 2014). Besides physicians, nurse practitioners assess, perform and interpret diagnostic testing, order, diagnose, manage medical treatments, prescribe medications, and collaborate with other health care professionals in primary care (American, 2015).
Primary care in the United States provides more health care to individuals than any other health care setting. One particular area of concern regarding shortages in primary care is fewer primary care physicians are practicing in those areas (Odell et al., 2013). A continued decrease in medical students and residents pursuing family practice and internal medicine careers is adding to the shortage of primary care practices. Primary care medicine residencies declined by three percent between 1995 and 2006 (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010). The lack of interest to provide care in rural areas is contributed to minimal employment and educational opportunities for their families. (Odell et al., 2013).
Literature consistently reports the United States government’s awareness of increasing shortages in primary care, particularly in rural communities (Poghosyan et al., 2014). The government is looking for ways to re-create primary care to protect patient’s lack of care and accessibility (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010). Nurse practitioner graduates are expected to increase by 2025; however, 20 percent of primary care needs will not be serviced due to lack of availability (Yee et al., 2013).
Southwest Florida has many assisted living faculties due to the large population of seniors. An advanced practice nurse specializing in family practice or gerontology can deliver safe and effective medical care to seniors in assisted living faculties. Nurse practitioners focus on educating residents rather than just treating. Educating residents to know about their disease process can empower them to make decisions that are important to their own care and outcome. By completing a Masters in Nursing, nurse practitioner program, the burden of lack of practitioners to care for seniors in Southwest Florida will become less and residents in assisted living facilities will have the care needed to improve or maintain their quality of life.

Response by Ana Karen Areola-Reyes, California State University Sacramento

The social work field works to empower individuals, groups, and communities. One of my favorite perspectives/theories from social work is the strengths perspective. This means that every individual has strengths that they can use to help them overcome road blocks in their life. Strengths perspectives does not focus on the individual’s problem but the tools they have to deal with problems and issues in their life. This perspective applies to seniors as well. This theory becomes very important to the senior community because they value their independence.
I was given the opportunity, in my social work studies, to learn about seniors. The senior population is always a major concern for the social work community. Seniors are a major concern because many of them are in danger of abuse: emotional, physical, verbal, financial, mental, and sexual. When working with the senior population it is important for social workers to keep this in mind. Part of being a social worker is that we are mandated reporters. It is our job to report any form of abuse done to children (CPS) or to adults (APS). As social workers, it is also important to make the individual the expert of their own life. We are there to help them help themselves.
In our society, we value youth and oppress those that are aging. Our society also values productivity; seniors are perceived as worthless because they can “no longer” be productive, which is not true. To answer the question, How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in your town, my major of study has everything to do with seniors and the facilities they live in all cities. As social workers it is our job to advocate for the senior communities.
Social workers could assist seniors in assisted living facilities by being their advocate or case manager. We would fill out an assessment and asses what their needs are, what their strengths are, and come up with goals and ways to meet those goals. Social workers could help seniors in assistance living by: finding financial assistance to pay for assisted living, connecting them with someone to assist them write a will, re-connecting them with family members, connecting them to counseling services, and the list goes on. Seniors, like other individuals, have specific needs and as social workers we would have to create an assessment on an individual basis. No one can assume what a senior needs; needs are different to every individual.
The social work profession not only works on a micro and mezzo level, but also at a macro level. The macro level would include changing laws and policies. It is our job to advocate not only at an individual level but on a societal level. For example, many seniors might have a disability. Facilities need to have accessibilities to wheelchairs, accessible elevators, and ramps. Laws have been passed to make entrances and buildings accessible to people with disabilities. As social workers it is our job to advocate for laws like this and make sure that they are implemented. To rephrase the question asked, social workers do not help seniors improve their lives, social workers empower seniors so seniors can help themselves improve their own lives.

Response by Ana Mendez, College of Dupage

As a social worker with a focus on geriatrics, the ways that the lives of seniors, who represent a vast and growing number in our communities today, would improve by this field are numerous. In a facility they are a resource for seniors. They are the person they can turn to for any problems of any degree. From small issues such as dissatisfaction with services, to helping navigate and coordinate care in times of changing conditions, this field is essential to making sure seniors are being provided for fairly. In facilities, there is a vast network of people that provide for the senior population. There is the nursing staff, the dietary staff, administration, housekeeping, receptionists, activity staff, memory care professionals, and volunteers. Such an array of people all aimed at providing the best care for our seniors, requires teamwork and careful coordination so that no aspect of a seniors life is overlooked. A social worker is a key player in this network. It is their job to assist with the coordination of a care plan, to see that it is enforced, and make suggestions for any updates due to a seniors changing needs. They represent the seniors best interest by making sure that the best most appropriate care is being provided.
Social workers not only provide for the seniors in these facilities, they also work with families to ensure that all aspects of a seniors life are payed attention to. Social Workers help facilitate the difficult network that is healthcare, and can assist with obtaining the best resources. A social worker is a guide for families wishing to begin the process of introducing a loved one to a new atmosphere of immediate care and attention. It is essential to cater to families’ interests on behalf of their loved ones as well. Peace of mind for families who have the best interest at heart for their respective family members must be taken into account. In light of this, a social worker must also be ready to appropriately identify, and quell and harm that may come to a resident in regards to family as well. Although one might like to believe that all of the people surrounding a senior are aiming to provide the most selfless and best care possible, that is not always the case. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that one-two million American senior citizens experience abuse every year. Abuse as taught to us providers in this industry, comes in many forms. The obvious physical abuse comes to mind, but there is also exploitation, sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse. Not all of these are easily identifiable. A social worker’s job is to be attentive to a seniors condition mentally, physically, and emotionally. Everyone in this field is responsible for this holistic well being, but a social worker is a direct representative for a senior. They are the people they can turn to stand up for them if an investigation is required, and how to continue in such a situation. Assisted living communities, and nursing facilities are sometimes immense in size and provide for hundreds of seniors in our neighborhoods. It is the job of a social worker, as well as other essential personnel, to provide an environment that disregards size and projects a loving, caring, and personable atmosphere for our seniors.
The senior population is deserving of every level of comfort that should not vary or change because of requiring additional assistance with aging. Facilities are meant to be homes for seniors, where they can expect to experience the same comfort, care, independence, and privacy that they are used to. A social worker would in the most basic sense, is present to help promote this vision in such an environment. For these reasons I feel that a social worker would contribute immensely to the senior population that depends on assisted living facilities to lead comfortable lives.

Response by Angela Panetta, Kirtland Community College

Sociology with a concentration in Gerontology can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in many ways. Given the projected growth in our older population, I firmly believe that the future of our country can best be determined by the quality of life and the future of our aging population.
According to the Census Bureau, the population of those aged sixty-five or older has steadily grown each year of the past century and the Bureau projects that the senior population will double within the next thirty – five years. It is imperative to our future that we have a thorough understanding of the needs, abilities, and impacts of our oldest citizens.
Sociology and Gerontology are undertaking massive research projects in many areas, including such topics as socialization on brain function, Alzheimer’s disease, the impact of physical activity on the aging process, the effect of grandparent – grandchild relationships, grief, stress surrounding the adaption to urban – based assisted living facilities, and the effects of home care versus assisted living care on the self – worth of seniors.
With economic strains ever tightening on working families, more and more seniors are finding themselves in need of an assisted living facility instead of moving in with an adult child, as was popular in the past. The average age of familial caregivers is over fifty. As anyone that has been responsible for the care of an elderly parent or loved one knows, providing care at home has an incredible impact on every aspect of life, often including a decline in health of the aging caregiver. As our caregivers age so do the numbers of citizens in need of assisted living centers.
In the field of sociology and gerontology, it is crucial that we study nonphysical and social aspects of aging. These fields focus on the broad understanding of the elderly, their health, their emotional and social wellness, their experiences and their quality of life.
Through in-depth research and studies on the Continuity Theory, the Activity Theory and the Disengagement Theory, we gain a clearer understanding of socialization of the elderly and in which areas we can strive to make improvements. The Continuity Theory, the belief that we carry patterns from our younger years to our older years, can help us place emphasis on continuing activities and broadening options for recreational activities in assisted living centers that residents may have participated in throughout their youth. The Activity Theory claims that elderly benefit from high levels of activity. By helping residents stay active and resisting the urge to limit activities despite physical needs, we can help seniors in assisted living centers reduce the social expectations that accompany aging. We need to move the minds of caregivers and seniors alike from the pitfall of giving into ailments and refocus our energies on ensuring our seniors live a full and rewarding life despite any limitations they may have. The Disengagement Theory claims that our seniors begin to systematically withdrawal from the roles and activities they undertook in their younger years. While some scientific data doesn’t support the Disengagement Theory, it is important that continue to study this theory, along with the Continuity and Activity theories, to ensure that our aging population is able to live a full and complete life throughout all their years. Using these theories and studies, we can help train assisted living staffs in the full experience of the lives of our elderly and assist them in implementing plans and ideals that help emotional and social wellness as well as physical care.
As a passionate supporter of social issues and a with dedication to teaching others how simple small changes in our everyday lives can have a ripple effect and lead to substantial change for society, I believe my field of study will have an impact not only today but for generations of seniors to come by treating mind and body as a cohesive unit when in assisted living centers.

Response by Angela Vickman, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

My future will consist of my bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry and my attendance of a medical school to obtain a medical degree in cardiology. I believe my degree in chemistry, biochemistry and cardiology will serve a purpose in advancing nursing homes and assisted living homes. Chemistry is a necessity in becoming a doctor because it is used in the diagnosis and treatment of every patient. I feel with all my research associated with chemistry will go hand in hand with my cardiology degree because I will be knowledgeable about how chemicals in different medications work together. I will be able to develop new medications and treatment plans for my residents to help lengthen their life expectancy and help enrich their life.
My research will be based on working with medications, vaccines and pharmaceutical companies to develop a new plan of treatment and prevention for older residents of assisted living homes in attempt to prolong their independence and lower their chances of catching a terminal disease. I want to be able to keep up with new developments of antibiotics that bacteria become resistant to in order to ensure my residents have the best chance of beating every bacteria. Because there are many chemical reactions that take place in the human body, having my background knowledge in chemistry will put me one step ahead because I will already have the ability to know what chemicals will be most beneficial. It is very important to know what chemicals react the best together and what chemicals will not react well in a human to develop better ways of treating and preventing diseases and terminal conditions that many elderly people are more susceptible to because of their compromised immune systems do to old age.
Chemistry departments in hospital medical labs play an important, and valuable role as well as the doctors. Analyzing substances such as blood and urine, for proteins, sugars and other metabolic and inorganic substances in order to help the doctor develop the correct care plan with helpful medications for each resident is very important. They are able to look for problems in order to offer an early prognosis and cure to potentially life threatening diseases. It is valuable for a doctor to have a strong background in chemistry to enhance the future. Overall, chemistry is one of the best degrees to make the biggest impact on the future of society.

Response by Anna Adamczyk, Western University of Health Sciences

Several years ago my grandmother—a fiercely independent woman in her early 90’s—was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I was living with her at the time while I was in college. Symptoms appeared slowly at first; not recognizing an acquaintance at the supermarket, forgetting historical details, but they soon progressed to safety concerns. Several times the electric kettle was heated on the stove, the plastic bottom melting on the burner. Or she would prepare food that had gone bad, unable to detect its rotten state. Or she would turn the oven on to dry a dish towel inside and leave it unattended. During this time I had moved out to make room for my cousin to move in. She had the time to act as a caregiver, and although this worked well for over a year, it became clear that professional in-home caregivers were necessary to maintain a safe environment for my grandmother during the times my cousin couldn’t supervise her. We came to know the women who cared for my grandmother as angels. They watched her, prepared meals, helped with hygiene, monitored medication. Often my grandmother would bristle at “being fussed over,” but the care workers took it in stride and always conducted themselves with professionalism. Eventually my grandmother’s dementia progressed and it was no longer feasible to have her remain in her home. She spent the rest of her life in a dementia care unit where she received excellent care by a team of truly compassionate caregivers.
The experience I had watching my grandmother living with dementia made a heavy impression on me. Soon after her passing, I was volunteering at a health fair and saw an elderly woman wandering around. I walked over to her—seeing so much of my grandmother in her demeanor—and asked if she needed help. She seemed to be experiencing some form of dementia, so I escorted her to the area of the fair she was interested in, and made sure she was passed onto a worker in the appropriate department before I returned to my own post. I thought about her as the day went on and hoped she received the help she was looking for.
As I embark this week on my educational journey to earn a Master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies, I am looking ahead and imagining the patients in my future practice. While I don’t know for certain whether or not I will take a specialty, or remain in family practice, I know for certain I will encounter many elderly patients, and patients that have elderly family members receiving in-home care. reported last year that by 2050, the population of persons aged 65 and over in the United States will double, rising from an estimated 43.1 million in 2012, to a projected 83.7 million. (Ortman 2014). Given this growth projection, it is absolutely critical for health care providers to be engaged in best practices for elderly patients.
As a Physician Assistant, I will be practicing medicine within a greater team including doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and physical therapists, to name just a few. As a member of this team, I will be able to partner with each of my colleagues in ensuring careful care for my elderly patients, as well as keeping communication open with any family members with medical Power of Attorney. Many seniors requiring in-home care are of sound mind and simply need help to accomplish the daily physical tasks of healthy living. These patients rely on caring, competent in-home care, and the oversight of engaged medical professionals to monitor chronic physical conditions. Other seniors require in-home care due to dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other conditions affecting their mental acuity. These patients are especially vulnerable because they often cannot vocalize their needs. It is critical that their team of providers, caregivers, and other medical professionals be vigilant and thorough during check ups, ordering and reviewing tests, and communicating with family guardians to ensure their needs are being met. This is a responsibility I will strive to fulfill with each elderly patient in my future practice.

Response by Anne Murphy-Hagn, Washington University

Occupational therapy is a form of physical rehabilitation that strengthens a patient’s body and adapts their environment (i.e. home) to maximize independent living and participation in daily activities. Since aging is associated with a decline in functional abilities, occupational therapists often work with the elderly. Therapeutic interventions can take many forms: working with a stroke survivor on chopping vegetables so they can cook for themselves; improving visibility in homes as a part of fall prevention; or recommending home modifications enhance accessibility. Since living at home can promote or hinder health, occupational therapists seek to change the home environment to one that fits the senior’s emergent aging needs.
Occupational therapists enhance quality of life through home modifications. When a home environment is out of sync with a senior’s mobility needs, visual perception, and cognitive capacity—that is to say, when a home is inaccessible, the lighting is low, and the environment is cluttered—stress is imminent and risk of injury is high. Yet, many seniors wish to remain in their home because it preserves a sense of self-efficacy and minimizes the depression and anxiety that can accompany moving into a care facility. In my home of St Louis, occupational therapists are prolonging the years a senior remains at home by recommending adaptive technology (i.e. adding grab bars to toilet and shower areas, replacing door knobs with lever handles, implementing stair lifts, and reducing trip hazards caused by clutter and low lighting). As more and more baby boomers are voicing a desire to ‘age in place,’ universities, such as my own, are training students in home safety assessment protocols. In doing so, future therapists will be better equipped to improve the lives of seniors wishing to receive in-home care.
Skilled occupational therapy instruction can help seniors overcome challenges to completing activities central to daily living. What makes the occupational therapy process unique is that therapists use daily activities as a means and as an end goal of therapy. For example, a therapy session might transform the activity of handwashing a cup by breaking the activity down into smaller, easier steps. As the senior masters each step, the activity can be made more complex and difficult until they are able to achieve the end goal of independently washing dishes. This sort of activity scaffolding improves in-home services when changes due to aging prevent the senior from continuing to live in their home the way they always have. By designing new ways of doing daily activities, occupational therapists create sustainable solutions for continued in-home living.
Finally, the collaborative, client-centered nature of occupational therapy makes the field well-suited to assist seniors receiving in-home care. The framework of occupational therapy assumes that clients guide the decision making process, prioritize goals, and participate in the planning to meet these goals. Sometimes occupational therapists collaborate with the client’s family in planning for care. In-home care is congruous to the collaborative approach of occupational therapy since family members and caregivers are in a position to advocate for the senior’s wants and needs. In St Louis, dementia care programs are recognizing collaboration can bring about better care. These programs have begun employing occupational therapists to provide in-home stress management training to care givers and consultations aimed at in-home care solutions.
Rehabilitation in the context of the home environment is vital. When a health professional only addresses a senior’s physical condition, they fail to understand environmental challenges preventing healthy living. Before an occupational therapist works with a senior, they must understand how the senior and their caregivers live. In doing so, they are better equipped to design an effective intervention— addressing both the physical and environmental challenges facing the senior. Seniors often share the experience of disabling—not from being inherently unable, but because their functional abilities no longer meet the demands of the environment. Likewise, caregivers find themselves challenged when the home set-up is not conducive to care. I believe the future of occupational therapy demands helping seniors age where they want for as long as they want.

Response by Arianna Gomes, Morgan State University

As a business and marketing major, I can help improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in my town in a number of ways, by using marketing communications. After reviewing many online senior resources and blogs, it appears that knowing the pros and cons of in-home care, and creating a fully supportive environment at home, are the most urgent quality of life issues facing seniors receiving in-home care. In response to these concerns, there are three primary marketing communications strategies I would use to improve these seniors’ lives.
First, I would use mass marketing to increase community awareness in my town about the overall benefits of in-home care. I would create a website with important in-home care information, the pros of in-home care, and how to find caregivers in our town. To get people to use the website, I would create and distribute easy-to-read printed materials, such as a brochure, a flier, and postcards. Printed material is good for sharing information and information materials are less likely to get thrown away, because people actually read them.
Other ways to reach the community are online ads on Google, Facebook and other websites.. The ads could share a simple but powerful message like, and connect people to the website with more detailed information. I would track each ad campaign to see which ones are receiving the most clicks and creating more traffic for the website. On the site, I would have a sign up form for people who want help to find a caregiver or set up in-home care, to send their name and contact information.
The next strategy I would use to improve seniors’ lives as they receive in-home care is the promotion of technology, resources and tools that family members and caregivers can utilize to help seniors age in place with dignity. An article published by “Easy Living Florida” in 2012 noted that there were many technology and medical device advancements that would help seniors enjoy a better quality of life during in-home care. Now, as we approach the year 2016, many of those devices and assistive technologies are realities, and they could be very helpful.
The “Easy Living” article mentioned monitors for blood pressure, heart rate, walking and other activities in the house could be used to achieve monitoring at-home instead of a doctor’s office. One drawback was the price. Now, however, we have technology like fitbit, which is affordable for a lot of people and could be useful for seniors, instead of just athletic younger people. The purpose of the technology would be to reduce the number of doctors’ visits that seniors have for basic screening and monitoring, if those can be done in the comfort of home. Fewer doctor visits reduce stress and help seniors feel less sick and frail, and more in control, according to and
Lastly, I would use my marketing background to help the families of seniors receiving in-home care in my town to access (if one exists) or create (if it does not exist) a local circle of friends. The circle would be a way to share common experiences as peer support, and to promote group activities that seniors and their caregivers could attend together, to get out of the house. Our town has a senior center downtown, with many fun activities planned every week. They publish a calendar online, and all are welcome to attend the events. The friends circle could plan to attend some of these senior center events together, in small groups, or use it as an inspiration to plan their own get togethers. The strategy is important because seniors who receive in-home care also need to have some interaction with others besides their caregivers, if they are physically able to go out and be involved in activities.
Using a variety of marketing communications strategies, I can help improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in my town. My plans to target the community in general, family members of seniors, and caregivers of seniors, will ensure that many audiences are reached and engaged in helping to improve the lives of seniors. I believe my strategies will have a lasting impact because, just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to care for our seniors.

Response by Ariella Fuchs, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering

Technological developments and rapid advancements in prosthetic design have brought us closer to perfecting the bionic person. Exoskeletons enable paraplegics to walk; full artificial limbs allow amputees to regain unimagined mobility; brain-­‐implanted microchips move external robots via mind control… and this is just the beginning!
My career goal is to develop high-­‐tech prosthetics through biomedical engineering to help people with physical injuries or conditions regain mobility and lead more productive lives. Residents in assisted living facilities, who need biotechnological intervention to alleviate suffering, function more independently and have a better quality of life, will directly benefit from my work as a bioengineer. In ten years’ time, I see myself designing and distributing affordable prosthetics through my own company.

Aging Population
It’s no secret that as the body ages, it deteriorates and systems begin to fail. Some chronic conditions can last for decades. As patients’ health worsens, they may require full-­‐time medical care and move into an assisted living facility. Some degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and vascular disease, can lead to amputations. Not only are the elderly more susceptible to these conditions, but they also have longer recovery times from surgical interventions. Innovations in biomedical engineering offer great hope and promise to this population.
Biomedical engineering can help the elderly—both in and out of assisted living facilities— in countless ways. In addition to the examples listed in my introduction, prosthetic knees and hips allow rheumatoid arthritis patients to walk pain-­‐free; pacemakers improve and extend the lives of those suffering from congestive heart failure; internal pumps regulate insulin levels for severe diabetics more effectively than injections. The social, humanitarian and technical aspects of this field make it extremely appealing to me: I am particularly interested in prosthetic limb innovations.

My Hometown
I grew up next to Brown Gardens and the DeWitt Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in New York City. Being so close to these facilities, I often saw the residents in front of their buildings on my way to and from school. As the conditions of some residents worsened over the years, I saw them move from walkers to wheelchairs; many more required round-­‐the-­‐clock custodial care.
Urban areas offer great mobility through public transportation, but patients from assisted living facilities are often unable to use this resource. Even though recreational and cultural activities are located within walking distance for most able-­‐bodied people, they are often still out of reach to the less mobile residents. For example, I remember when I stopped seeing my neighborhood buddy, Michael, near Central Park, which was just three blocks from his apartment in Brown Gardens. In the last few years of his life, Mike couldn’t make it up the hill to the Park anymore—he only had enough strength to sit outside his front door.
Advancements in biomedical engineering make it possible for the elderly—people like Mike and others living in Brown Gardens and DeWitt—to regain self-­‐sufficiency and be a part of the world around them. This has a dual benefit: being more physically able contributes to mental wellness.

Response by Arielle Rogers, Johnson & Wales University

As a student studying nutrition I am not only learning the nutritional value of food and how it affects our bodies but I am also placed in a class that talks to me about food service opportunities, specifically in assisted living facilities. Having a culinary background as well as nutrition would allow me to contribute many things to an assisted living facilities, such as food service experience, health assessments, even physical training.
Studying nutrition, I find, coincides with wellness and fitness programs. I am an avid motivator in physical education and want to become a certified trainer along with my degree in nutrition. This would improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities greatly as I could assist them in making up a fitness program that they would enjoy along with a nutritional diet. Studying nutrition has taught me different illnesses related to the diet, such as osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Being knowledgeable about fitness allows me to assess a resident’s need physically and make educated decisions that would allow them to participate in physical activities. Such as, if they did have osteoporosis I would know how to provide them with low impact activities such as water aerobics, or simply walking with some light weights. My degree in nutrition would allow me to contribute to the helping of this particular resident’s health by coming up with a diet that strengthens their bones, one that is high in calcium and vitamin D, to increase the activities they could participate in. That is only one aspect of the lives of seniors.
Another involves the food that they eat. I have worked in food establishments helping people make wise food decisions based on a goal they may be wishing to accomplish or certain diet restrictions they may have. I am able to produce menus that involve daily meals and snacks, specifically with nutritional limitations in mind. Learning about allergies and different alternative diets for seniors, tube feeding, low sodium, liquid diets, and supplements all better prepare me to work in an assisted living facility between seniors and the kitchen to come up with a menu that is best suited for them. Something that they will enjoy even with their dietary limitations. Seniors lives could become easier by me knowing how to change food service systems to fit their needs. Such as different methods in delivering food to residents so that they are able to eat the freshest food possible. Also having the ability to know how to cross utilize items so that residents are able to get a variety of food without costing the establishment a lot of money. With a low food cost money can go toward other things that could improve lives of seniors such as health benefits but even simpler things such as small tangibles that make a day more enjoyable.
Last, my major contribution comes from me becoming a registered dietitian (RD). I could consult with seniors and provide them with accurate diagnoses, with the help of MD’s that may not know how to treat them. As an RD I would have a different perspective on treatment that simply makes changes in ones diet to better their overall health. I would be allowed to prescribe them medication and/or supplements that they would need to do so. Seniors like to make their own decisions and live life their way and I can enable them that ability by giving them options on how to better their health through making wise food decisions. Studying nutrition and culinary allows me to improve seniors lives in assisted living facilities by keeping them healthy either through smart food decisions or medication/supplements. I would be able to provide them with optimal ways to enjoy their food in the most comfortable and appetizing way as well as providing them with information in an easily understandable environment. Making lifestyle changes would become interesting and enjoyable by simply providing delicious nutritional food choices they can enjoy.

Response by Ashantis Smith, Miami Dade College

Being that I am an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) major, there is a vast array of things I could implement to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town. There is a transition services program provided for students with special needs that is similar to assisted living facilities programs. The transition services is a program for students with disabilities that are transitioning from high school into post-school activities such as vocational education, independent living, community involvement, and employment. The programs focuses on the individual’s strengths, needs, preferences, and interests. The goal of this program is to allow students to gain independence while still achieving their academic and functional goals.
I would utilize and modify some of the strategies and resources used in transition services programs to improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities. I would begin by having each senior fill out a survey in order to understand their feelings towards their current living conditions. I will then review the surveys and created a plan that will be used to make their environment more fitting for their individual needs and interests. For instance, if majority of the seniors noted that they do not feel as if they have enough freedom in their living facilities, I would create a plan that will help them feel more independent. As an education major, I would teach seniors different skills that they could use to enhance their independence and make them more employable. I would teach seniors different skills like how to bag different foods and how to count money. If seniors learned how to bag groceries, this would allow them to ultimately be able to bag groceries at major grocery stores such as Publix and Winn Dixie. Seniors could eventually save up enough money to pay for a portion of the cost of living in their assisted living facilities. I could also teach seniors different strategies they could use to stay active around their assisted living facilities. I could teach senior different exercises they could do while they are laying down watching television. I could also teach seniors how to eat healthy and maintain a proper diet while living in their assisted living facilities.
As an education major, I firmly believe that education is the key to success and an education could enable individuals to think more critically. As an education major, I would employ highly qualified educators who are capable of teaching different subjects and who have experience teaching high school and college courses. These teachers will be able to teach college or high school courses for the seniors living in these assisted living facilities. Providing college and secondary education courses would allow seniors, who have not graduated from college or senior high school, to finally graduate from school.
To conclude, as an education major I would be able to improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities in more ways than one. I would first assess seniors by giving them a survey which will allow me to understand their feelings towards living in their assisted living facility. I would then teach seniors skills that they could use to make themselves more employable and ultimately enhance their independence. I would also provide seniors college and secondary education courses that they could take to further their education. As an Exceptional Student Education major I would be able to implement an array of programs and activities that will be used to improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities.

Response by Ashley Walsh, St. John Fisher College

As people age, they often require additional supports and care which can be found in an assisted living facility and eventually or possibly, a skilled nursing facility. It is often a difficult time for most as they are not only learning to cope with increasing medical needs, but they are learning to cope with a loss of independence and limited ability to care for themselves. Assisted living facilities or communities can be beneficial to these seniors in so many ways. Current and future nurses can be a helpful resource for these seniors as they learn to cope with their new needs both medically and emotionally.
An assisted living community or facility can foster a senior’s independence while still ensuring their safety. These communities offer independent living spaces that are adapted to a variety of physical and medical needs, they offer a sense of community with others who are of similar age and abilities, but they can also offer assistance for those who need with housekeeping, medications, safety, and more. Providing these same seniors with access to nurses and skilled professionals can provide a variety of benefits in addition to those already mentioned.
Nurses are professionals who are trained in how to treat the whole person, not just the diagnosis. In nursing school and through professional experience, a good nurse will learn how to manage and treat many different illnesses and injuries through medication administration and alternative therapies. These same nurses will also learn how to help the person as a whole and the underlying situations and conditions if present. A good nurse will not only understand what physical ailment the senior is experiencing, but be able to identify means of adapting their lifestyle to cope or manage the ailment. They will be equipped provide emotional support that may be needed in coping with the changes in lifestyle or of the person themselves as the ailment progresses. The nurse will be able to find resources available to assist the senior while coping or to help treat the underlying situation or condition as well as the diagnosis. A good nurse will be able to take the time to help a senior complete their activities of daily living (ADL’s) if they need a little extra help. If there is an emergent situation, the nurse will also be able to take lead of the situation and direct those others around them to help provide a safe outcome for all involved. Should there be a situation where the senior has reached end of life or other palliative care, that nurse will be able to provide comfort and care to them directly and to the family members present during this difficult time. Nurses are so much more than what many perceive.
Learning to cope with changes in their abilities and health can be difficult for anyone. Seniors may have an exceptionally difficult time doing so because they have lived independently for so long, possibly caring for others as well, that the idea of needing assistance can be hard to take in. Having access to an assisted living community can allow the senior to maintain as much independence as possible, while still making sure they are safe while caring for themselves and their health. Nurses and skilled professionals (who may or may not be trained in nursing related skills) learn how to see the current situation and person, but also learn how to improve on the health and care of those seniors for the future. Problem solving is an essential skills nurses learn how to use during their time in school and in their professional experience, their objectivity to a situation can further foster the independence of those they are working with. Not only will these seniors receive quality health care through trained nurses, but they will receive quality care as a person with trained nurses and in an assisted living community.

Response by Ashlin Wildun, Tennessee Technological University

“What would you like to be when you grow up?” Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were 10 years old? Ever since I competed in a district wide invention competition in third grade, I knew I wanted to do something more- I wanted to be an inventor- an inventor that could change people’s lives, and in turn change the world for the better. Innovation can help everyone, including seniors receiving in-home care in my area.
As a young third grader, I heard about a competition where I could create a product that would solve a problem. For the Young Inventors Competition, I entered my design of a camping shirt and pants that had removable sleeves to save packing space for campers and backpackers. Even though I lost to a fellow competitor that entered her “leaf-blowers,” which were shoes with water bottles glued to the bottom that would push the leaves out of your path, I did not let defeat stop me. When I entered the Toshiba Exploravision invention competition a few years later, my grandfather was suffering from dementia, and his frustration with remembering, prompted my next invention. With the help of my group, we designed an automatic medicine machine that would sit in patient’s homes to assist with timely pill distribution. The machine was equipped with a fingerprint scanner that would identify the user and only output pills that were set for that time during the day without overlap, that way patients could not overdose or forget to take their medicine. I also wanted to feature a refill automation that would send the pharmacy a notification that a refill is needed for that individual. After placing with honorable mention, I realized that even kids could impact the lives of others through invention and entrepreneurship.
When I arrived at Tennessee Technological University six years later, I discovered how innovation applies to all majors. As a current double major in Finance and Economics, I participate in a yearly invention/entrepreneurship competition. It is through these events that I am able to let my imagination take control and design products and businesses that center on social entrepreneurship- building a business that makes lives better while making a profit. Within the finance and economics field, there is great potential for innovation to improve operations, systems, and the lives of others. Positively benefiting others begins with an early start to financial security despite unforeseen economic climates. If college students today were educated at a younger age about the necessity to understand and manage their money, there would be less financial stress later in life.
Senior citizens like my grandmother are often exhausted by the stress of living on a fixed income. She worries about having enough to live on for the unknown years she has left, and I cannot begin to imagine how tough it is for her. Reassurance and looking over her bank accounts will ease her mind for a little while, but the remembrance of times during the Great Depression have formed a habit of fear. Having the knowledge about the ever-changing policies with Medicaid and Medicare are just part of the financial puzzle for seniors. Since my grandmother currently has in-home care, I understand the amount of money required to maintain her need for care. Her days are happier because of the in-home care, and she does not feel constricted to four unfamiliar nursing home room walls. Financial advisors can play key roles in the planning of in-home care and financial bills, which alleviate worry from not only the senior, but the senior’s family as well.
As I continue to participate in invention/entrepreneurship competitions and pursue my majors, I hope to use my innovative skills to improve my invention of the automated medicine cabinet. My degree will enable me to develop positive change in the world, whether through financial planning, investing, innovation, or entrepreneurship. Senior citizens receiving in-home care in my area need financial assistance and by learning about ways to make their lives better and allotting money for their future, they can live out their remaining days with more peace of mind. It is my goal to pursue this endeavor.

Response by Audrey Miller, University of Pittsburgh

The more I study architecture, the more I am realizing that it is not so much about what a building looks like and how beautiful it is. Rather, I am learning that it is more about what the building will look like with people using it, and what the needs of the future inhabitants will be. I have chosen to concentrate on the design aspects of architecture, which can be very applicable to the improvement and creation of assisted living facilities. In my town, like many others, there are several of these facilities. They are generally two to three story brick structures with a concrete slab sitting area in the front. The kitchen and activity rooms are on the first floor, and the bedrooms are usually relatively small. Having worked and cared for seniors in several of these buildings, I have recognized that conditions at many of these facilities in my town and surrounding areas are satisfactory from the visitors view, but could they be designed better?
If I were designing a senior living facility, I would immediately add larger elevators. There should be at least two and they need to be large enough to fit at least three wheelchairs comfortably. Seniors probably do not enjoy the bumping and jamming that takes place before and after meals. I would also line all corners of the main hallways with thin rubber or foam padding. My grandfather lives in an assisted living facility and uses a scooter to get around. Unfortunately, he just can’t get his legs all the way upright, and the amount of bruises he has obtained from running into those corners is astronomical. I am positive that he is not unique in having this problem, and just a thin, discrete layer of protective material could save the walls and our loved one’s knees!
In designing the decorations of a local senior living center, there is not much I would change. The decorations of these facilities are meant to make the elderly feel at home with beautiful and reminiscent paintings, chandeliers, lamps, and furniture that may reflect something they once had in their previous residence. I believe the decorations are successful at creating a respectful and pleasing environment to the users of the building, but I would add on to their existence rather than change it. These decorations, wallpapers, and carpets usually cease to exist once a senior’s room is entered. I would create options for personalization of individual rooms. There would be a stock room designed in the building for an inventory of donated or purchased items that could be used to make someone’s room a little more like home. Yes, many seniors bring their own decorations, but surprisingly, many do not. I saw this while working in a facility myself. Many seniors are not able to bring much with them and their rooms quickly take the look of a hospital room. Considering that this will be the last home that many of these people will live in, it’s very important that it feels like a home. This stock room will grow with time and would contain paintings, wheelchair-friendly rugs, throw blankets and pillows, and even small unique furniture items. Resident assistants can help each individual personalize their room once they are moved in, and that will become an activity in itself. It is very important that architecture be designed inside and out for the people that will be calling it their home. Successful and functional architecture is coauthored, meaning that people have a say in what the finished product will look like. When seniors have the ability to feel as though they have ownership of the space, the architecture becomes home and has achieved its goal.

Response by Audrey Mitchell, University of Georgia

I believe the best way to help people, no matter what the situation, is to talk directly to them instead of speculating what their needs are. To improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities, I think their opinions and wants should be heard first and foremost and given the most consideration. All people want to be represented, and more importantly, listened to. Through hearing what seniors have to say about their experiences in an assisted living home while working in a position of authority as a social worker, I would be able to take their wants and needs into action and give them their desired outcomes.
Most people relate social workers to children and the processes of adoption and foster care. While many do pursue that route, I am interested in working with seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As a social worker in this position, my job would be to care for the seniors and their mental, social, and emotional needs. To do this, I would listen to what they have to say about their facilities and have the power to change something that I think would be better for them. I would be responsible for providing an environment for the seniors that that they are comfortable and happy in, which to me is the ultimate goal. I would have the task of assuring that the seniors are still living with the independence and pride that they all desire. By representing the seniors’ needs and desires, I could significantly improve their enjoyment in an assisted facility.
Another way of helping seniors through social work is by talking to the seniors who are considering moving to an assisted living facility. Because I would be one of the main representatives of the facility and would know the impressions of other members, I would be informed on all of the activities, meals, security, and so much more, I would be able to answer any questions of those who are considering. By providing possible new members with information that can potentially already make them feel content and unworried, I could help ease their transition into the facility and increase their happiness in being there. I can provide the seniors with information on social events, activities, or any resources that the facility offers that could help their new home feel inviting and familiar.
In my hometown, Stockbridge GA, three assisted living facilities exist, but with minimal independence. As a social worker at one of those facilities, I would begin by talking with the members of the facility and understanding how they feel about their situation. From there, I would work to improve their lives by offering opportunities for more or the same level of independence, based on what each individual person wanted and needed. Through more ideas of incorporating what they suggest that would make their lives easier and more enjoyable, I would provide them with ways that they can see their ideas becoming a reality.
Social workers often go unnoticed in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, but I believe they are a crucial part of improving the lives of seniors living there. As I work towards becoming a social worker, I look forward to representing seniors and improving their lives through listening, informing, and taking action to give them more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Response by Austin Napoleon, Pace University

As mentioned in my short biography, I am a Film and Screen Studies major, who is dedicated to improving the lives of the ones around me. I understand that making changes that are big enough to be recognized isn’t exactly a piece of cake. But I am definitely up for the challenge, and willing to take on any obstacles that come up in the process. Intermixing my major and the goal of improving the lives of seniors receiving in-home care, is going to be complicated, but not impossible.
After my grandmother suffered a fall in the summer of 2014, she ended up needing surgery to fix the alignment in her hip. The operation was a success so she spent the next couple weeks in a rehabilitation facility. There, she went through intensive physical therapy to learn how to walk properly on her leg. Once complete, she was allowed to come back home, however the therapy didn’t stop. Now we had an in-home care provider to continue to develop the muscles even more. After a month or two, she was finally back up to normal health and able to walk on her own, as long as she had her walker.
One way I can utilize my major to better the lives of seniors receiving in-home care is by creating videos that they can use to remember things! I can recall my grandmother always forgetting what she was supposed to do to get out of the bathroom, or how to walk properly, and it made her mad. These videos could be informational and could remind seniors how to do things properly when no one is around to help! It would give them their confidence back because they can feel like they’re independent again, and that’s all they want.
However, in-home care isn’t just about physical therapy, it also includes: housekeeping, meal preparation, live in nurses, someone doing basic household duties, and hospice care to name a few. Which is where it gets more confusing than it was before.
In all honesty, my major doesn’t really couple well with improving the lives of seniors with in-home care, however, it doesn’t mean I can’t try.
Sometimes, in-home care can be completely based on someone else becoming a companion to a senior. I would use my major to create programs that allow these new friends to do activities that relate to my major. They could go out on walks to museums to look at works of art (photography more specifically), go out to the movies and catch the latest and greatest in the box office, or simply stay home and watch something. This program would give the seniors something to look forward to in the future and hopefully brighten up their day. A big concern of mine about in-home care is the seniors growing depressed and lonely because the only person that comes is a nurse. Bringing in another individual to do activities with the senior would improve their mental and emotional health for the better!
As stated before, my major doesn’t really have a direct tie to improving the lives of seniors who are receiving in-home care. However, there are slim ties that I feel would greatly impact their lives! I would use my artistic abilities to create videos that would be given to the seniors so they don’t forget how to do something that they need to do. For example, daily exercises or how to do a task properly. On top of that, I would establish programs that creates a companionship between the senior and another individual so they know someone cares. Some seniors only see nothing but a nurse every day, I know that changing that would be a great impact on the senior’s life. These changes, although not huge, would drastically change the lives of seniors receiving in-home care. Seniors should feel nothing but happiness at this time in their life, and that’s what these improvements will cause, happiness.

Response by Autumn Eugene, Life University

Where do I begin on what a substantial and positive impact my program in positive psychology with a coaching track will improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. Looking at how a majority of assisted facilities are run, being focused on maintenance care and making their residents feel a small sense of autonomy, with bouts of pampering; I can only see ways that using methods and techniques espoused by positive psychology as a support and enhancement for current services. Several of the key elements are centered on gratitude, mindfulness, and taking in physical activity associated with green spaces.
Research has shown that individuals who are grateful or show gratitude, exhibit less stress and anxiety along with improved overall well-being and decreased chronic pain. Using my training and skills to create gratitude programs aimed at enhancing the resident’s quality of life, and possibly reducing required medical care can only be seen as a benefit for residents, staff, family and the medical organizations. Another aspect where my major could improve the lives of seniors in any assisted living facility is through teaching mindfulness meditation techniques. As many facilities continue to offer and use different methods for keeping their residents active and maintaining strength and stamina, adding yoga and meditation to these programs will only add to the positive results they are seeing with such health and wellness programs. Buddhists have known for centuries the benefits of meditation, and recently research has proven that individuals who meditation, even for as little as 30 minutes a day for several weeks improve the strength of their brain. Their resilience for what other would consider difficult situations, bad news or loneliness, has been replaced with a sense of calm and looking at things in a more optimistic and productive manner. This technique will also enhance the gratitude program mentioned earlier in managing chronic pain. With the rising cost of medical care, any benefits to overall health and well-being are a plus to the living facility. Besides when the residents are happy, it becomes a spillover effect for those providing the day-to-day care. Many people are aware that those being paid to take care of the residents are not always paid appropriate wages, or have the best training; but reducing the strain on the aids and other facility workers can improve the quality of life for everyone involved.
The final improvement for the seniors in any assisted living facility would be the addition of greenspace. Many of the residents may not be autonomously mobile, and unable to make a journey outside for fresh air, sunshine and setting their sights on nature. Therefore, I would recommend bring nature to them by adding plants to each room of the facility, which includes bathrooms and all common areas. Again research consistently shows that individuals who are able to experience nature have a better sense of calm, serenity and sense of purpose. This was an essential piece of Victor Frankl’s work surrounding everyone needs to feel a sense of purpose; for without such a sense they would rather perish. Statistics show that almost half of the individuals who enter assisted living facilities will succumb to an illness or pass away within the first 3 years. Much of this is attributed to no longer feeling a sense of purpose or connection to the world. By giving each resident their own plant to love and care for, we are adding a small sense of purpose. Even letting them know that their plant is being grown for a greater purpose, or having a community garden that can be used to make the food eaten at the facility.
As you can see my major in positive psychology can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facility, by taking such small steps. But as we know it does not take much to big changes.

Response by Benjamin Gaal, Johns Hopkins University

“Avon passes moratorium on congregate care development”
This recent headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells a lot about the politics of assisted-living facilities near my hometown. Avon is a booming suburb, the next town to me and about a 10-minute drive. It has experienced vast growth over the past decade with innumerable shopping stores, restaurants, and even a minor-league baseball team coming to the city.
One of the new businesses trying to come into the city is an assisted living center. The center would cost about $10 million and bring more than 50 new jobs to the area, and is being proposed in a part of the city that has not yet been overtaken by shopping centers or housing developments. The city, however, has halted any plans for the facility going forward so that the city could consider the “pros and cons” of a “non-traditional” model. That is, the city is concerned that the building is not a traditional one-roof nursing facility and is instead an apartment-style assisted living complex. The underlying concern, it seems, is the larger area the facility would require in a city that would prefer to save the land for future economically stimulating stores, along with concerns about utility costs the city would need to provide the center. In other words, it’s politics.
The improvement my career as a physician could bring to seniors living in assisted-living centers in my area would be obvious and hands-on, but I think my degree in political science offers a unique perspective that would allow me to advocate on behalf of seniors in a special way. Being a Doctor of Medicine would give credibility in talking to city councils or being part of one as a politician.
My field of study and career path would be most helpful in helping seniors in my town by allowing the assisted living facility to be built. The very existence of an apartment-style assisted living facility inherently improves the lives of seniors in the area, who are not forced between two rocks in struggling to live independently or giving up all freedom to be in a nursing home. This ethical argument based mostly on a medical perspective, however, may not be enough to concern a city council concerned about politics and economic growth.
To “play” in politics, one must be capable in the art of persuasion, understand the workings of institutions, and know the underlying motives of politicians and lawmakers. Not much of this concerns humanistic or ethical concerns, as I have learned in my political science studies. A degree in political science, along with a medical school education, would enable one in both physical and behind-the-scenes ways improve the lives of seniors in the area through hands-on care, fighting for the construction of assisted living facilities, and ensuring that those facilities are not begrudgingly built and neglected due to political spite. It could also help ensure that costs and treatment at such facilities are providing seniors with the best possible quality of life and following all ethical standards.

Response by Blake Bryant, University of Kansas Medical Center

The first ideas of how nurses can help seniors in assisted living facilities are usually practical, health related assistance. However, I feel like the picture is much broader than just health, and especially in assisted living communities. The idea of the assisted living community arose from springing forward from the duality of independent living and skilled nursing facilities. This middle ground inspires us to see stages of care as a development of the entire self, from social, relational, medical, and financial points. This is how I can see the field of nursing improving the multiple aspects of healthy development of seniors in assisted living. Nurses can address the “What if?” of: health needs, social interactions, peace of mind to loved ones, and personal needs of the residences they work with.
As a nurse, health obligations are the backbone of our education and practice. This allows us to be keen care takers, work around a broad spectrum of ailments and prescribed treatments. This allows for a sensitive, responsible, daily health provider. This benefits residences as they can focus on the things that matter more than the details of any potential treatments or the worry of, “What if?”
The things that matter to a senior in an assisted living community are the same things that matter to all of us – having fun with those we care about most. Nurses get to see the reward of happiness in a senior playing Wii, having a drink with friends, going to a concert, or just having their family drop in to say, “Happy Birthday!” We can foster these by connecting to the family of each resident, much like in a hospital setting. Being able to educate, relate, and foster relationships with families of patients, translating these skills to an assisted living facility creates a strong bond that lessens the burden of “What if?”
Probably the most direct form of care for a nurse in an assisted living community is that of everyday and personal needs. It comes in the form of being present in the daily activities, showing up at health speakers to be a familiar face, and standing in line to order food at the cafeteria. This is a constant reminder that there is someone here that knows the answers to “What if?” Without even knowing it, the presence of a nurse provides a soothing environment. Of course, when they are needed, they can quickly switch from a passive care taker, to a very proactive, precise medical ambassador.
It is something we all would ask for, for someone to be our friend and our guardian when we can’t do it for ourselves. This is the beauty of an assisted living community. Specifically, in the same neighborhood where I can live independently, all the “ifs” are always taken into consideration. A couple doesn’t have to split up or travel to see their partner if they need more advanced care. They can have their growing family over to their home for a celebration. They can talk to someone about any worry they have from a caring, objective standpoint. As a nurse, I could empower and assist as needed, the seniors of an assisted living facility, I could progress and follow-up with them as they make changes in their care, and be with the family in any hard times ahead. I know there are many others that can impact the lives of seniors in assisted living, but directly, a nurse has the real power, the daily answer to “What if?”

Response by Brian Meersma, Cornell University

My major, Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) emphasizes the importance of creating healthy organizations to maximize the satisfaction and quality of life of individuals within those organizations. Applying the teachings of my major would do so much to improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities.
Some assisted living facilities have problems with poorly trained, and overworked staff who feel unappreciated or undervalued. As a result they may not provide the best services to seniors living in assisted facilities. At its worst, there have been reports of workers mistreating residents of assisted living facilities.
Several ILR classes teach strategies to manage these problems. The most important asset of any organization is its human capital. Utilizing the principals of Human Resource Management to recruit, train, and reward employees would yield significant gains for seniors who live in assisted living facilities. Interacting with staff who like what they do, and do it well would create a healthy, respectful living environment for seniors who are dependent of the care of others. Management would also benefit. Well qualified, well trained, and happy employees would enhance the reputation of the facility, making the facility more desirable to potential residents.
Combining effective human resource practices with disability studies, another focus of the ILR curriculum, is ideally suited for seniors living in assisted facilities. Equipment and technology have improved dramatically in the past few years which, when used effectively, can significantly improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities, whether or not they have disabilities or simply age-related needs.
Having access to information, a way to stay connected to the world, and a means to comfortably communicate with others is another important aspect of the well-being of seniors living in assisted living facilities. Some seniors may find it difficult to read the newspaper, for example, because declining eyesight can make small fonts hard to see. Others may have trouble hearing newscasts or other television programming. Still others may not know how to use technological resources that are available.
Over the past several years, I have maintained a blog that provides information about technological resources that has the potential to benefit residents of assisted living facilities. In fact, I have received numerous calls from people with elderly relatives seeking my support in finding the right resources to manage their needs. Providing training to residence of assistive living facilities and the staff to implement the services could go a long way in improving the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities. Demonstrating ways to enlarge fonts, utilize audio technologies, or text-to-speech applications on easy to operate devices would enable seniors to have greater independence, and autonomy. Giving back the joy of reading to someone who has otherwise lost that ability is a huge gift, one which could also reduce the stress of the staff.
In summary, I believe that my major of Industrial and Labor Relations is ideally suited to provide the necessary tools to vastly improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities, and those who work there. I can think of nothing more important than a combination of an investment in the workers who interact with residents on a day-to-day basis and appropriate equipment and technology to meet the needs of the residence to create a high quality living experience.

Response by Briana Sanchez, University of Cincinnati

In the architecture world, it is very clear how design can help the lives of seniors living in assisted living. When designing an assisted living facility, our first considerations are the living spaces and public spaces for the elderly. We have to consider how the elderly will use these spaces and how we have to design them specifically for seniors. The goal for architects in this case is to create a space that a senior would enjoy being in, but would also be safe.
Starting with the private spaces of seniors, we have to decide how sizable to make the spaces. In these spaces, it is key to minimize steps, leave plenty of space for ease of movement, place handlebars where needed, such as in a bathroom, and use rugs when possible. In an ideal assisted living bedroom, one would likely want a very open room with plenty of natural light. Overall things architects consider when designing a private living space for seniors is the enjoyment. Yes, the space may be safe, but it is a failure of a space if the person living in it does not enjoy their time there. To help this, architects try to design spaces that the retired may like. If I were to design an ideal bedroom space, I would design the interior with furniture that is safe but comfortable for seniors. I would also paint the walls a neutral color or a light pastel color. Lastly, I would design the space with plenty of shelving so that a senior could have space for personal items that remind them of their family or their home.
When designing public places in senior assisted living, architects think about how they can focus around community involvement. In order to achieve this, they try to create many public spaces in the community so the seniors will have a lot to do. This can include dining halls, game rooms, movie rooms, gardens, a gym, a pool, and just common hang out spaces. The idea is that since seniors will be spending most of their time in this assisted living space, which they will need things to keep their attention and let them socialize with others in a comfortable space. As with the bedrooms, in these public spaces architects will try to minimize stairs at all costs, so the elderly have a smaller chance of falling down. With this said, architects will also want to include handrails and guardrails in many places so they can hold on and stabilize themselves. With the area being safe, we also want it to be fun, like a home, not a hospital. Architects would likely try to design the space so that could be reminiscent of their home. This could include safe, comfortable furniture for them to relax. Also this could include entertainment such as televisions.
All in all, the design that an architect can give can make an assisted living space much more comfortable, safe, and enjoyable for a senior. When designing, spaces like these architects take into consideration that seniors are more susceptible to getting injured, and getting injured worse than younger people. Also, they take into consideration that they need to create a space that a senior would enjoy all of the time, since an assisted living space is likely where they will be most of the time.

Response by Brittney Meru, National University

Imagine being a busy workaholic, with two jobs, several children, and barely enough time for sleep or hobbies—let alone taking care of elderly parents with numerous ailments. There are several options to choose from such as: adult day care, seeking help from close relatives, or perhaps quitting a job in order to establish a schedule that accommodates the needs of ailing parents. However, when it comes to quality care and professional service, who are the most trustworthy providers who can undoubtedly give aging parents the attention, support, advice, and supervision they need? By choosing an assisted living facility, working adults can rest assured that the health and well-being of their parents are constantly being protected and provided for. The training and experience gained from the nursing major fully prepares future healthcare professionals with an arsenal of skills and experience that comprise the nexus of assisted living healthcare. Nursing contributes greatly to assisted living services in many ways, including: overseeing care plans, optimizing the quality of life by knowing how to treat or manage preexisting medical complications, knowing exactly how to respond to states of emergency and critical health, knowing all the responsibilities of what professional healthcare entails, especially the patients’ legal rights—in addition to giving genuine emotional support through words and actions of compassion, understanding, and respect. A registered nurse’s most important duties are to fully recognize the suffering in an individual, and to reassuringly take their hand and guide them through the healing process with the right medical expertise and personal attitude towards those in need of aid. As an aspiring nursing student pursuing a bachelor’s degree, I firmly believe that the nursing college major and my experiences to come will prepare me for these responsibilities and how I use my knowledge to the best of my ability when it comes to enriching the lives of seniors in my care.
A nurse is more than just a healthcare provider. She is a leader, a guardian, and a genuine friend. The role of a nurse in assisted living healthcare fortifies the backbone of a care plan without hindering her senior patient’s sense of independence and self-esteem. She safeguards the freedom of her elderly patient, allowing them to maintain their sense of dignity and self-sufficiency as they progress towards the last years of their life. For example, she only encourages compliance with recommended diets and gives reminders about taking medications, knowing that her patient is intelligent and capable enough to recognize their own activities of daily living. Should there be any abnormal fluctuations in her patient’s condition as she constantly analyzes and observes, a nurse immediately knows how to provide assessment and coordinate with both the patient’s family members as well as other professionals in order to guarantee their well-being. A nurse brings structure and order to a patient’s care plan by supervising and teaching her subordinates throughout their daily myriad of tasks, limiting the possibility of risks to the best of her ability. Likewise, a nurse is responsible for providing a safe, comfortable environment while being fiercely dedicated to defending senior patients from physical, emotional, and even financial abuse. Her thorough understanding of and obedience to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws secures the privacy of her senior patient’s medical and personal information—as well as the protection of their legal rights.
The nursing major teaches prospective healthcare professionals how to be the greatest ally to those in need of healing, support, and guidance, especially senior patients. In addition to medical expertise, a nurse’s compassion permeates through all that she does in an assisted living facility. Because of my underlying desire to heal the suffering in the world around me, I am eager to be an attentive listener or a shoulder to cry on, in times of emotional distress. When family members and friends fail to understand, a nurse can provide the reassurance that senior patients need to have faith in themselves, and their progress towards recovery. For a senior patient, a nurse’s kindness and knowledge are the guiding lights in the dark—during times of anxiety, uncertainty, and hopelessness. To me, there is no greater feeling than finding relief and revival after enduring through agony and misery. It is my life’s purpose to understand the pain of others and to help them successfully overcome it. Pursuing my dreams of being a nurse, I know that I am taking more steps towards fulfilling that purpose.

Response by Brooke Hernandez, Skagit Valley College

My intended major is Nursing, so basically health sciences. The entire goal of nurses and health professionals everywhere is to heal, or better the current state or condition one may be in. After spending some time volunteering in a rehab/retirement I knew there was more we could be doing to better the lives of the residents. Living in Washington, the weather can be a bit more difficult to spend time in especially for the more elderly, but I believe that means when the weather is nicer, we should be taking advantage of this weather and getting the residents outside to experience life outside their home where they spend all of their time. Now, from my research I understand that assisted living is different from living in a retirement home in that residents in a retirement home require more care and watch. Also from my research I really love how assisted living facilities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents.
The nurses who administer care to those who live in these facilities make all the difference to whether or not the resident is content or not. Nurses have the huge responsibility to not only administer medication and physical care, but they also are responsible for emotional care. Nurses are often the first people the residents see in the morning, and they essentially set the mood for the entire day. Another important factor is simply our nursing qualifications. In our education preparation for the work force we are trained in dealing with the various health issues we may come across no matter where we choose to work. Along with the dealing of the various issues nurses always strive to improve the health and living conditions one is currently in. If I witnessed a resident in a living facility I worked at I would do everything in my power to make them feel better whether it be words of encouragement or physical care.
In addition to our education preparing us to deal with the physical issues and healing, our education helps with what some would say the most important element of assisted living is, and that is nutrition/food. Personally, I am a huge foodie, and food is something I really enjoy. I believe it brings people together because it’s something every human has to partake in because food and water are basic needs for survival. As a nurse working in an assisted living facility I would pay extra attention to the meals being served to the residents. In fact, I would love to work in the food service so I could both monitor the nutritional values of each dish served and to also monitor the variety and quality of the food being served. I believe the food in many of the retirement/ rehab homes that I’ve visited is one of the big issues in making residents unhappy. When they are being served the same, bland food day after day, it just adds so much depression because when being placed in these homes they have little to look forward to. My contribution would to make sure that every resident has at least the excitement of a meal they know they will enjoy (with of course their proper nutrition infused in it)!
I am only one person, but I believe my passion for both food and the well-being of others will get me far and will help affect the lives of the elderly in a positive way! Thank you.

Response by Brooke Hulsizer, Indiana Wesleyan University

This scholarship interests me because it allows me to put into writing what I already plan to do; share the story of the elderly and connect them to society.
I wasn’t looking for a best friend. And if I had been, Joe would not have even been on my list of candidates. I was just a Key Club president trying to organize some community service events for our members. But, as fate would have it, the day I walked into Heritage Care Assisted Living Center with my Key Club members trooping in behind me was the day that I met one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
I had been to plenty of nursing homes and assisted living homes before this day, and I’d always enjoyed myself. But somehow this day was different. As I plunked away on the piano while my nervous key club members timidly sang some old hymns for an audience in wheelchairs, out of the corner of my eye I saw a nurse wheel out an old one-legged man with wide-brimmed glasses wearing a sad expression on his wrinkled face. My heart melted. There was a sadness in his eyes that I couldn’t escape, and I immediately wanted to be a friend, a comfort, or anything that would make him smile.
It took a couple different visits to Joe’s room to get him to open up. He LOVED the music that I played for him on the piano and the guitar, but my first few attempts at conversation went rather awkwardly. On my third visit to Joe’s room, when he finally did open up, it was not what I was expecting.
As I asked him about life before the assisted living home, he began to open up and share about the intense love he had shared with his wife, Mabel. Soon, he was crying. He missed her with all of his being, and he felt lonely and sad as he sat in his armchair all day long, totally disconnected from the outside world. Joe sat in his room day after day and thought about the life he no longer had.
Eventually, Joe had trouble even remembering what his life had been, so I wrote him a song based on the bits and pieces I had picked up in our conversation. Over time, I saw his demeanor change as he felt connected and loved by someone outside the walls of the assisted living home. I couldn’t take his pain away, but at least I could give him some joy.
And then, I went off to college. I’ll never forget the day I came home for fall break. I called the nursing home to let them know I was coming in, elated to finally see my dear Joe again. And I found out Joe was dead.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to escape the regret that I never got to say goodbye to Joe. There was no news story, no online article, no way for me to have any idea he had passed away. I missed his funeral, and I mourned alone.
Many people in assisted living homes live much like Joe; disconnected, lonely, and sometime forgotten. Families are busy and often forget to visit. Community members aren’t as involved as they used to be in the lives of the elderly, and students at local schools and universities have a growing sense of disconnection and – even worse – apathy toward old people. Television news and online newspapers can play a great part in changing this.
Local news stations and newspapers can start featuring elderly people in their stories and sharing opportunities for the community to be involved in their lives. They can broadcast from on-site locations at assisted living homes and share about activities that are taking place.
Local stations can reach out to assisted living homes, encouraging the residents to tune in to the local news shows in order to feel involved in the community. Television stations can reach out to the elderly residents of their community, asking what kind of programming they would like to see and what kind of news stories interest them. Residents should be monitored more closely, so if an individual passes away the news can be shared more thoroughly with the whole community.
I think that media journalism should be an advocate for senior citizens. Media communication can raise awareness on behalf of residents in assisted living homes and equip people to support the elderly by being involved on a regular basis at assisted living homes in their communities.

Response by Brooke Simons, Idaho State University

I firmly believe that a registered dental hygienist committed to coming into assisted living centers for dental cleanings, periodically throughout the year, would be a true benefit to those in assisted living care. Many nurses, and assisted living providers are overwhelmed with the daily tasks to help someone live a comfortable life. They are also taking care of necessary health needs, and administering medications. Many medications come with side effects that directly affect oral health. By allowing a dental hygienist to into the facility to administer preventative dental care, the residents of the assisted living facility, as well as the staff in charge of their care, will appreciate this benefit. A dental hygienist’s job consists of many aspects of dental care. The most important of which is actual hands on scaling of plaque and tartar. This greatly helps seniors who are now in a struggle with proper teeth brushing due to dexterity loss in hands. But a dental hygienist also engages with a patient and educates proper home care. By visiting the residents of a facility, a dental hygienist can interact and bring a friendly conversation, as well as educating their patient on how to take care of their teeth.
My home town has many senior living centers who would benefit from a registered dental hygienist coming into the facility and administering dental care. It can become difficult to provide transportation for some seniors to a dental office. Therefore, by having a registered dental hygienist come into the facility for scheduled dental cleanings, many residents would benefit from oral hygiene care, that may otherwise not occur. Preventative care can be one of the greatest benefits to the residents, being able to prevent any toothaches or issues. Even seniors who have prosthetic teeth, like dentures, would see a great benefit from having their gum tissue checked. Also, the hygienist doing educational demonstrations of proper maintenance and care of the dentures to ensure longevity. As well as, preventing any food residue from forming uncomfortable ulcers under the denture by providing daily routines of cleaning a prosthetic mouth device.
I am passionate about my career choice. And through my many years working as a dental assistant, I am looking forward to furthering my education in dental hygiene, and learning how to educate seniors on proper dental hygiene care. Choosing a degree in the health field allows an individual to care for various age groups and diverse backgrounds of people. One of the most important age groups to consider health care for, are aging seniors. And with the “Baby Boomer” generation reaching senior status, it is only going to expand the status of seniors in assisted living facilities in the years to come. Many individuals who are entering into an assisted living facility begin to experience many changes in their lives. Not only physical, but emotionally. Some seniors experience depression from leaving their homes. Becoming a dental hygienist requires an individual who is very outgoing, and friendly in nature. Many characteristics of a dental hygienist include the ability to relate with people on many diverse levels. Creating empathy for a patient helps to ensure the patient feels comfort while in your care. I feel that a registered dental hygienist is an important asset to any assisted living facility.

Response by Caitlin Wells, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Nursing is directly related to improving the quality of care of seniors who live in an assisted living facility especially in the Palm Beach County area. Palm Beach County is a retirement dream destination for some and many seniors travel to Florida and specifically Palm Beach County to settle down and retire. There are many activities for seniors to get involved with such as walking, tennis, social events such as dancing, bingo, crafts etc., and living in a state where the weather is nice virtually all year around helps promote independence and allows seniors to exercise more outdoors.
Attending the School of Nursing at Palm Beach Atlantic University has specifically taught me how to care for patients in all aspects in respect to the mind, body, soul, and spirit. Assisted living facilities need nurses because we are educated in a wide range of health care issues such as prevention of communicable diseases (pneumonia, HIV, tuberculosis etc.), vaccinations that are needed to help protect those with weaker immune systems and at risk for contacting influenza, pneumonia, and/or shingles. Nurses are able to come into these assisted living facilities and become hands on with the seniors in the community and educate them on these issues and vaccinate them with consent. Not only do we have the specific skill set, education, and resources to help the community, but we are also caring for our patients as a whole and addressing their needs whether it is spiritual or emotional.
The assisted living facilities are designed for those seniors who want to live independently but still may require assistance with varying health care needs such as: ADL’s, medication regimen, or downgrading from their large home to something more simpler to satisfy their current lifestyle needs. As community health care nurses we can make a huge impact on the quality of their lives and keep it to where they will be able to be as independent as possible for a very long time. They will be able to do this because they will have the educational resources and/or vaccinations and screenings to prevent infection or disease and allow them to care for themselves and live a happier and healthier quality of life. Nurses have a special gift for caring about others and place their patients needs first and make them the top priority. For example, a senior could be having a not so great day and the nurse who may have a close relationship with them from working within the community might brighten their day with a nice bouquet of flowers. The simple and smallest things are what matter to seniors and just being present in the moment and listening to their concerns is reassuring and provides them with increased energy and hope. There are many ways nurses can impact assisted living facilities and the residents without actually performing hands on skills.
Assisted living facilities can be quite expensive on top of managing other finances. Having physicians and outside resources can be an added expense for the residents and nurses are financially a great route to go especially to have all of the resources we can provide for them at their fingertips. Nurses have a way of explaining things in simpler terms unlike physicians who use long medical terminology.
Therefore, as a current nursing student I have experienced firsthand the community setting for seniors and see how beneficial it could be for the residents and for nurses like myself who want to continue providing education to people and help them live the independent life that they want with a healthy mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Response by Cameron Cupp, Central Washington University

I plan to get a Biochemistry, BS major at Central Washington University. Ever since my open heart surgery when I was 14, I have had the desire and undying passion to become a physician or pharmacist. I’ve prepared myself for the academics by having a strong self-discipline. I went to the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine to further my journey in leadership and medicine/science in 2013. Along with this I have also had an empathetic and caring mindset that has helped me accomplish more than just grades. My dedication to my local senior center has been steady and constant. For these reasons I think that going into the medical field would be a great way to continue this care I am currently providing to my community.
Even without going to the medical field my intended major would be an excellent one to help develop pharmaceutical drugs or medicine for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or even cancer. From volunteering at the senior center, I have met quite a few people and some of them are afflicted from a lot of different illness that are very serious like these. I hope that one day I will be a part of one of these groups that discovers an advancement for one of those conditions.
According to the CDC and the National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, the majority of seniors that live in these homes are over the age of 85. Along with this, 3/4ths of them have either high blood pressure or Alzheimer’s. That is a huge number of people in my opinion. Sooner or later a good handful of seniors will end up in assisted living and with these being huge issues, it may seem like that this is their only option. If I were to get a Biochemistry or and MD degree, I would spend a good portion of my extra time serving the community by creating drugs or doing research that develops progress in these areas. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone comeback from a chronic illness that affects them deeply. According to Dr. Gary Kennedy at a New York Medical School, there is a huge risk for elderly people in assisted living to develop some form of depression. Seeing that there is a huge stigma for mental illness and the fact that there are very few mental illness institutions that focus on healing the person as a whole, I think that I would be able to assist in that. My future passions would set me up in the right position to help them.
When it all comes down to it, we all matter and because of that, so do the elderly. They have as much to offer as anyone else so we should provide them with the best care possible. It is human nature to care for our parents and offspring so why would we not treat everyone the same? With my passion for science, I will try my best to find ways to help the lives of the people of my community. They have offered me the ability to care and find meaning in life. There is nothing more valuable than someone’s life, so I would do whatever I can to help them in their last days or years to make it a better experience for them and everyone else.

Response by Camille Hickey, Miami Dade College

My major of study is nursing. The obvious answer to how this profession can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities is that we, as nurses, will be caring for these individuals. However, we are learning so much more than simply the physical needs to care for the aging adult. We are learning therapeutic communication to allow people to express concerns about current and future health problems. We are also learning effective listening to hear and assist with any unease along the aging process. The aging population will continue to grow, demanding a new way to care for the aging adult. Much of the responsibility for care will fall on the shoulders of nurses.
Therapeutic communication focuses on the physical and emotional well-being of a patient. Therapeutic communication is viewing the patient as a whole being and treating the mind and body for any ailments. This approach is different from health care in the past. It is continuing to gain importance as larger populations of adults become seniors. Nursing is focusing on the mental and emotional well-being. Our mind and body are interconnected. The way a person views their situation can influence the advancement of an illness, or the progress of treatment. Therapeutic communication allows the aging adult in assisted living situations to connect with the health professionals that they trust. This connection allows for honesty on the part of both parties, so that questions and concerns about conditions and illnesses can be addressed. This honesty allows the nurse to determine the level of care necessary for each person in the assisted living facility.
Effective listening is an important aspect of therapeutic communication. It can be the beginning of the connection leading to therapeutic communication between the nurse and patient. In an assisted living environment it is important to use effective listening to identify verbal and non-verbal cues in communication. Many in the senior population will have problems during the aging process. This may cause them to hold on to their independence by failing to disclose all of the issues that they may be experiencing. It is the responsibility of the nurse to identify and treat underlying issues using effective listening, thus allowing seniors to thrive on the benefits in the assisted living environment.
The aging population is continuing to grow; it is expected to peak with the baby boomers. It is critical for nurses to learn to care for, and grow with, the health needs of this growing population. Therapeutic listening will allow for bonds between health care providers and patients. Effective listening will allow the nurse to identify any underlying or unspoken problems the patient may be dealing with. Assisted living environments will allow the aging adult the luxury of independence, while improving the level of care provided. Nurses will be the front line in the treatment of individuals that take advantage of this style of living.

Response by Candace Long, College of the Mainland

One constant in every person’s life is music. Each generation has a certain style or group that is associated with them. Music that brings back memories of high school, weddings, or just dancing around the living room with loved ones. There are several ways music can add to the lives of those in assisted living facilities including performing live concerts and hands-on music sessions. Both of which have many occasions and opportunities that can be used for playing.
After achieving a Bachelors in Music Education, I will be teaching elementary students music. One way to introduce them to volunteering in the community and helping with society would be to take those young students on field trips to assisted living facilities and perform concerts. Even as a church choir director or as a high school director, I would set up trips to go perform for the residents. There are several different holidays to celebrate like Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, or Christmas with themed music to lift their spirits. In between the holidays we could simply sing or play music for the residents of the facilities are familiar with. There are several videos that have gone viral where a pianist would play some swing music at a nursing home and the elderly there would begin dancing. Even those who are not able to dance, listen and smile. No matter who is playing or singing songs, music is a way to enrich the listeners lives.
Although listening to music would be a great way to give the assisted living residents something to look forward to, for them to play the music would add that and a way to interact. There are so many instruments that would be fun and interactive; tambourines, triangles, maracas, and bells. Any instrument that causes physical movement and mental concentration can be used as therapy, including the simple movement of just clapping hands or even singing. Physical activity by shaking or hitting instruments will help with circulation and joint movement. There are many games that could be set up with the instruments and songs for them to play with easy to read music. Even Karaoke sessions would be a fun way to both entertain and boost the lives of the residents. This would add more to my visit than just a performance, although that would be enough by itself, but add participation as well. As for the mental concentration, playing the music would encourage the residents to focus and be engaged to what is being played or what they are playing. This would stimulate their minds while also giving them mental relief from their current situations.
As a choir director, I not only want to inspire my students but extend to those in the community. Music is a passion that I want to share with those around me by performing concerts and inspiring music in whoever is listening. With this passion, I will seek to give back to the community and increase the lives of those living in assisted living facilities.

Response by Carmen Dampf, Liberty University

“I am not leaving my home. This is where your dad and I raised you. I am not leaving!” Mom calmly but emphatically told us girls as we met at our family home, built on an incredible hill. During the snowy weather, Mom’s trek to the mailbox was treacherous at best. She refused to wear shoes because she just wanted to “run out real quick and the cold on my feet feels good!” We knew her time in the house would be limited, but we wanted her to reach the decision herself. None of us lived in the area. She did not drive, although she had obtained her driver’s license before driving tests were required.
No one argued with Mom. Sweetest gal ever, and oh-so-strong-willed, but coupled with her endearing personality, we just could not refuse her. She would, in the end, do things her way. We knew that. We halfway wanted her to so we knew she would be happy. After all, she was 83 when Dad laid his head on the kitchen table and left this world. She did not know she would have only five years left. The thought of leaving her alone in that house was sad. The best of her personality would not be shared! And we really wanted her to have the best of times visiting, laughing, being nutty.
We convinced her to take a ride with us to a nearby town. An assisted living facility had opened. Mom read the sign. “No,” was all she said. We got out. She sat. “C’mon, Mom! Let’s at least go see what it is like in there just for fun!” She resisted, “This ain’t fun.” She made sure we knew; but curiosity got the best of her.
Greeted by friendly faces, coffee or juice, and soft cookies, Mom picked the lint off her shirt. She leaned over during our tour and mumbled, “I’d never fit in here. This is too hoity-toity for me. I’m just an ol’ farm gal and I look really tacky.” Following the tour, she said very loudly: “I’ll bet people pay a pretty penny for this!” The manager, a jolly fellow, said respectfully, “You’d be surprised! Here! Let me show you! We are one big family here!” We sat comfortably and reviewed prices. The manager smiled and invited Mom, “Would you like to see the room you’d have?” No commitment had been made. His personal approach was great—just in case she considered it. She hesitated. He smiled, “Just in case, you’ll be able to see how your furniture will fit!” and he led us to “her” apartment.
She talked herself into it. She knew that her image of “old folks’ homes” was not accurate. She realized she missed others in her same age group wherein they had commonalities: specific-era moments. We sisters knew she would have a terrific time, and she did! She became known as the seasonal gal who decorated for each holiday. She spread joy wherever she went. She loved it there.
Because of this, and considering my professional service marketing background, I determined I would love to engage in geriatric assisted-living leadership and management after my own children were raised. Staying home would close the job market, but I knew my kids were worth it. Plus, I could learn a lot between then and now, so I enrolled for a master’s degree in human services executive leadership. Additionally, I would also love teaching about geriatrics and connecting local college students with the geriatric residents to develop healthy relationships. These relationships would also help combat ageism.
Whether in this town or another, team leadership and dignity are the keys. Good leadership, management, and staff training skills are essential to maintain uniformity and operational smoothness to ensure business goals are met. Business goals can be met if each person feels valued from the moment each steps into the facility. When dignity flows, staff is happy, visitors are comfortable, and residents feel secure.
As a management team, what is best for the residents is best for business. Dignity requires good service. Good service translates to positive referrals and a steady profit. Profit allows a fruitful business that does not age or pass away. Life of the resident and life of the business is all about dignity: that is, worthy of respect. This is true for any assisted living facility in any town, not just the town I live in now.

Response by Carmen Demkowicz, University of Massachusetts at Lowell

In modern assisted living facilities most problems occur because there is lack of communication between the health care providers and staff concerning the type and dose of prescriptions. Elderly die every year because they are given the wrong prescription over and over again and the staff is poorly trained, or simply does not check. I remember my grandmother at ninety five, given blood pressure medication, where the nurse would bring in the pills and the my aunt would first check to make sure that the prescription was correct, write down the dose that was given, and log it into a written file near her bed so that hopefully the next nurse on staff would check and make sure that they were administering the correct type and amount. In this modern world, there are ways of simplifying this process using mobile applications that can easily track the type of medication and the dose, then permanently log in a database so that this information is not lost. My major of study is applied mathematical modeling and this major will improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my community by employing a database on a mobile application to track information regarding the health and treatments of seniors.
While pursing my masters in applied math I have created a mobile android application that uses as JSON (Javascript Object notation) database to locate parking meters in the city of Cambridge. A mobile application for assisted living centers would use a similar JSON database except it would have every medication available and the doses associated so that when a health care worker gives a dose to the senior he has no problem logging the information into his phone, storing it for later use, and then checking to see if the medication matches the description for future administrations. The application would have a graphical user interphase to make the application easy to use.
For example, if a patient has a chronic health issue and a series of nurses on shifts are treating him, the information can be uploaded into a database where it can be retrieved easily and effectively. Then when the next nurse arrives at a later shift the information is passed accurately and no health issues occur do to lack of communication. The biggest problem in assisted living care is that people do not get the right medication and it typically occurs when there is miscommunication on the part of an untrained employee. Databases in mobile applications can help check and recheck medication and avoid any miscommunication and mistakes.
Math and computer science are a powerful tool to help store and retrieve information, and in this new wave of technology mobile applications are a handy piece of software that can help to solve various problems. Graphical user interfaces aid the user experience by making apps easy to use and navigate. Where senior health care is involved there is much good that my field of study can do.

Response by Carmen Willis, University of Texas at Tyler

Quite a number of years ago I began my nursing journey as an LVN on a med-surg unit at Nacogdoches Medical Center. One of my very first cancer patients taught me my greatest lesson. He said “ In order to be happy, a person has to have something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to…Right now I can’t do any of that because after my first chemo session, I can’t even find the strength to mow my lawn. Can you help me?” My heart broke and I took up his cause and helped convince his wife and his doctor to let him go home without chemotherapy treatments and simply mow his lawn and love his wife for as long as he could. Later in my career, I would find my true passion as a hospice nurse. I walked up the porch of a deteriorating house and into a dimly lit living room of a female patient recently diagnosed with colon cancer who had lost her husband to cancer years before. As I took the seat she offered, she looked into my eyes and said “It’s you…” to which I replied the same. I was embracing the wife of my very first cancer patient whom I had assisted in living out his last days with his dream of happiness. I cried as I realized I had come full circle and this is where I was meant to perform my best service.
I give you this background story because it sums up the answer to how my major area of study can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in my town. I live in a rural area that, like so many others, has a growing senior population. I have spent many years volunteering in these areas and to these individuals. So many of them lack transportation, a way to get their houses clean and groceries bought, even the ability to perform basic needs such as meal preparation and personal hygiene. I have also worked many years as a case manager and the needs far outweigh the available resources. This shortage is something I hope to change. I am beginning my studies as a Family Nurse Practitioner and with my background as a case manager, I feel like I will be able to combine those experiences and not only anticipate, but also help facilitate their needs.
Home is the best place to help someone. It’s the place they feel most comfortable and it’s also the place where aging seniors feel they can keep the most control. When disease, illness, and accidents occur, the first piece they lose is control. In the hospital we tell them when to take their meds, when and even what they can eat, when we draw their blood, how far to walk, etc. At home, some of the balance is restored. They have more input and more autonomy when working with home-care agencies. I firmly believe that helps them achieve their optimal health level or assists in creating an environment where they can have comfort before leaving this world for their next place.
Your scholarship can help me do that. I am above all things, a nurse. For thirty-five years, I have used my skills and knowledge to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate. Now I will get to do that from a side where I have more control over how agencies are run and needs are met. My dream is to service the ever increasing senior population in hospice and home health care. Beyond that, with my background, it is my plan to help boost volunteer levels for these underserviced areas and individuals. Imagine the agency that sends a nurse practitioner to your home and helps get you someone who can buy your groceries next week, notice you need help with mowing your lawn, washing your clothes, etc. Imagine that same area that works with the local school’s homemaking program to get your clothes washed and a week’s worth of meals cooked. Imagine that person whose local scout group comes once a month to mow and the church down the street offers rides to seniors. Sometimes all it takes is one person asking why can’t we?, then maybe we can live in a place where our seniors have something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to…

Response by Casey Duncan, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo

If I have learned anything in over two years of studying Kinesiology so far, it is that exercise is absolutely vital to maintaining a high quality of life for the longest life possible. The health benefits of regular physical activity are invaluable and can help maintain healthy BMI, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular and lung function, and postpone or prevent the onset of many chronic diseases. Exercise also has a way of maintaining the high independence of adults as they age. When seniors are more physically fit and healthy, they depend less on others for activities of daily living and can get more joy out of everyday life knowing that they are confident and able. I believe that the emotional benefits and greater self efficacy brought about by physical activity are just as important as the physiological advantages. However, it is well known and studied that both the motivation and ability of seniors to engage in physical activity decreases greatly as they age. As a field of study, Kinesiology offers a solution to this problem.
Kinesiology is the study of the relationship between the physiology and anatomy of the human body with respect to movement and, therefore, exercise. There is a whole subfield of Kinesiology that relates to gerontology and how the principles of health and exercise can be applied to an aging population. The fact is that the demographic of the United States is shifting as the baby boomers age, and a greater proportion of the population are on their way to being considered seniors. The healthcare industries, and especially assisted living, will have to grow and adapt to meet this increased need. Furthermore, the prevalence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, lung disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, etc that often occur with increased age are expected to rise. It is often health obstacles such as these that lead to the need for the elderly to seek out assisted living, but what if these health complications could be postponed to later stages in life? Exercise is the key. When an older adult eventually does require assistance with everyday activities, exercise can furthermore improve their quality of life with in assisted living facilities.
Using principles of Kinesiology, exercise programs can be developed specifically for an older population and can be adapted to be conducive with any number of physical limitations or disabilities. I do not think any assisted living facility could be considered complete without opportunities for residents to engage in physical activity and get outdoors. These could either be in the form of organized classes and sports leagues, or open outlets for exercise. The aquatic fitness classes that I have taught in the past are great for participants with arthritis because of the low impact of exercise in water, and are a fun and social source of organized physical activity. A little bit of healthy competition in the form of bowling or golf leagues can greatly increase motivation to exercise. Likewise, walking trails are great forms of exercise that are less organized and are not easily restricted by age or physical limitations. How to develop and implement effective and population appropriate exercise programs, as well as how physical activity elicits benefits to health and overall well being across the lifespan are all elements o f an education in Kinesiology. This field of study beautifully mixes physiological science with methods for practical application of exercise to produce a recipe for greater quality of life in older adults, and it s principles are vital to improving assisted living facilities in the United States.

Response by Catharine Freyer, Mills College

Assisted living plays a critical role in maintaining the independence and dignity of our loved ones while bridging the gap between a life depending on family and nursing home care. My Master’s of Business Administration and focus on public policy are built upon 15+ years of working in healthcare and supporting patients, put me in a unique position to advocate for investments in excellent, publicly supported assisted living facilities that will increase access to these facilities and help make Oakland the healthiest place to live in the United States.
The development of new, government-regulated care facilities to support seniors is an urgent priority. There are more seniors than ever before (the Public Policy Institute of California estimates the number of seniors in California will double over the next 15 years from 4 million to 8 million and more than 1 million will need full time assistance). In addition, by 2030, seniors will be much less likely to have traditional safety nets: to have had children that can provide long-term care, to have a spouse who could care for them, or to live together with others ( For those who do have children, more people in the family are working more jobs and longer hours but not making any more money (controlled for inflation) in 2015 than in 1977 (Reich, 2015). The children (and spouses) simply can’t afford the time off work to provide the care needed for their loved ones (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2015).
These 8 million seniors face additional challenges: according to the Association of Bay Area Governments (, housing prices have outpaced incomes in California for more than 20 years and show no signs of slowing down. In Oakland and San Francisco, the average house price has doubled in the past three years (2012 – 2015), and apartment rates are skyrocketing toward tripling. Those hardest-hit are seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes and are extremely vulnerable to real estate bubbles that motivate landlords to evict them in favor of more affluent tenants. Many of these seniors are unable even to afford now inflated “affordable housing,” (Oakland Local, 2015) and against this backdrop, the costs of assisted living, which include housing, food, and care, are now an excellent value to many seniors.
Finally, as we know, the cost of healthcare is rising: The US Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) states that national healthcare expenditures total 17.5% of the US gross domestic product (up from 16% in 2012), and continue to rise. By far the largest portion of spending is in hospital care, which totals nearly a Trillion dollars annually. According to American Nurse Today, transitional care can reduce hospital readmissions, thereby bringing down the total costs associated with keeping a senior person healthy. In addition, the assisted living facility provides an environment of support in which patients learn the importance of taking an active role in their health, build the confidence to participate in the 21st century model of health care (in which individuals are expected to advocate for themselves), and receive support to continue to make good choices and stay healthy even if they are ill or under stress. It is also suspected that the experienced caregivers at assisted living facilities may become aware of subtle health problems before a busy family member would. In these numerous ways, assisted living is an excellent way to keep seniors at their most healthy, for the most reasonable costs.
It is my strong feeling that the best way to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities is to build new, publicly supported assisted living facilities that enable more seniors than ever to access these excellent resources. Now, more than ever, seniors in the Bay Area urgently need living arrangements where they can be connected with a community of their peers. Armed with my MBA from Mills College, I will be perfectly positioned to create excellent care facilities to seniors via public bond measures to build and support senior housing. Such efforts have been extremely successful throughout the Bay Area, as exemplified by the San Francisco Towers (1997) and Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake village (1986). Oakland deserves such excellent facilities to care for the men and women who developed this city and the surrounding Bay Area—it is on their achievements that we stand today, and it is our civic, moral, and spiritual duty to take care of them—as a community—into the future.

Response by Catherine Cornelius, Penn State Harrisburg

My major – Business Administration – will assist senior in the assisted living community because of the vast expanse of knowledge that is imparted to the students. We, as students, get to partake in mathematics, use of a foreign language, even traveling to foreign countries. We talk about management strategies, labor relations and even biology and history. All these topics make us well-rounded students as we deal with the everyday aspects of life.
History gives us an idea of what our ancestors have gone through and some of our seniors, myself included, want to know or want to be able to talk to someone who understands our language. Sometimes seniors are not too much interested in all the problems that have come about in recent times, they would rather hear about the “good ole days”; when railroads were the only form of transport, or when they took their horse and buggy for a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride, or even when everyone used to sit around the radio after dinner to listen to the latest and possible the only talk show at that time.
On another aspect of my studies, management and managing employees can teach the students about opening a business – maybe a Senior Assisted Living Home – where we would have to get the right employees to do the job right, which may require some training on our end (the students), interviewing, 1 coaching, selection process and coming up with strategies – ways and means to give our seniors the stability and flexibility that they need to enjoy life to the fullest. In some cases, because of our knowledge of biology (taught under this major) we would know what affects who, where and when. To put it simple – dealing with the aches and pains that seniors go through in their daily lives, we the students may be able to provide routine exercises to make these aches and pains less cumbersome to our seniors.
Besides staffing for our business, we would need to make sure that the correct infrastructure is in place in the building, to make sure that there are proper beds, accessible furniture and rooms, spacious accommodations, exercise equipment. We need to provide transportation for our seniors, not only to go to medical appointments, or doctor’s visits, but also larger vehicles to go on trips. One thing that seniors like to do (because I myself do) is to go on trips, they like to see and experience new sites and new atmosphere. For some of them, just the thought of taking a ride in a bus going for some fresh air, or maybe going on a road trip to see a musical play or a theatre show is great fun. Holiday events are particularly special to seniors because these are the times when they get to see their loved ones, when they come to visit. These are also the times that they (the seniors) may get to “dress up” a bit, put on their fancy clothes, hats and some of them even like getting gifts. All these wants and needs of the senior class of individuals are taught to us students, so that we are able to make their lives a little simpler and much more relaxing and enjoyable.
I submit my application for this scholarship, not only because of my wants and needs as a student, but because I do understand the relevance of the future of assisted living. My turn is coming up very soon for this avenue in my life, and I hope that there are students out there who would help make this portion of my life as enjoyable and fulfilling as God would allow.

Response by Chloé Williams, Ohio State University

My health sciences major and aging minor have provided me with crucial knowledge and skill sets necessary to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. I currently volunteer at a local assisted living facility in Columbus, Ohio and with the knowledge acquired from my studies I feel equipped and comfortable volunteering at the center.
A few months ago I began leading painting sessions at a nearby assisted living center. I wanted to provide a space for the residents to engage in creative activity, free of judgement and expectations. Going into each session I only hoped that the residents would leave feeling more encouraged and involved than they did coming in. In my aging courses I became familiar with the four dimensions of aging. I learned how important it is to consider the chronological, biological, psychological, and social aspects of age. Since I understand the variations with which people can age, I am more sensitive to the difference that it makes to cater to people as individuals rather than generalizing based on age or ailments. For example, at the assisted living center where I volunteer, the capabilities vary, and each individual that joins my painting sessions is unique. With my knowledge of the various aspects of aging, I am able to cater to individual needs, and make the session more enjoyable. One resident loves painting, but she has limited mobility, so I make sure to keep her favorite colors and brushes close by her. Another resident has a difficult time remembering details of the items that she’d like to paint, so I make sure to print out pictures for her to reference. One other resident is an experienced painter, and feels that she is not being challenged while living at the assisted living facility. For her, I bring in different still life objects for her to paint, and give her themes that I’d like her to depict in her art. I want each of the residents to feel confident and encouraged, and I do my best to cater to their individual needs.
In my health science and aging courses I have also studied the challenges that arise when full independence is no longer possible, and places like assisted living facilities become necessary. For one of my courses I read a book by Atul Gawande called Being Mortal, and was inspired by one of his quotes. “It seems we’ve succumbed to a belief that, once you lose your physical independence, a life of worth and freedom is simply not possible”. I question Gawande’s quote by offering an alternative — perhaps our society simply does not know how a lack of physical independence can produce a life of worth and freedom, although there is hope that this sort of life exists. I believe that assistant living facilities have the ability to become galvanizers of hope, while remaining sensitive to, and cognizant of reality.
An aging and health course taught me that there are psychological protective factors for health, which means that there are psychological characters that have actually been proven to reduce the likelihood of ill health. A few of these factors include optimism, emotional stability, and control. By implementing just these three factors alone into my painting sessions, I have seen improvements in the resident’s social and emotional health. The residents are more willing to share their art work with others, they are more encouraging of one another and less critical of themselves, they look forward to future painting sessions, and are more sociable with people that they ordinarily wouldn’t interact with. Learning about these psychological protective factors helped me to contribute the assisted living center in a way that I would never have been able to.
To conclude, my majors of study in both health sciences and aging have the potential to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town. From the improvements that I’ve already seen in my local assisted living center, to the improvements that I’d like to see based on the knowledge that I’ve acquired from my studies, I look forward to progresses that are to come, and the experiences that I will learn from in the process.

Response by Christine Chang, University of Maryland

I intend on declaring a major in Biological Sciences while following a Pre-Veterinary track. Although I love helping people, I feel a deeper bond with animals. I have come to realize, however, that people would benefit from my veterinary services as much as animals would. By healing their pets, I can help people not only in the emotional sense but also in the social sense due to the attachment that people have to animals.
This attachment that people feel to animals can, I believe, be best explained by biophilia. Edward O. Wilson hypothesized that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. This has been corroborated throughout history by countless occasions where people depended partly on signals from animals in the environment (indicating safety or threat) for their survival. A person walking their dog at night can rely on his/her dog’s signals, like pricked ears or growling, to be wary of his/her surroundings or to avoid a certain path. In more extreme cases, animals’ keen sense of hearing and smell can help save human lives. For example, a family in England was woken up by their cat just in time to escape their home right before it collapsed from fire damage. Therefore, people feel uneasy or alert when the animals in the environment seem agitated or standing still to listen for danger, but on the other hand, people also feel safe and comfortable when the animals around them are relaxed.
I would implement a “companionship and therapy pet” program to improve the lives of both seniors in assisted living facilities and animals in need of homes. Along with protection, pet animals can provide many psychological benefits to seniors. The fact that a pet animal depending on someone for care forces him/her to get out of bed to provide the pet food and water or to take the pet out for a walk. Simply getting up and keeping busy, especially getting fresh air, can help keep depression at bay. Furthermore, studies have shown that interaction between animals and people causes biochemical changes in both of them, such as calmness and lowered blood pressure.
Companionship and/or therapy pets can be made available for all seniors in independent, assisted, nursing homes, and hospice community. I would also like to find a way for these separate but related facilities to be housed together, so that transportation between two different facilities would be more comfortable and convenient for seniors. The good news is that there are a variety of therapy pets that can also be companions for seniors. Dogs, cats, birds, miniature horses–even ferrets or pigs–can perform emotionally comforting behaviors such as snuggling and licking. This is very important because, since seniors tend to live away from their families, some feelings of isolation can be relieved by the unconditional positive interaction that these types of pets provide. For example, service dogs help handlers with dissociative disorders or anxiety disorders to reorient during episodes by providing tactile stimulation such as petting and nuzzling. Therefore, a caregiver may or may not feel like family, but pets always do because they can provide a wider variety of services more effectively.
I would use my knowledge of the biology of both people and animals to improve the lives of seniors. As a veterinarian, I would take in as many stray animals as I could to restore their health and help them become adoptable by prospective owners, either individuals or organizations. I would also make house calls for seniors who wouldn’t be able to drive to my clinic. In this respect, both the animals and the people would benefit from each other’s company.

Response by Chrissy Iverson, Northwestern Michigan College

The future of assisted living lies in the hands of those who work in the field: nurses, certified nursing assistants, directors of nursing, administration personnel, etc. We see first-hand what our resident’s daily life entails; the good and the not so good. It is up to us to improve our systems within assisted living facilities to improve the quality of life of our residents.
My name is Chrissy Iverson and I am a junior at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, MI, currently attending my second year in the nursing program. I am being educated to receive the Associates Degree in Nursing. My studies are very important to my future career in nursing, especially with regards to the elderly population. With Baby Boomers retiring, the number of elderly persons entering assisted living facilities is going to increase. It is important to know and understand how to care for the elderly and give them a good quality of life as they continue to age. I have worked at 4 different assisted living/long term care facilities, as well as a hospital. Some of them have been wonderful places for the elderly to live and others, not so much. Using my experience in these places and utilizing my knowledge obtained from my nursing school studies and clinical rotations, I can help improve the lives of seniors living in an assisted living facility. What entails a good quality of life? I know that a good quality of life includes the following: proper nutrition, hygiene, activities of interest, a sense of independence, respect, being pain-free, happiness…the list is endless. Stop and think about your life. Think about how you would feel if your basic needs are not met. It is our job as healthcare workers to ensure our elderly get the quality of life they deserve.
The smaller senior living facilities I have worked at do not provide many activities for the residents to partake in. They have minimal staff, sometimes uncertified staff, whom are passing medications, making meals and helping the residents with activities of daily living (ADL/s). That is all they have time to do in their shift. To help improve on one of the items I mentioned, I feel that if there a separate staff dedicated to activities, the quality of life at these smaller facilities would improve. Providing activities such as puzzles, crafts, book clubs, sensory carts and reminiscing not only makes the resident feel a part of things, it will also help keep their minds strong and although they cannot improve Alzheimer’s or dementia, these activities help with memory.
Understanding how an elderly person ages helps a nurse understand the changes they go through. For instance, fragile, thin skin is something that happens to everyone when they age. If not properly cared for, skin can start to breakdown and ulcers form, causing an increased risk of infection, pain to the resident and overall cost increases to the assisted living facility. Proper skin care includes overall nutrition, proper bathing techniques, knowing and utilizing special skin care products to help form barriers to incontinence and special padding for wheelchairs and specialty beds.
Elder care is something that you continuously learn in nursing school; knowing how to properly care for the elderly’s skin is just the tip of the ice burg. How do you go about maintaining proper nutrition if your patient has Alzheimer’s and cannot feed themselves? What if they have trouble chewing or swallowing? A lot of elderly experiencing altzhieimers and dementia regress to a time to when they are younger; they may continuously ask where their mother is, when in reality, their mother has long since passed away. Knowing how to handle a situation such as this without causing distress or heartache to the resident is very important when you consider their quality of life. Having an education in all categories of the aging process is vitally important in order to care for our elderly population. My major of study is improving the small base of knowledge I have from working in long term care for 6 years. As my knowledge continues to grow as I finish my ADN and continue on to my BSN, I feel confident that I, as a nurse, will be able to improve the lives of the elderly. I cannot wait to start!

Response by Christopher Nelson Gallegos, Harvard University

In understanding how architecture can help to improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care within the greater New York area, I would rely on a personal experience and case study to illustrate how smart, sustainable design can make a profoundly positive effect on a nuanced sector that, in turn, would create ripples throughout the surrounding populace and within the industry at-large.
My late Great-Grandmother Omi was first a recipient of in-home assisted living care for two years in her mid-nineties, followed by integration within a full-service assisted living facility toward the later five years of her life. She was incredibly strong and independent (considering her age) yet she still met many challenges that most seniors in similar circumstances probably experienced. First off, and perhaps most troublingly, the care she received was of great financial burden to herself and our family – the in-home assisted living charged $4,000 per month ($96,000 in total) and $14,000 per month, thereby completely emptying her life savings, within the full-service assisted living facility toward the later years of her life. These figures should be an indication of the incredible care she received, but I’m afraid that this was not the case. Within the in-home assisted living and subsequent full-service facilities, she received lack-luster treatment from nurses and experienced subpar facilities with which to engage in. I realize this experience my Omi had should not be indicative of the profession on the whole but rather the faults of a singular facility failing to perform at its most basic. Even so, there are ample opportunities to improve on this archetype from proper fiscal responsibility at the executive level or higher salaries for nurses, but I would like to focus on another facet critical to the care being offered yet integral to the successful functioning of all the other components: smart and sustainable design.
To illustrate this point, consider the Merritt Crossing Senior Apartments in Oakland, California designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects apartments and services to low-income seniors (between 30-50% of the area median), half of which are homeless, living with HIV/AIDS, or challenged by a mental illness. Not only does this facility provide “on-site supportive services, management offices, a community room, community kitchen, and a landscaped courtyard and garden,” but it also complements it with an array of sustainable solutions to limit the utility load, such as photoelectric power, solar water heating, storm water retention, and filtered ventilation. In addition, the facility was awarded the coveted U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Platinum rating, commendation offered by the organization that is the apex in the industry for sustainable architecture. If nothing else, this case study highlights a rare situation where a design can virtually improve the quality of life for the individual and flip the typology in a way where new opportunities are made available where one never sought to look before.
As this case study helped illustrate, I believe the key to improvement lies with independence – emphasizing independence, promoting independence, designing for independence. For instance, a successful facility thoroughly exercising Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in space layout – this means that door widths are enlarged for wheel chair access, countertops are lowered to promote accessibility, and handrails are readily available throughout – would benefit from the most efficient use; in other words, this would enable seniors to be more comfortable navigating on their own. Additionally, importance should be paid to building materials for facilities that are sustainably sourced (salvaged from unused building sites), sustainably harvested (sourcing wood products from the Forestry Steward Council (FSC) renewable sources), incorporating properly lit and colorful interiors, and utilizing sustainable systems that reduce the building energy load (similar to the California case study mentioned earlier). Finally, a community garden could be established and tended to by the residents to further engage them in activities that would help to prolong their lives. The immediate benefit of these best practices would be a reduced cost of maintenance fees, materiality, and utilities – an offset to potentially be used to increase nursing salaries and upgrade facilities – and, most importantly, improve the quality-of-life for the tenants. After these factors are established, certain nursing services could extend to in-home assisted living recipients, which would contribute to positive word-of-mouth influence. In turn, this would help to sustain the long-term growth of the facilities (in the form of satellite facilities offering up numerous services mimicking the established paradigm).
In this way, archetypes are meant to be challenged in finding a better way to perform a service and I believe this is one direction that will most certainly help to improve the life of someone else’s Omi. I have a distinct memory as a young child running through my Omi’s garden, on a narrow paved path with tomato plants on all sides at least a foot above me, and seeing her smiling face as she looked over to me with a hose in hand. It was too late for my Omi to receive the care that she rightfully deserved and could have benefitted from, but it is my hope that through transparency, aboveboard dialog between industries, and an openness to imagine something greater, other seniors could benefit from opportunities that could make a profound impact on the lives of themselves and their families.

Response by Christopher Salavitch, University of Kansas

We may not think about how much movement affects our lives, but the reality is that our ability to move largely determines what we are able to accomplish on a daily basis. For seniors, whether it is due to injury, illness, or the general complications that come with aging, a decline in mobility can impose serious limitations on living a fulfilled and fully functional life. Most seniors desire to maintain independence as much as they possibly can, be it with the most basic of activities of daily living o r the special hobbies that interest them.
Physical therapists, as movement specialists, play an important role in assisted living facilities for seniors throughout the continuum of care. Physical therapists are pivotal members of a diverse team of caregivers in any healthcare setting. Not only are they able to recognize and diagnose musculoskeletal impairments, they are often the go – to clinicians for determining how a patient can safely and effectively move. Once an initial evaluation is performed, a physical therapist will determine what devices a person may need to get around more easily, how much assistance he or she may require, and what specific interventions are necessary for improving that individual’s functional mobility. While it is easy to see physical therapists as glorified personal trainers or “walkers,” there is a vast amount of critical thinking involved during any given patient visit. Physical therapists often serve as educators not only to patients but also to family members and other care givers in how to safely assist a person with impaired mobility.
In shadowing at a large senior living facility for three months last year, I was able to to see firsthand how residents of all ability levels benefit from physical therapy . This particular facility included independent – living apartments, assisted living with nursing care, and also a memory care unit for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Each visit by the physical therapist was tailored to each person’s specific ability level and past medical history – treatments such as balance and endurance tests, manual massage therapy, exercise programs, stretching, electrical muscle stimulation, and stair training, to name a few.
Aside from learning valuable skills as a future physical therapist, I feel the most important thing I learned from being in an assisted living facility is simply what life is like for the people who live there. I was able to hear their stories, to learn from them, and to understand that when we get older, who we are at our core does not change. The reason I want to be a physical therapist is because there is nothing more rewarding than seeing that your work is making a difference in other people’s lives. Seeing the progress and perseverance of those you work with is nothing short of amazing – be it the woman who had a goal of being able to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, the man who wished to return to his weekly golf game with friends, or the patient who simply wants to be able to make it out her room on her own.
With an increased elderly population, assisted living facilities will likely become an even more integral part of our communities. I believe that understanding and developing the role of physical therapists in these facilities, alongside nursing staff and other providers, can have a monumental impact on the recovery, well being, and quality of life of the people who call those places home later in life.

Response by Clara Tamez, University of the Incarnate Word

My major of choice is English, with a focus in writing. I chose this because ever since I was young, I could never put down books and collected many journals. I believe in the power of the written word and how it can change people and ultimately, the world. My focus is in poetry and fiction and nonfiction writing. I believe this can help the lives of living seniors in assisted living facilities in my town in a variety of ways.
First, I believe that my writing skills can improve the amount of reading material available to seniors and help keep their minds sharp. Knowledge and awareness does not have to decrease as one’s mind increases and reading is a productive way to have something to look forward to, whether done in solitude or with friends. This simple task can be comforting especially in modern times with new technological advancements cluttering our world. Poetry and fiction can help trigger emotions and memories that some residents may have forgotten and may now be able to share those previously untold stories with family and loved ones. Reading my work can also foster communication among seniors and caretakers and seniors and other family or residents as they can talk about the stories’ plots and characters with one another.
Not to mention the opportunities there are for residents to become muses for young writers. In one of the classes for my major, I first became involved with the assisted living center next to campus because volunteer hours there were required. For the end of class project, my classmates and I were to create and respond to our volunteer work in a creative format. As most of us are writers, poems, short stories both fiction and nonfiction were written describing the humbling experience of hand-feeding a woman whose hands shook every time she tried to raise her hands, or a re-creation of one of the many stories an elderly man spoke of, enhanced with his own pictures in a scrapbook to be presented to him at a later date, or the imagined wild past life of a woman who always sat in the same corner sipping the same tea at the same time every day. Having these young people recognize them and write about them made a lot of residents’ days. They loved the spotlight, the company, and reading about themselves.
Another major way writing and the English major can help seniors in assisted living is by raising and increasing awareness about assisted living and all the benefits offered. Often seniors and their loved ones have doubts and misconceptions about what assisted living consists of, and sees it as giving up their independence, or a bad thing because they are simply misinformed. Luckily, with writing newspaper and online articles including interviews from other residents and the proper information, the public’s view on assisted living can change for the better and seniors can get the support and care needed. For example, something that is often skimmed over is that seniors are offered their privacy as needed, with twenty four hour surveillance and care in case of an emergency or an accident that is not fully provided with at home care by loved ones. With the correct information relied in the proper manner, assisted living can be seen in a more positive light.

Response by Corrine Zeeff, Michigan State University

One of the biggest barriers for seniors and their families who are looking into assisted living is cost. In Grand Rapids, this can vary widely from the more expensive suburban retirement villages to the more basic assisted living centers located in less well-to-do areas of town. The more assistance a senior requires, the higher the price goes. During the final years of my great grandfather’s life, he completely drained all of his assets paying for the 24 hour skilled nursing care he required. My grandma and great aunt silently worried what would happen when he ran out of money. He had made a good, honest living as a truck driver and planned ahead for retirement, but the rising costs of healthcare ended up leaving his family virtually nothing to cover funeral expenses.
One day, this will all change. Biosystems Engineers are working closer every day to the introduction of diagnostic biosensors into mainstream healthcare. Biosensors are devices which utilize biological elements such as enzymes or antibodies to test for a reaction which is converted into a clear electric signal by a transducer. These devices will enable patients and nurses to complete more testing in house, cutting down on costs associated with using outside services and transportation of samples. This will also cut down on the effects of infectious diseases in nursing homes. With better diagnostic technologies, nurses will know sooner when patients need to be quarantined and given the proper care, accelerating recovery time for the sick and ensuring fewer seniors are stuck in their rooms, incapable of seeing their families. Biosensors are already widely used in blood glucose testing kits, enabling those with diabetes to lead normal lives and cut down on the cost of doctor’s visits.
Biosystems Engineers are responsible for many of the medical devices commonly used today including pacemakers, dialysis machines, and artificial organs. Many more devices which are starting to gain popularity such as automatic drug administration implants will maintain the independence of seniors who are at risk for forgetting medication and cut down on the amount of time a nurse is needed. This will make the healthcare systems in assisted living centers more efficient by allowing already over-worked healthcare professionals to give hands on care to the patients who most need it.
Perhaps the biggest innovation Biosystems Engineers can contribute to the healthcare system in assisted living facilities is automated patient monitoring systems. In the retirement homes of the future, seniors will retain their independence through implementation of fully automated testing and monitoring devices, ultimately reducing the cost and man hours of healthcare. In more demanding environments the patient monitoring systems can alert nurses right away to an issue before the senior may have noticed themselves, leading to faster access to treatment and less time spent sick. This data can also be stored for long term use in assisted living centers for easy access to patient history including falls, past treatments for chronic illnesses, and infections.
In addition to the seniors and families struggling right now with the cost of assisted living, there are many adults poised to retire in the next few decades who were impacted heavily by the Great Recession. Adults who may have had a comfortable, middle class existence prior may now find themselves in the lower rungs of the income tier, questioning when and how they will retire. Recovery has been slow and sluggish, and each generation struggles to make ends meet more than the one before. Michigan, in 1970, stood at 6th in the nation for median household income, and we have now plummeted to 30th.
As these adults reach the age of retirement, they will have little money to pay for assisted living. With the technology Biosystems Engineers will provide, seniors will be able to save money on higher levels of care at retirement homes. In addition, the maintenance of independence will ease the minds of seniors and their families. Assisted living facilities will be no longer be communities of dependent seniors, stuck in bed worrying about the burden on their families, but will instead be full of active seniors leading healthier lives.

Response by Daniel Grasso, Palm Beach Atlantic University

At the beginning of the summer I attended a meeting within a local senior center for the Palm Beach County Partnership for Aging and my interest and work in assisted living began. At this monthly meeting companies and agencies from across the board came to discuss the issues they had encountered and the ways to better these conditions, and I began to absorb and understand how many problems and uncomfortable situations our seniors face on a daily basis. As a marketing major I had never imagined I would end up in a senior center listening to how difficult assisted living can be. But the realization that I can help as a marketer came when a representative from the Administration of Aging (AOA) spoke about the neglect and abuse seniors are exposed to within such facilities. It disturbed me that our elders could be treated in such a horrific way and could be taken advantage of in such horrendous ways. The one statistic he read that stuck with me was that as of 2010 a study found that 47% of memory care seniors experienced abuse or neglect of some kind. This representative seemed most frustrated when attendees (like me) did not know how to react such treatment if it is suspected or witnessed. I realized by the end of his speech that I could be the change he so desperately desired. As a marketer and advertiser I have the set of skills to get the word out on such abuse and neglect. But this idea stretches much further than just neglect; having a career in advertising and learning how to attract people’s attention gives me the advantage to give the abused and neglected seniors a voice.
As I spent the rest of my summer working the field I was shocked to learn of other issues and weak points within the assisted living system such as the low level of training given to staff members when it comes to specialized cases such as memory care. In some cases an eight hour program is all it takes to be “trained” in memory care. This means that these facilities are allow to market special trained CNA’s and charge extra and take advantage of both the senior in need of care and the family who is providing for them. One of my biggest concerns after working in marketing within the assisted living field is that false or exaggerated advertisements run rampant as each facility tries to out sell the other. This unethical marketing and advertisement is one reason why my field of study is an important battleground for assisted living. Without ethical advertising the family doesn’t get what they paid for and more importantly the senior is trapped in a situation that the family is unaware of. With more than 40% of assisted living seniors having a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s false advertisement within the memory care field is appalling. Charelene Harrington, a professor at University of California warns against such exaggerated advertisement of amenities and care and says, “Don’t be fooled by the decor. There is so much denial and such an appeal to that psychology”.
As I continued in my market research and found these mistreatments and abuse within assisted living facilities I realized that they are hidden from the general public and a façade of open courtyards and fun activities are propped up instead. I want to use my major to help expose this terrible marketing scheme that not puts profits ahead of lives and the necessary treatment of our seniors. I may not be studying to be a doctor or nurse but I am studying to be an ethical and honest marketer which is desperately needed in the assisted living system in today’s world of cutthroat marketing. I desire to use my skills and occupation in marketing to not only ethically and honestly advertise for these businesses but also to expose the neglect and abuse that the AOA so desperately wants the public to be aware of. In just one summer I was able to identify a very two pronged problem with the marketing within the assisted living facility system, and with the help of this scholarship I will hopefully be able to use my marketing skills to lead a campaign to educate America about the neglect and abuse of our seniors, as well as exposing the unethical and dishonest advertisement practices within the industry.

Response by Daniel Roenz, Franklin Pierce University

As I mentioned in my introduction, I believe it is crucial that senior citizens receive the care they need and deserve. Seniors in assisted living situations, especially, need the best quality of care that can be provided, whether it is nursing, geriatric medicine, nutrition, recreation, or physical/occupational therapy. One of the main reasons I became interested in becoming a physical therapist was so I could provide care to a group of people that others might neglect or forget about. Learning more about the profession, I knew it was the one for me because it gave me so many different areas to provide care to people, a large majority of those people being senior citizens.
Most, if not all, students hoping to get in to a physical therapy program must do some job shadowing experience with licensed physical therapists. One of the settings I chose to do my observation was in a skilled nursing facility with elderly residents. The skilled nursing facility was located in another rural town neighboring my hometown. Within the first minutes of the week I spent observing, I was in awe of all that the physical therapist did for these people. The large majority of the residents were required to go to therapy for a certain amount of time each week. What really surprised me was how much everyone seemed to enjoy coming to therapy. This surprised me because most physical therapy sessions aren’t exactly pleasant, as it requires the patient to work parts of the body that might be injured or sore or very weak. The residents at this skilled nursing facility were almost always pleased to come to therapy. I realized that therapy in a setting like this really focused on increasing the quality of life of these residents. Therapy also provided some fun social time between residents and the therapists. Some of the residents even took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with me while I was observing and were pleased to have another person to talk to. That week shadowing cemented my already strong desire to become a physical therapist because I saw what I could do for people in similar situations.
In three years, when I am done with my graduate schooling and am a licensed physical therapist, I plan to return to a setting like this to provide the best care I possibly can to people that not only need it, but deserve it. If I can create a therapeutic environment where I can help residents of a skilled nursing facility or assisted living community increase their quality of life and have a good time doing it, than I will have achieved my goal. As a physical therapist in an environment like this I will work extremely hard to treat people with respect and to treat the physical issues that they may have. If I can help someone be able to walk to lunch, instead of having to be pushed in a wheelchair, if I can decrease someone’s risk of falling by teaching them proper balance and strengthening their muscles, if I can brighten someone’s day by distracting them from the physical pain they may be experiencing by engaging in conversation with them and being respectful and listening to their needs, than I can call myself a successful physical therapist.
All of these aspirations are what my course of study can bring to people in assisted living situations. With my education, I hope to enhance the lives of people in these situations in my community and I believe I will have a profound effect with the skills I will learn.

Response by Danielle Edelglass, State University of New York at Cortland

Therapeutic recreation plays such a huge role in the lives of senior citizens. It gets senior citizens physically active, improves their memories and keeps them happy. Therapeutic recreation is so important in my facility because if there were no actives the residents would end up sitting in their wheelchairs staring at a television all day. Not only is that unhealthy but it is really depressing. I feel that my major could help the senior citizens in my town by getting more education on what I am already doing. My goal in life is to help people, and this is one way I know I can make a positive difference.
Staying physically active is really important, especially for senior citizens. They are limited in what they can do so anything type of exercise is healthy. Most of the residents at my facility tend to be a bit lethargic so it can sometimes be a challenge to get them moving. I generally do exercise groups in the morning when they have the most energy. One activity my residents like to do is throw a beach ball around. It gets their arms moving and allows more blood flow. Throwing and catching also increases hand and eye coordination. While tossing the ball I will also put on a music and dance around with them while they remain in their wheelchairs. This provides a great cardio workout for them. Cardio is essential in senior citizens lives to provide a healthy heart and reduce blood pressure. Keeping my residents active is a goal that I believe I achieve every day.
Generally, as people age, their memory strength decreases and it is one of my duties to help this problem. I use games and activates as a fun way to do so. I facilitate word games, crafts, trivia, and sensory games. These sort of games and activities also helps and slows down the process of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Even though they do get frustrated with themselves at times I remind them they are doing better each and every day and that gives them the courage to continue applying themselves. One resident in particular has had a huge improvement in his life ever since I started working with him one on one. He is only fifty-five and he had a brain trauma injury that has left him paralyzed on half of his body. He does forget a lot of things, but he finally is starting to remember people’s names, how to tell time, and various other basic information. When he first came to my facility he would barely talk and would only say a few words. Now his vocabulary has expanded, he uses his imagination, and shows an increase in his creativity. Exercising the brain is vital for every human being and I provide that in fun, creative ways.
Happiness is a necessity in everyone’s lives whether they are an adolescent or an elderly. My current job, and recently my present major, will provide happiness through recreation. It is not always easy for a new resident to adjust to a new environment so I try to be as accommodating as possible. This is a confusing time for the resident and getting them involved in group activates helps them feel a sense of belonging. Not all of the residents are able to participate in the activities I facilitate so I always do my best to provide a different type of recreation. For example, we have a few residents who are in geri chairs that do not talk so I will read those residents stories, play music for them, and organize to have a local pet therapist come twice a month with her cats and dogs. Even though they do not speak, their distinct smiles are a universal way of displaying happiness. Providing this amount and type of happiness is something I want to do for the rest of my life.
Therapeutic recreation is becoming more popular in today’s facilities and I want to become a part of it. It allows one to express themselves in groups or individually by participating in a game or an activity. For me personally, recreation is already considered therapy as it provides me with great happiness. I truly believe that my major in therapeutic recreation will increase my abilities to help the senior citizens in my community.

Response by Danielle Grabish, College of Southern Nevada

Seniors in assisted living facilities want to enjoy literature. Many of them are still mobile, active, and interested in broadening their horizons in their golden years. Reading literature improves quality of life. An inspiring literary work can take us to other places, teach us new things, and fill us with awe, wonder, and imagination. But there are things that present problems for seniors in assisted living facilities to have access to literature. There are ways to overcome these struggles and to continue to enjoy literature for a lifetime. I believe the study of English can make this possible.
The other day I was at my chiropractor’s office. An elderly gentleman is often there at the same time I am there. He tells me stories of his life and the services he appreciates in his assisted living facility. On this particular visit I asked him if there was a library within his community. He said there wasn’t but went on to discuss how much he loves reading. I could tell by the way his countenance lit up as he spoke that reading lifted his spirits and invigorated him. I thought to myself how much I long to see seniors enjoy literature by reading, listening, hearing, and sharing with others. I think many others living in assisted living facilities may feel the same way as this man.
Why? Literature is a vehicle for telling stories. Stories speak to us. They touch our lives every day, inspire us to believe that amazing things can happen, spur us to achieve beyond what we thought we could, create ideas that lead to discussion, and connect us with each other and our world. What begins as words on a page goes on to fill our souls with wonderful things like hopes, dreams, and relationships with others. Storytelling can bring memories back to mind and transport us to good times long forgotten. Stories can help us escape the confines of sickness and disease by sweeping us up into the adventure. Enjoyable stories, in all manner of formats from printed books to hand-written letters to movies, fill life with a sense of fun. They move our emotions, give reprieve from loneliness or grief, help us recall good times from our pasts, and boost our well-being. (Even as you read this essay, dear reader, you may be remembering a time where a compelling story had a profound effect on your life, your memories, or your beliefs.) It is the way of life – we bond through storytelling.
What about things that prevent such connection for seniors in assisted living facilities? Things such as distance, being housebound, or being deaf or hard-of-hearing? Can studying English lead to solutions to these problems? I believe so.
There are libraries and communities that offer different services that include: delivery of library materials to the housebound, tutorials for how to order library materials online, and a service where companions can come read aloud to non-readers. Another option would be for assisted living facilities to create libraries on-site within their communities, possibly even with connections to the local library district. Deaf or hard-of-hearing seniors could benefit from outreach services and on-site libraries even more if a signing interpreter were available. These are a few solutions to some of the problems seniors face in accessing literary materials and discussions.
Studying English leads to occupations such as teachers, writers, publishers, and librarians. These are the professionals that prepare the way to provide the rich benefits of literature, literary services and outreach programs to the seniors in assisted living facilities. As each person is enriched by stories and access to literature, they can feel happier and live healthier lives. A study of English can be useful in connecting seniors in assisted living facilities to enjoyable reading materials, new interests, and deeper relationships through literature.

Response by Dansil Green, California Polytechnic State University

Space, the Final Frontier, makes us journey into unknown and push our limits. As an Aerospace Engineering student, I have always been interested in the problems we can solve by looking to outer space. Through humanity’s work in progressing space exploration, we have discovered so much more about our world and the human body. This is why the research we do today, benefits the human race tomorrow. Though Aerospace Engineering is a more technical major, I hope that my work in the future can benefit the health of others through its connection to biological research.
With a rapidly aging America, it is vital to understand the effects of medicine on the body and revolutionize the way they are produced. Research done by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) is advancing our comprehension of such tasks. Since 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has conducted nine protein crystal growth experiments aboard the ISS (Masaki, 2015). Protein crystals grow in a more true structure aboard the ISS due to its microgravity environment. With a high quality crystal, it is easier to study its structure and produce a more effective medicine to treat the disease that the protein causes (Masaki, 2015). Many diseases occur within the human body as it ages, but with more effective treatments, senior citizens could become more independent.
Currently, another ongoing study about the human body is occurring on the ISS. Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut on a year-long mission aboard the ISS, is also a twin and has agreed along with his twin brother to let NASA study the effects of space compared to earth through their bodies. Because the twins have the same genetic make-up, it will be easier to determine the effect that each environment has on the body (NASA, 2015). One of the ten separate experiments will examine how the immune system responds to flu vaccines on both subjects (NASA, 2015). Through this study, we will be better able to understand how the vaccines work on the body and develop more effective treatments. Another study looking to improve treatment procedures and countermeasures, will examine any vision problems that may occur to Astronaut Scott Kelly during his one year mission. The Twins Study hopes to identify the cause of structural changes in the eye while in a microgravity environment (NASA, 2015). By identifying these causes in space, it could lead to improvements in vision treatments for older adults on earth.
Nutrition is a vital part of every assisted living facility on earth; and it is just as important for astronauts today on the ISS. Not long ago, Scurvy was the plague of many seafaring sailors, but this was merely caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C (Edwards & Abadie, 2015). It is important for astronauts today to get the proper nutrition through their food in order to carry out their assigned missions and experiments (Edwards & Abadie, 2015). As the scientists at NASA and other space agencies around the world improve nutrition in astronaut’s food, we will be able to advance nutritional research for those with many dietary restrictions. With limited space on the ISS, it is also vital for astronauts to get the most out of their daily exercises. Progression in the study of exercise could help physicians create more personalized exercise plans, especially for older adults who have limited mobility (Edwards & Abadie, 2015).
Research occurring on the ISS today may seem far away from what is happening on earth in my local assisted living facility (and in fact, the ISS does orbit 220 miles from the earth’s surface), but the reality is much different from that. For decades, advances on the ISS have improved our lives here on earth, and they will continue to occur as we invest in the space program. Through my major, I plan to help send even more astronauts into space every year so that they may continue the important work that benefits senior citizens and us all.

Response by David O’Keefe, University of California, Berkeley

Nearly every time I visit my grandmother in an assisted living facility in my hometown of Davis, California, one of her friends, a tall elderly gentleman, stands in the common room before a television singing karaoke at the top of his lungs. Whether it is Louis Armstrong or an Irving Berlin tune, he always sings far off key and way behind the beat. The women who sit around him always smile.
Music is not only a means of entertainment, but stimulating for the brain and body. The hand-eye coordination and dexterity necessary to play the piano, the lung capacity and breath control to sing, the mental acuity to hold a pitch, the sensitivity to keep a rhythm, and the memory to recall hundreds of melodies and chord progressions on the fly: these rudimentary musical skills keep the mind sharp and the spirit young. This has been my experience visiting my grandmother, who lives in a memory care unit.
Grandma helped raise me with my mother, and last year when she fell and hit her head, I was devastated to see her in pain and lacking her mental acuity. She could hardly remember me. Several months later, after daily therapy which included a kind of music therapy as she would regularly sing karaoke with the other residents of her facility and listen to piano music, my grandmother’s memory recovered and she could recognize me again.
I’ve taught music lessons for ten years, was a professional jazz performer in New York, and now am a PhD candidate in Music History and Literature at UC Berkeley. I had never thought before about how my field of study could help elderly citizens in assisted living facilities until my experiences with my grandmother. While jazz musicians often play in assisted living facilities (I played many of those jobs), I never considered the therapeutic value of music for the sake of ones mental acuity, memory, and spirit. Having a sharp mind and a quick response to stimuli were requirements of the music field that I simply took for granted.
In my hometown of Davis there are at least two large and several small assisted living facilities. I am part of a network of musicians who perform regularly for residents in the facility in which my grandma lives. But on top of this, I have started considering how my fellow musicians and I can bring more music into the lives of seniors, and how my studies of music history at UC Berkeley can also amplify the therapeutic value of music for seniors.
In my regular visits with my grandmother, I would often tell her of my studies. I would recount the plots of Mozart’s great operas, talk about the form and themes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or recount what I’d learned about Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger’s famous dancing duets of the 1930s. My grandmother loved all of this, and would especially enjoy watching televised concerts and listening to me play the piano on the small electric grand in the corner of the common room where the residents would hang out. Grandma is more modest than the gentleman who sings Louis Armstrong at the top of his lungs: she sings softly, usually to herself, but I know music was a part of her recovery after injuring her brain. (Like me, she’s always had a talent and love for music, though she never had the chance to cultivate it as I have.)
In recent years, I’ve given concerts at assisted living facilities, playing old numbers and show tunes, encouraging sing-alongs, and inviting residents to come sing their favorite old Broadway hits and jazz standards. I will continue to play these concerts, and I also believe that incorporating classical music history, piano, guitar, or singing lessons into regular therapy routines can have a remarkable impact for individuals recovering from brain trauma. I see the proof in my grandmother, and whenever I inquire about the kinds of activities that the seniors enjoy the most, the staff tell me the musical activities are among some of the longest-living resident’s favorites. Music, it seems, has the power to stimulate the mind, to bring joy, keep one young at heart, and thus to improve senior’s health, well-being, and longevity. I appreciate now the potential healing power of music for seniors in assisted living facilities, and look forward to bringing more music of the past into the lives of seniors who appreciate and benefit from old repertoires perhaps more than anyone else.

Response by Debby Yoder, Georgia State University

Gerontology is one of the truly interdisciplinary fields of study and examines virtually every aspect of the lives of older adults. We investigate the challenges they face in day-to-day actives and promote solutions to these issues by thinking creatively and engaging as many people as possible. Our older adult population is growing rapidly and becoming increasingly diverse which presents incredible opportunities. As we expand the aging network we can also solve other social problems and revive our sluggish economy. A few simple policy changes could accomplish so much to help meet the needs of our older adults. We could incentivize small businesses to focus on home modifications to help seniors remain in their homes. We could provide opportunities for our veterans to help older adults by providing additional educational benefits or funding to begin their own businesses. Training programs could help the chronically underemployed move into stable, well-paying jobs and provide much-needed home care for our oldest citizens. Most medical and nursing schools receive federal funds and could be required to provide a few hours of each semester to help future care providers understand the ways our healthcare needs change with age. Better healthcare means healthier, happier lives. We could adjust policy to encourage doctors to specialize in geriatric medicine or expand primary care services to better serve older adults. Most people say they would like to remain in their homes as they grow old but our suburban lifestyles will make this difficult for people as they stop driving. Having access to safe, reliable transportation will allow older adults to remain active and self-sufficient and could be provided at relatively low cost with government support. Community centers and senior centers could be merged to provide intergenerational programming. This would remove the stigma associated with senior centers and encourage participation. Older adults could help with childcare and share their life experience with younger people. After school programs pairing children with older adult mentors can provide assistance to growing families, help older adults to feel connected to their community and additional incentive to remain in their homes.
My major, Gerontology, is working to engage people in thinking about creative solutions such as these to improving the lives of older adults. We talk with others about what aging means and how we can help older adults to live happier, more satisfying lives. In helping change the perception of aging away from old stereotypes and towards an image of vibrant people with changing needs, we encourage people to reach out to the older adults in their lives and find the services they need to make life more manageable. Gerontology helps people to understand the importance of advocating for older adults and that the changes we make now will benefit them when they are older. By changing the way people think about growing old, we remove stigma and encourage open dialog about the process. More openness will provide better understanding and allow us to grow the aging network in ways most appropriate to meeting the needs of our older adults.

Response by Demetria Jasey, University of Maryland Baltimore County

My major of Sociology is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the study of development, structure, and functioning of human society.” Sociology could improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town on Beltsville, Maryland by providing them with adequate living arrangements, such as allowing them to meet with one another to socialize and converse at least twice a week. Also, having 24/7 visitation rights would be another way that could help them connect with friends and family more often. Both of these arrangements will improve the lives of the seniors because this will improve their health and make sure that they have the social ties and social support systems to be able to express their problems so that it will not take a toll on their lives and cause their health to decline. Sociology can also improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities by providing the seniors with their own shopping stores, grocery stores, and hospitals. By doing this, it will provide the seniors with their own society. It will help them function while still being able to do the things that they would normally do if they were to live outside of the assistant living facility.
One specific focus within Sociology is penology and criminology. This could improve the seniors’ lives in a living facility by providing them with essential protection and security. This will help them be able to remain safe and live a crime free, or reduced crime life, while maintaining a safe living space in the living facility. By achieving this, the facilities could install security cameras and hiring security to watch over and protect the senior citizens that live in the assisted living facility. This security would better the senior citizens’ well being because they will feel more safe and comfortable in their living spaces.
I think that the greatest way that Sociology would help improve seniors’ assistant living spaces would be to make their lives and living spaces as similar as if they were living on their own, in a regular neighborhood. Sociology is all about the functions of society and how people interact on a daily basis. These daily interactions help society function and can help seniors adapt to their living quarters without stress from changes. If their assistant living spaces created a society like replica of their normal communities and neighborhoods, they would feel more independent and more comfortable living there.
By providing better security, creating a society where the seniors feel comfortable, having 24 hour visitation 7 days a week, and creating interactions with the seniors in the assistant living, the seniors will have a better health and experience less stress. They will be safe, while also being independent and having interactions that they would have on a daily basis outside of the assistant living quarter. The seniors’ health is the most important thing, and it is important that they feel at home and comfortable in a place that they have to reside in for a long duration of their lives. Also, it is important that they get to do the things that they would still like to do. By combining all of these resources, it will improve the seniors’ assistant living tremendously, while still pleasing the people that live there.

Response by Diane Javier, Western University

Growing up in an underserved community in Lancaster, California, there is a need of senior care pharmacists in my hometown. A senior care pharmacist provides one-on-one consultation with their patient, often in convenience of the patient’s assisted living facility. They specialize in developing, maintaining, and enhancing their clinical competence in geriatrics and the unique medication-related needs of the senior population through life-long learning, which includes post-graduate residencies and continuing pharmaceutical education focused on geriatrics and senior care pharmacy. For multiple decades, consultant pharmacists have dedicated themselves to protecting the health of our seniors. However, medication-related problems are estimated to be one of the top causes of death in those over the age of sixty-five, and a major cause of confusion, depression, falls, disability, and loss of independence. While medications are probably the single most important factor in improving the quality of life for older Americans, the nation’s seniors are particularly at risk for medication-related problems due to physiological changes of aging, higher incidence of multiple chronic diseases and conditions, and greater consumption of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Senior care pharmacists serve an important yet often overlooked role in healthcare, especially in a time where older patients are taking anywhere between eight and thirteen prescriptions on average. They ensure that their patient’s medications- prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, and nutritional- are the most appropriate, the most effective, the safest possible, and are used correctly, as well as identify, resolve, and prevent medication-related problems that may interfere with the goals of therapy. In their role in medication therapy management, senior care pharmacists take responsibility for their patients’ medication-related needs. But senior care pharmacists go well beyond reviewing medications. A senior care pharmacist has studied and acquired extensive knowledge and experience in immunization scheduling and recommendation, advocating healthy living practices and disease prevention for seniors, recognizing and understanding diseases and conditions common in the senior population, identifying medication-related problems that can cause, aggravate, or contribute to common geriatric problems, and make it easier for seniors to take their medications properly by labeling, packaging, organizing prescription drugs better. In addition, pharmacists understand the financial challenges that a senior faces, so they are trained to compare and help choose the most affordable health care coverage available under Medicare Part D.
In cooperation with patients and other health care professionals, senior care pharmacists take responsibility for their patients medical-related needs by ensuring their patients’ care is the most appropriate. However, aside from possessing skills specifically tailored to seniors’ needs, senior care pharmacists have a different perspective from most physicians. There’s a tendency for physicians to prescribe for a senior, but a senior care pharmacist would first look to see if the symptom itself is a side effect of a current medication. For example, does the medication make you sleepy? Do you feel anxious, confused, or depressed? Do you feel dizzy or light-headed? Do you sleep poorly at night? All of these aforementioned symptoms may be medication related. In this way, a senior care pharmacist will comprehensively evaluate how medications affect quality of life, thereby eliminating physician visits and additional unnecessary prescriptions and medical expenses. By evaluating a patient’s symptoms, medication, medical history, and personal preferences, senior care pharmacists take a holistic approach in patient care, increasing patient overall quality of life. I strive to achieve my dream of becoming a senior care pharmacist and serving my hometown of Lancaster, California.

Response by Dominick Trevino, Hawaii Community College

Skilled registered nurses are highly sought after in Hilo, Hawaii- where I am currently residing. In Hilo, we have one hospital and three assisted living facilities which are never fully staffed. During my CNA class, we were taught to call that “staff challenged” not understaffed because it’s supposed to sound better. Our clinical rotation was held at Hale Anuenue Restorative Care Center and I experienced first hand the difficulty faced when a facility is “staff challenged”. Hale Anuenue has approximately 120 residents. Staffed by just 15 CNAs, 5 RNs, 2 physicians, and 2 pharmacists. The residents here range from needing little assistance to being totally dependent on their caregivers. We were told stories of former staff members cutting corners to finish tasks faster, claiming they provided residents with assistance when they truly did not, and even overdosing troublesome residents so they wouldn’t have to deal with them no more. I was sick to my stomach after hearing these things.
I am currently applying for work as a CNA at multiple locations in Hilo. With the superior training I received by my fantastic instructor and my passionate attitude and desire to provide for our seniors, I plan on bettering the care they receive drastically. I hope to find a job that allows flexible schedules so I can get my associates, then bachelors degree and become a registered nurse As a registered nurse, I will make it my life’s work to ensure that our elders, or “kupuna”, are cared for properly, maintain a sense of autonomy and dignity, as well as being provided with mindful caregiving.
During my clinical rotation at Hale Anuenue, I caught the attention of multiple staff members and numerous residents because of my enthusiasm, positive attitude, and my knowledge. There was one resident who caught my attention as well. Her name was Jane. Due to HIPAA, I will not divulge her last name. She was a phenomenal woman who developed a liking to me. She watched me step up and volunteer to do all I could to help the staff, and doing all it took to provide excellent care to her peers. She pulled me to the side and asked what I was planning on doing once I finished my class and I told her that my dream is to become a registered nurse so I can make a difference in Hawaii’s healthcare. She told me, “Seeing how you work here, I know you’re doing it for the right reasons. You’re doing it for us, not for you. I can tell because everyone else here is doing it for a paycheck. I see your passion for me and my fellow residents. Don’t give up on school because we need you”. Being a man, I had to fight the tears but I was choked up. I could not believe that this woman believed in me so deeply after only meeting her days prior.
In Hawaii, we have a proud tradition of valuing family and respecting our elders or our “kupuna”. These people built the foundation of our communities and deserve to be cared for in the highest esteem. My major of study will help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities because I will be able to provide them with outstanding care, ensure that they maintain autonomy and dignity, and epitomize mindful caregiving.

Response by Ed Greenhalgh, Rocky Mountain University

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.” Many seniors suffer the debilitating effects of disease that when not properly handled can lead to being physically, mentally, and socially unwell. Many seniors without disease suffer the effects of “old age” that society seems to think is the natural process of aging. We know there are changes to the human body and mind as aging occurs, but disability and being unwell is not something we as a society should accept as inevitable. There is much to be done to promote wellness, especially among the aging population.
Physical activity is important for all individuals. There is substantial evidence showing the positive effects of exercise on the many systems of the body in individuals of all ages. Getting people to be active is an excellent strategy of prevention. Not all diseases can be prevented by exercise, but many can and focusing more on prevention rather than treatment after the diagnosis could save money and prevent unnecessary suffering for many. Physical therapists should have the understanding of how the human body works along with common impairments and how to exercise effectively to prevent or minimize the effects of current impairments. We understand the benefits in all aspects of life that exercise and other physical activity has on this specific population.
Residents in assisted living facilities would benefit from the facility implementing a program involving physical therapists and physical activity. The physical therapist would oversee the program, providing training to the residents and other individuals to facilitate the program. Training would include proper exercise techniques to reduce the risks associated with activity, such as falls, fractures, pulled muscles, etc. The program would include both individual sessions 2 times per week with an aide that would include exercises as outlined by the therapist, and one group session also facilitated by an aide under the direction of the therapist. The group session would allow individuals to feel support from others who are in similar circumstances and help them feel they are a part of something. The therapist would be on-site two times per month to set up the exercise plan and assess progress and make needed changes on an individual basis. Exercise would be based on the individual resident and address specific impairments or areas of needed improvement and would include goals to measure progress. The therapist would provide the expertise and make sure everything is run as it should, while having another individual such as a CNA would help the residents remain active while still being more cost effective while not losing out on the exercise and human body expertise.
Focusing on helping individuals stay active will help prevent falls, hospitalizations, and other problems associated with aging. This will help reduce the amount of money spent on hospitalizations, surgeries, and other skilled services. Keeping individuals active will help them have a greater quality of life and help prevent co-morbidities that lead to a decline in health and function. Exercise will provide these individuals with a sense of purpose and belonging. Benefits can include, but are not limited to better sleeping, better eating, greater thinking and concentration abilities, and a greater love for life. Exercise can help reduce the risk for depression, anxiety and other conditions that reduce an individual’s well-being. All aspects of an individual’s life can be positively impacted by being active.

Response by Elizabeth Barnes, Academy of Art University in San Francisco

I am studying Interior Architecture at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA. I live Oakland and I have seen how interior design can improve the lives of seniors at Baywood Court, a nearby assisted living facility. The interior designer can create a beautiful and cohesive space for the residents and can for example, hire painters or carpet installers that they have developed long term working relationships with that can generate a cost savings to the facility. Besides connections to resources needed by the facility, designers also understand the process and can quickly turnaround projects.
The design process begins with discussions with the board of directors about the needs of the residents. Next research is done to determine the best design solutions for the interior space. Research is followed by developing options and presenting ideas in the form of drawings, models and samples to the board of directors. After feedback and revisions, vendors are contacted to determine if the needs of the community can be met within the set schedule and budget. Upon approval, the designer manages the project, change orders and payments to the vendors.
Further proof of the positive effect of interior design on the lives of seniors is presented in a 2011 study spearheaded by six design organizations (ASID, CIDA, IDC, IIDEC, IIDA and NCIDQ) which provides evidence that interior design impacts the public health, safety and welfare of the people who will use a particular space. The responsibility of every interior designer is to promote the health, safety and welfare of their clients. Simply stated, interior design can aid with comfort, access, privacy, and flexibility which are the key needs of the residents. Here are examples of how interior design can improve the lives of seniors at an assisted living facilities near me: ·
The layout of the building can provide ease of use and enhance the physical well-being of the residents. ·
The design of the overall space should provide for a central eating area.
Small spaces should be created for playing cards and meeting for book clubs to keep minds sharp.
Small spaces should be created for increasing indoor physical activity such as a dance halls or playing video games.
The facility should include a pool and interior exercise space to promote healing and reduce stress.
The space should accommodate the varying level of resident needs including independent living, assisted living and a skilled nursing facility.
Other spaces of convenience such as onsite beauty salons and gift shops should be considered in the plan.
Accessibility codes must be adhered to for safety reasons:
Easy access should be created for those using walkers and wheel chairs through public and private spaces.
Both elevators and stairs should be available to the residents.
Rooms should be available to meet special needs, such as curb-less showers. ·
Furnishings should be environmentally friendly, easy to use, dual purpose, meet fire code, be ergonomically correct and adjustable to ensure a productive and healthy living situation for the residents:
Environmentally friendly carpets and fabric can easily be sourced through an interior designer.
Easy to use and multi-functionally lighting for ambient, task and accent uses should be provided to residents. Appropriate lighting levels for each space can be determined by the interior designer.
Residents should have easy to use morning check in technology in their room, along with buzzers to remind them to take their medications.
Dual purpose window treatment that allows for complete privacy, filtered light or bottom-up/top down shades are options that the designer can discuss to meet the needs of the facility or the individual.
Ergonomically correct furniture and adjustable furniture minimizes fatigue and increase comfort which can prevent health problem and increase quality of life.
Acoustics and soundproofing should be considered to maximize the sound qualities in all rooms.
Lastly, an Interior designer can create a beautiful, refreshing and cohesive space for the residents of a retirement community with an eye to design form and function. A beautiful and useful space is a space that people enjoy and savor.

Response by Elizabeth Burns, Auburn University

The geriatric population accounts for a huge portion of the patients that are seen by audiologists today. There are many causes of hearing loss which can include: noise induced hearing loss, complications at birth, genetics, and presbycusis. Presbycusis is the loss of hearing due to increased age, which can be caused by many different factors. This type of hearing loss is typically found in both ears and is a high frequency hearing loss. A great way for audiologists to help with the improvement of their hearing is to provide amplification via hearing aids.
Although hearing aids are continuously evolving, they currently contain many small, delicate parts that can be troublesome for the elderly population. Though not all, a great amount of the geriatric patients seen by audiologists have troubles with dexterity and working with small objects. This can be difficult when the patient needs to change the battery of the hearing aid, which can be as often as once per week or less depending on the use. There are other areas of the hearing aid that need maintenance as well that can be difficult for a patient who has trouble with their dexterity, some of these include: cleaning the hearing aid, changing the wax traps, and changing the domes on the hearing aid if the patient has a hearing aid in which the receiver is located in the ear canal.
People who are receiving in-home care can experience many benefits from an audiologist. At the hearing evaluation appointment, the audiologist can show the patient and the care-giver how to take care of the hearing aid and perform the needed weekly maintenance on the devices. Keeping the hearing aids up-to-date on their maintenance can improve the output of the hearing aid for the patient which can lead to the overall better quality of life for the patient.
There is a large amount of research that has been performed that proves if hearing loss is left untreated, it can lead to a poorer quality of life. Since the auditory portion of the brain is not being stimulated as needed, that area of the brain becomes weak. Untreated hearing loss can lead to other mental disorders such as dementia, depression and an overall lack of cognitive function. The job of an audiologist is to detect these hearing losses and figure out a plan of action that is best for the patient.
Having an improved quality of life can also cause the patient to become motivated in their daily activities, which can be a huge benefit when receiving in-home care. My grandmother receives in-home care at our house and what I have seen with my personal experience, is that her motivation can determine the amount of activities that can be accomplished during the time that the caregiver is present. When a patient is more motivated, they are more likely to want to participate in the tasks that are needed in every-day life. Therefore, if the patient is suffering from a hearing loss and is then treated with amplification, it can possibly help with the patient’s motivation to complete their daily activities.

Response by Elizabeth McDonald, University of Texas at El Paso

Think about what occupies your time throughout the day, every little activity, from getting ready in the morning with your hygienic routine, to getting dressed, to preparing your meals, to doing your job, to your leisure time with hobbies and social activities. Now imagine doing those activities with one arm, or after a stroke, or having developmental delays, or any other disability or illness preventing you from accomplishing these activities. An Occupational Therapist helps people to adapt their abilities, the world around them, and refine their skills so they can function to their fullest each day in everything they do.
Occupational Therapy (OT) is a constant environment of change challenging you to adapt on a daily basis, not only as a therapist but for the patient too. As an older adult patient a sudden change in your life brought you to OT. These changes are sometimes unwilling choices, not asking for this new chapter that life has presented. Adapting for the patient is strange, scary and very new. For a therapist, your day is a constant barrage of change where adaptations have to be made in the moment. My adaptability to adapt will be a resource for them knowing that this new hand life has dealt does not have to be tackled alone.
Older adults in assistant living need to engage in some kind of activity, something to occupy their time whether it is work, play, leisure, or rest. These occupations give them meaning and value to their lives and can vary from cooking a meal, still being involved in their community, or working on their favorite hobby. The ability to engage in these types of activity can be limited or cut off due to illness or unforeseen circumstances. Adaptations need to be made to continue in these activities. A person who is recovering from a stroke needs to relearn abilities and how to apply to their daily lives. Occupational Therapy does just that not only on the medical level but on a personal individual level. For individuals in a wheel chair adaptations to their environment allows them the ability to engage in their daily routine. Safety is another item that occupational therapist take into consideration when analyzing a person’s daily activities. Fall prevention is key as adults get older. Occupational Therapists work along with caregivers and family to best understand and coordinate what the client needs are. Dementia is rapidly growing with the older community. Occupational therapy enhances function, promoting functionality and social interaction.
Change is a frightful thing. It fills you with emotions such as anxiety, excitement, doubt, hesitation, and more. Change is something that you can decide for yourself or it can be forced upon you at a moment’s notice. It can be positive or negative, or even both in its own ironic way. It’s how we adapt to changes in our lives that strengthens and builds us as individuals. Adaptation can sometimes be easy and other times very difficult, pushing us to define who we are and what we strive to become. My road here to El Paso, Texas to this point in my life has been filled with so many changes and my innate ability to adapt to them has helped me grow as a person and shown me the type of individual I strive be. Someone who is smart, open minded, determined, a good listener, patient, a person to look up to, kind and compassionate, helpful, motivating, strong willed and the type of person you would want in your corner to be there during the good and bad and will always tell you the truth in a way that is understanding, straight forward, and nonjudgmental. This is the type of person I want to be for my clients.

Response by Elizabeth Piza, Binghamton University

There are many ways that students in my major, nursing, can help improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities. Nursing students are learning many skills as they work to become nurses. Some of these are clinical, hands on skills, such as passing medications and assisting with non-invasive medical activities and others are interpersonal skills. Because many facilities are short staffed, nursing students can be used to help assist some of the staff nurses during their rounds. As nursing students we are learning how to assist people with their daily living skills and we can assist both the nurses and aides in getting some of the residents, for whom their activities of daily living are more difficult, ready for their day.
In my nursing program, we are scheduled to work in a long-term care facility for two separate rotations and attend activities at a local senior center but we never spent any time in an assisted living facility. As a nursing school, situated in a community where 20% of the population is considered elderly (over 65) there should be a greater focus on having nursing students work as agents within the nursing homes and assisted living facilities to bring these seniors into the community so they are less inclined to be isolated and lonely.
Working as agents to bring seniors back into the community may be accomplished in several ways. The nursing faculty could create a class where a component of the student’s grade comes from working with staff and residents at an assisted living facility for a specified period of time throughout the semester. Another way student nurses could get involved would be to create a volunteer organization where students, nursing and others, could volunteer time to seniors in assisted living facilities.
For individuals who find traveling outside of the facility difficult, nursing students could volunteer to come to the home where they can visit with seniors, take them outside for walks around the facility, read with them, listen to music, or assist them in any way they need. Assisted living facilities often have programming that is geared towards the seniors but the nursing students can also help to create, with the residents, programming for individuals and groups that will encourage a more engaged community setting. Because nursing students are based out of the university there may be ways to engage the residents in the assisted living facilities in activities that occur on campus or in locations throughout the city.
Nursing majors can be instrumental in working with other departments at the university to create technological aides for seniors and work with other departments to create student led programming for seniors in their facilities. Bringing other students from different disciplines into the facilities to conduct classes or tutorial sessions for seniors would continue to engage the seniors in learning activities. It would be important to work with the seniors in order to determine what types of activities interest them in order to tailor the educational sessions appropriately.
Typically, seniors who live in assisted living facilities are capable of engaging in activities outside of the facility and many benefit from the interactions that occur during multigenerational outings. Because of staffing concerns, many outings are coordinated by family, community, and volunteer organizations. Nursing students could be another agent that can help organize activities and transportation from the facility into the community. For example, nursing students can organize outings to local restaurants where the seniors can meet with the chefs, allowing the seniors to engage in a cooking class where they are able to prepare and eat their meals outside of the assisted living facility.
Encouraging nursing students to become routinely involved in developing programs that focuses on improving mind and body stimulation for seniors can help improve the senior’s overall health. As a major, nurses can be agents for change and can bring community members into the assisted living facilities as a way to keep seniors engaged in their community of origin. Reducing isolation and loneliness is key to encouraging health and wellbeing and can help alleviate boredom and a lack of independence that may set in once an individual has to move from their home into an assisted living facility. Regardless of the activities, integrating young and old both inside and outside of the assisted living facilities will enrich the lives of everyone involved.

Response by Elizabeth Podewils, Indiana Wesleyan University

The field of counseling offers seniors in assisted living facilities numerous avenues for personal growth and overall improvement of their everyday lives.
The process of aging is a catalyst that brings about a number of natural changes. The result is a common experience among seniors, in which they face a potentially overwhelming combination of challenges unique to this stage of life. Primal shifts brought about by aging invite a multitude of physical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual trials. Declining physical health and functioning, loss of independence, and the death of loved ones are some of these contributing stressors. An increased prevalence of mental illnesses is evident among the geriatric population as well, commonly including dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
Each of these experiences can individually stir up feelings of sadness, worthlessness, loneliness, confusion, hopelessness, and grief. When such impactful difficulties occur simultaneously, it can seem unbearable. At such a time, reaching out for the necessary emotional support is imperative to overall wellbeing. This allows counselors a unique opportunity: to be encouragers, organizers, supporters, motivators, and, ultimately, pillars of hope for their clients. Counselors are gifted the immense responsibility and privilege of meeting individuals in the midst of their most vulnerable moments and walking alongside them in their journey through healing.
While healing wounds is important for seniors who are hurting, counseling is equally as important and appropriate for seniors who seem and feel well-adjusted. Individual aspects of holistic well-being can be easily overlooked, even when people feel satisfied with their lives. Especially in the late stages of life, habits, attitudes, and “norms” are well-established and deeply rooted. Although having developed a routine and certain standards for everyday living can be entirely healthy, it has the potential to invite complacency. It can set seniors up to be satisfied with much less than what their lives can be. People are created not just to survive and become comfortable, but to thrive. Even in old age, seniors have the same right to wonder, dream, plan, explore, hope, and to be overcome with joy. I believe that counseling not only makes this possible, but also acknowledges that this part of life—thriving—is just as important as meeting physical needs.
Although each senior’s experience is unique, I perceived a commonality among this population in the majority of assisted living facilities I have observed. I notice that for many, old age can be painfully isolating. I recognize counseling as the antithesis to isolation, even in its simplest form. When someone is counseled, they are afforded the space to get to know themselves deeply, in a way that most people go their whole lives without doing. This self-awareness breeds feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy. In this way, seniors would be empowered by a counselor not only acknowledging their worth and abilities, but by helping them to discover it for themselves and to use it to improve every area of their lives.
I believe residents would be best served in an assisted living facility that had counseling readily available to them. Seniors should be provided information on local counselors and transportation to scheduled appointments, or counselors should work directly for the assisted living facility. Group therapy would be incredibly beneficial, especially at a time of life that has the potential to be so isolating. Various support groups are another option, with topics of common and shared experiences, such as aging, dementia, veterans, or grief. Recreational activities can also be therapeutic, such as art projects or journaling.
Counseling is invaluable to the senior population in particular, being that old age itself invites numerous unavoidable challenges. Through self-exploration and empowerment, counseled seniors can not only heal potential wounds, but also thrive in a new life stage.

Response by Elizabeth Witmer, Eastern Mennonite University

Being an advocate is perhaps one of the most important roles a social worker has. Providing a voice for those who have been caught up in an ever-changing world can make an impactful difference in how they approach life and others. While it is sad to admit, oftentimes in American society, devaluing and marginalizing the elderly has become commonplace, even though these are the people we should be seeking guidance and wisdom from. How can we stop this trend from proceeding any further? As a social worker, I have the power to step up and back what my clients need, providing authority to the request. If a senior is not familiar with health insurance, for example, I may act as the person who helps them find a health insurance plan that is right for them and ensures that they are not taken advantage of in the process.
In advocating for others, however, I am not simply speaking for a voiceless being. I am speaking for individuals in a way that preserves their dignity and worth. In my position, I am not making decisions that bypass the desires of my client. Every step of the way, I am consulting with my client and treating him or her as a partner. I can provide my recommended course of action, but should my client decide he or she does not want to go that route, I have to be able to step back and acknowledge that ultimately it is not my decision to make. Should Mrs. Jones, for example, not believe having an abortion is morally right under any circumstance, she may choose to not go with the Medicare plan that covers limited abortions. Regardless of what I believe related to the issue, I have to respect her decision and find a suitable alternative. On a more macro level, I can advocate for policy that benefits seniors in my town, as well as nationwide. This may include legislature related to but not limited to Social Security, health insurance, and taxes. By advocating for seniors in a way that makes them a collaborator instead of a passive participant, we can work at changing the atmosphere surrounding seniors and assisted living while treating seniors as people with dignity and respect.
The importance of human relationships is another core value of social work. While social workers do need to maintain a professional relationship with their clients, they also need to establish therapeutic rapport and that human relationship with their client. Again, this relationship reminds seniors that they are still important and contributing members of society. The more we empower people to use their strengths and contribute to society, the more involved and unified of a society we have. By networking with other involved parties, commodities such as social activities and educational classes can be established and offered to seniors in assisted living facilities.
Social work is very much about advocating for and empowering people to reach their fullest potential. By actively seeking to transform society’s treatment and perception of the elderly, we can become more committed to human rights and social justice as a society. How can I, as a social worker, improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities in my town? I can remind them that they are valued and active members of society. I can remind them they are still people, and then make sure everyone else knows that.

Response by Ellen Kaufman, Denver School of Science and Technology

The first time I saw my artwork hanging on the wall alongside so many other beautiful pieces of work, I recognized what my purpose was—to create art. I think that throughout people’s lives they notice actions and events that make them feel meaningful. I don’t believe the desire to live a meaningful life goes away when people get older, the opportunities simply decrease. That’s why I want to use my major of study, art, to improve the lives of the elderly by increasing their opportunity to create art. In-home care provides people with easier and happier lives. But with the addition of access to art, in-home care can also help people feel purposeful. Art is a uniquely human task that allows people to escape reality and focus on a goal with every brush stroke. In-home care can improve the lives of seniors by giving access to art, and therefore giving access to happier and more meaningful lives.
One of the best aspects of art is that everyone can create it, and there are many different forms of exciting art to create. In-home care can provide seniors access to many different kinds of art depending on their interests. For example, seniors interested in creating paintings with people and landscapes can learn how to paint with acrylics and water color on canvases. Seniors interested in creating mugs and vases can be provided with clay. They can also create baskets, jewelry, collages, and so on. Seniors can learn how to create art through books that in-home care can provide, or in-home care takers can be taught the basics of art mediums to share with the seniors they are helping. Books and materials that would be provided are relatively cheap, and a small fee can be paid in order to accommodate the cost for those interested. Otherwise, hourly classes can be arranged for in-home care takers so they can learn techniques to create art that they can later share. However, there is no wrong way to create art. So regardless of the knowledge the seniors possess, they can still enjoy the transcendental task of creating art. There are many smart and effective ways to make art a part of in-home care.
Art within the in-home care system will give seniors something to look forward to, and will make seniors happier and more fulfilled. Art can be easily done in a comfort of a home, so seniors participating can remain comfortable and relaxed while creating art pieces. They also have a wide variety of art that they can create, so seniors can choose to create art that is more tailored towards their own passions. By making art, seniors can work towards a goal and relax. As a result of this goal, seniors can feel purposeful. If nothing more, being able to create art can simply bring an exciting new activity to seniors’ lives, and make them happier. I want to study art because I know the relaxing and electrifying feeling it gives me, and although I know that it won’t necessarily bring the same feelings to others; it is a fun task can be done in a variety of ways to help people. As people grow older, they stop creating goals and looking forward to things. So by making art a part of seniors lives, in-home care can provide meaning to people’s lives. Bringing art into the in-home care system can be easily done, and it can bring so much joy, excitement, and purpose to people’s lives.

Response by Elvira Poteri, Boise State University

The elderly population in the United States is struggling. Elderly people are facing many challenges, and those challenges can be found in the economic, social and political areas. Struggles among elderly population are often overlooked by many people in today’s society. However, public perceptions may not match reality due to the public’s lack of contact with the elderly population. There is also a denial by people to confess about their struggles because of the label they could carry and clearly indicate them as a certain labeled group.
I am very proud to say that I am a senior who is majoring in the Health Science with Public Health Emphasis. My major can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities because we ask the questions and we want the answers. We keep the communication going. Questions we might ask are, “Who helps elderly population? What’s their future? Is anyone responsible for their future? Government? State? Public? Are we ready for growing population?” American Public Association publicized the following quote: “Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. While a doctor treats people who are sick, those of us working in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place. We also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors.” According to this quote, I believe my major is definitely a strong candidate for building healthy communities.
One of the good and beneficial work characteristics of my major is to give a chance to students to learn how to work with different agencies and projects in their community. I gained a lot of experience being in this program and by working on the community issues that we are facing today. Gaining this experience is golden for any probable community problems that we could come across in the future. This acquired knowledge and skills, through education practice, are very important steps and are necessary for future people needs. This major gives students a chance to compare the new experience with their existing experience, the ideal opportunity to present themselves, and to discover the importance of communication and exchange of intellect.
Finally, I would like to point out that the elderly population needs this kind of support or guide where the degree process in the Public Health is worth the money, the time, and the effort. Also, the growing population needs someone who can lower their frustrations, and make them believe there is a support system to help them achieve success. Not everyone has a spouse, a family, or friend support, and not everyone has an opportunity to financially help themselves in todays, and future’s society.
I live in Boise City; a great place to thrive in because of myriad prospective to offer, than just comfortable space for senior citizens. As Boise city grows and seeks to prosper, it must now compare itself to other big cities. In order to sustain the unique qualities that make Boise city successful, it is essential to help the elderly population to get their lives together. I hope that educational investment of this program is going to revitalize Boise people, economy, and all other operations necessary for future growth.
I believe, in order to support elderly population in assisted living facilities, we can help with encouraging communication, activities, and enhance support policies across Idaho State. The Public Health major is a huge field that can plan, advocate, coordinate, respond, counsel, and refer for senior citizens in living facilities.
As I mentioned, the elderly population is struggling. Therefore, I believe my major of study can research what resources Boise city already provides to seniors, identify the resources, provide recommendations, and implement new discoveries to improve the elderly population lives in assisted living facilities.

Response by Emili Sherfield, Indiana Wesleyan University

It seems as though seniors in assisted living facilities run the risk of being disregarded within society. Once they enter a home, despite their mental or physical state, it can be easy to write their humanity off. I have heard and witnessed accounts of seniors being neglected or forgotten, as if their lives are of less quality. I believe they desire, and even require, an outlet to express themselves. Despite age, each person needs some type of outlet to avoid suppressing emotions. Art Therapy presents patients with a creative process that can lead to beautiful pieces. Although, the outcome is not more important than the fact of benefitting the producer by letting out any contained emotion. An art therapist is then able to evaluate the work to best help the person. When help is provided, a person has the opportunity to live to their highest potential.
Art Therapy has also led to physical and mental improvements in seniors. For elderly who might not engage in much activity, creating art stimulates the brain in ways to prevent cognitive decline. Studies have shown great successes for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, and dementia in general. It is true that even though memories are lost, the physical act of creating is able to reconnect links in the brain. Functions that have seemed lost suddenly resurface to produce artwork. Creativity uses different communicative paths in the brain that can improve navigations to memory. Art has become triggers for elderly to provide direct connections to past experiences. It can be common for these patients to also struggle with aggression and depression. The use of art has proven to restore a sense of calm and happiness to those people.
Along with these improvements, Art Therapy provides self-esteem, sense of achievement, motivation, and emotional support. If an elder struggles with purpose or physical ability, creating art has the chance re-establish self-esteem. It is a creative outlet that not only spurs goal setting, but provides an object to be proud of. They can make artwork that expresses reasons to live and enjoy life. Pieces can be physical representations that prove, even if just to the creator, that they are completely capable. It can also give the person the ability to see what they have accomplished. Despite whether the process is used to relieve pent-up emotions or provide an avenue for communication that is normally lost, art produces motivation. Motivation to continue to create and bring confidence through a sense of success. As prefaced above, art can be a very strong expression of emotions. Words are not always sufficient for how a person feels. Feelings that were unknown can suddenly be expressed in artwork that give a therapist a chance to better understand and help that person.
I believe Art Therapy can improve seniors’ lives everywhere, and specifically in my hometown. Many years ago, when I was a Girl Scout, my troop visited an assisted living facility in my town near the holidays to spend time with elderly and make crafts. Reflecting back on that experience, it was evident how even that act of making simple objects and images out of foam shapes brought joy and accomplishment to those elders. It was an outlet that fostered creativity and determination to create something they could appreciate. I have seen first-hand the power artistic processes hold in expression and communication, and that is why I believe Art Therapy can greatly improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities.

Response by Emily Harris, Idaho State University

My entire life I have been an advocate of leading a healthy lifestyle and incorporating preventative medicine/care into my life and the lives of others. Living a full and happy life should not end as we approach an advanced age and watching my grandparents and great aunt progress through assisted living to nursing care has only strengthened my belief that preventative care should be carried through to assisted living facilities. I think it is not only important to have activities and social events for assisted living residents, but also incorporate an emphasis on healthy nutritional meals, supplementation and exercise. I cannot count the number of broken hips and falls I hear about. Of course there are accidents that cannot be avoided, but if there are frailties or balance issues due to a lack of exercise and muscular use, that is something that can and should be prevented. If a facility does not have the capacity for exercise classes and activities that utilize various muscle groups, there should be a partnership that exists between the facility and a local fitness center. The foundation to success with this model is that participation in this program is required, and that it has different levels of intensity to offer to those that may require adjustments to their program.
My dream has always been to start my own consulting business in which there would be a team of professionals who would implement preventative care programs in healthcare settings including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, and senior care centers. My plan of an MBA with an accounting emphasis includes taking the Idaho CPA exam when I graduate. In addition to my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, it is my hope that with being a certified accountant I might have just enough knowledge from each aspect (healthcare, business, and managing finances) to successfully start and grow a profitable business. By implementing my programs in senior care centers, we will be able to improve the lives of seniors by increasing their energy levels, enhancing their moods, strengthening their bones, joints, muscles and immune systems, and assisting in improving their social awareness and involvement. Where this is my dream, I know that sometimes dreams do not happen. Although failure is not on option in my mind when involving my aspirations, I am also familiar with reality. If I do not accomplish starting this business, I hope to be given the ability to utilize my knowledge and passion as a managing member of a senior care center or network, still allowing my goals of incorporating preventative care into the facility.
In closing, when it comes to the topic of assisted living facilities, it is so important to remember that that is your mother… grandmother… great aunt or uncle. They are somebody’s family even if they are not yours. The care that is provided and programs that are implemented may someday be utilized for yourself as the generations age. The precedents we set now will guide our future, and if we do not start off on the right foot, there will be changes that will need to be made that may or may not happen in your lifetime. The way we treat our residents in care facilities now will somewhat dictate how we ourselves will be treated, and I for one would love to know that I would have access to preventative care in the future as much as I do now.

Response by Emily Ruple, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Unfortunately for nearly all senior citizens, they will be in need of some sort of medical help. I would like to use my skills and degree to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town and beyond. My major of study in specific can be of great help to these people because I can help lower their expenses, give alternative medical options, and produce new ways to combat diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
One of the best things about my major area of study is that I can find all-around better alternatives than many of the drugs offered today. What I am currently studying as an undergrad and will be doing once I get my doctorate is finding medicinal compounds in nature. Since the compounds come from nature they will be much cheaper to produce replicates of in the lab to use for patients. Also, they can be less intrusive to the body which will lower surgery costs. Therefore, with the cheaper production and lack of surgeries, the prices will be lowered for the seniors.
So far in my undergrad years, I have found in different research opportunities the extensive ability of marine compounds as well as essential oils have against bacteria, viruses, and cancer. These alternative methods include skin disease healing, respiratory infection healing, as well as a broad range bacteria antibiotic substitutes. These alternatives are much better for patients, especially the elderly because of the lack of harsh side effects they have. For example, rather than having a surgery to remove a cancer lump in the lungs, a senior citizen can go on a breathing apparatus to breath vapors from compounds that come from limes’ rinds. This compound will turn cancer cells at any stage into healthy functioning cells that are cancer free. It is research such as this that I wish to continue to do for the rest of my life to help find safer, natural alternatives to intrusive and harsh medical applications used today.
Along with finding different medical alternatives, I also plan on discovering many new treatments for the currently incurable diseases. For example, many new marine compounds have been shown to reverse Alzheimer’s. Also, by studying the functioning of a certain squid’s eye, new treatments are being found to treat eye problems which many senior citizens suffer.
How I plan on doing these former things is finding out the most pertinent problems that seniors are facing who live in assisted living situations. From here, I would test the different natural compounds that have been found to help with these certain needs. At this point all that is left is to find the correct concentrations in vitro for medical intake. Growing up I always knew I wanted to help people with my job. Now that I have found what I have a passion for, I would love to use this field to help people. In particular, my career can greatly improve the seniors in assisted living faculties in my town and beyond.

Response by Erica Carter, University of South Florida

One of my favorite memories working at Neville Place was when I was painting with one of the residents there who had dementia. A child living in England during World War II, she was sent to live with an American family in the U.S., and one of her favorite things to do as a child was swing under the tree in their backyard and climb it. She didn’t have any recollection of her adult life, and she would often paint herself by the tree in the garden with her favorite art medium, watercolors. It brought her a lot of joy and excitement to talk about her childhood climbing trees and playing in the garden, and even though she didn’t have many memories left, this was one that she would always cherish and relive through her paintings. Art therapy became her form of self-expression, and ultimately, her source of freedom from her illness.
This is only one example of why I think both my majors of study, art therapy and mental health/rehabilitation, are important in improving the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. Through counseling and rehabilitation, seniors can better cope with thoughts and emotions that may be tormenting them, and creative therapies, like art therapy, can encourage them to open up about their issues in a safe, supportive environment. Art is, after all, universal, and this kind of therapy allows individuals to express themselves freely without having to verbalize things that may be too difficult for them to put into words. If you give an elderly war veteran a paintbrush and ask him to express his pain from his traumatic battlefield experiences on paper, he may be more comfortable showing it through a picture that he painted than talking about it. Something else that makes art therapy, counseling, and rehabilitation therapies so wonderful is that they can help anyone from any background, race, gender, or health status. There are also various different modalities of therapy, like those involving the use of music and recreational activities, which I have implemented in my own work with seniors. An individual with limited motor abilities can work with clay or sing. Someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one or coming to terms with their terminal illness can let out their anger, sadness, and fear by writing a poem and sharing it in a group therapy session. Unfortunately, however, these kinds of services are extremely lacking in many parts of the country. In fact, Florida is one of the lowest-ranking states when it comes to availability of mental health services. Can you imagine a society in which senior citizens are treated with the respect they deserve and given the care they need because they have access to mental health services like counseling and art therapy? That is what I want to see in Florida and the cities where I live and work, Tampa and Saint Petersburg. The elderly must not be forgotten or cast aside, but encouraged to live their lives happily and peacefully. What we need here in Tampa, Saint Petersburg, and the rest of Florida (and most of the USA) is more access to mental health services, more funding, more acknowledgement and support, and less stigma towards mental illness. Overall, my major of study supports the improvement of lives of senior citizens in more way than one, but most importantly, it reassures them that they are not alone and that they matter.

Response by Erin Hayes, Truman State University

Genetics is a growing field that is revolutionizing the way diseases are handled. Illnesses that once appeared without reason can now be explained through genetic determinants or risk factors. As more studies are conducted into how genes influence different diseases, it becomes clear that genetics can improve the health of people in all walks of life. Certainly breakthroughs in genetic research hold a lot of promise for improving the lives of senior citizens.
One important way a geneticist can improve the lives of elderly people is by providing a map of their genes. Many ailments affecting senior citizens have been known to run in families; Alzheimer’s, stroke, arthritis, just to name a few. But thanks to genetic research, the precise genes that predispose one to these afflictions are being discovered. By knowing exactly which genes cause the problems, doctors can more accurately predict whether or not patients will inherit their family’s genetic illnesses or not. This knowledge can help people plan more accurately for their futures. Families will be more aware of what their loved ones may face as they age. The most beneficial in-home care can then be planned and provided for elderly family members. Gene mapping is not simply a way to predict the future however, but can also be used as a preventative measure.
Knowing that someone has a genetic predisposition to an ailment means that they can be treated before they even begin showing symptoms. Such early treatments may be the key to preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and arthritis from wreaking havoc on people’s minds and bodies as they age. In many cases, it is a single malfunctioning protein that can cause a world of problems. Genetic research is making it possible to locate what genes are causing certain malfunctions that lead to disease in the body. If these malfunctions can be located before a person begins suffering from their effects, a lot can be done to prevent the illness from doing harm. This means that people will be able to live fuller lives as they age. They will not need to worry about being as dependent, as they will be more mentally and physically healthy. In-home care will be a greater option for more people, as they can maintain their independence longer. Genetic research has also discovered many environmental risk factors for disease, which will help in preventing illnesses greatly.
Through genetic studies, it has been discovered that some causes of diseases like Alzheimer’s may be related to environmental factors. Harmful environmental conditions can cause damage to cells and their DNA, making them behave improperly. With the use of genetic mapping, doctors can observe how a patient’s DNA is being affected by certain lifestyle or environmental factors over time. Being aware of these affects will allow people to prevent illness by avoiding certain habits that may affect them negatively in the future. A bit of care earlier in life can mean that seniors going into in-home care will be able to be more independent and healthy in their later lives.
Geneticists are working to make the quality of life better for humanity in numerous ways. From creating more nutritious foods, to curing diseases, the field of genetics has a great deal to offer. Work with genetics certainly promises to create a healthier, happier life for many elderly people. By eliminating or relieving the effects of detrimental diseases like Alzheimer’s or arthritis, geneticists are in a place to greatly help people receiving in-home care.

Response by Haley Elenbaas, Indiana Wesleyan University

In the years to come in the United States, I believe that there will be an explosion in growth of the assisted living facilities. People reaching this age group are in need of different care options and are seeking alternatives to nursing homes. As a nursing major who has worked for four years in an assisted living center as well as through clinical, I have assessed that many elderly persons are seeking a more active lifestyle as well as a community to be involved in. So, how can my major of nursing improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my hometown? The following paragraphs will outline some possibilities.
There is an increase in the amount of elderly persons seeking a more active form of living. People want to be involved in exercise, crafts, and doing things for themselves. In assisted living facilities, the option of individualized care is presented. Residents can have frequent care, or simply receive medications at their appointed times. Assisted living offers comfort in knowing that if something goes wrong, trained medical staff is available to help at a moments notice. For residents seeking an active lifestyle within the assisted living facility, a nurse is able to offer that. In my training so far in nursing school, I have been able to witness all levels of activity in the aging population. With skills in healthcare, a nurse can assist the resident with knowing how far they can go in exercise, in finding their both their potential and their physical limits.
As a nursing student, I also know that many residents need an advocate for care. The aging population needs to be cared for with respect and integrity. If a resident wants help walking around the facility, a nurse can assist the resident in maintaining as much individual strength as possible while also being more involved when needed. A nurse can push the client to achieve their activities of daily living without pushing themselves too far physically. Assisted living is an incredible option for people who want to have an individualized care plan while living in community.
I foresee an increase in the amount of assisted living facilities as the aging population grows, both due to general population growth and longer life expectancy. As these facilities grow and expand, there will be a higher need for nurses to care for the residents. Nursing schools need to start and continue educating nursing students about how to care for elderly patients with respect and autonomy. With compassion and honest care, a nurse can help the resident have a positive and joyful experience through assisted living, ultimately affecting their quality of life. I see the quality and education of nurses as incredibly important in assisted living because quality of care can change the experience for a resident.
I live in the town of Byron Center, Michigan, where there are multiple assisted living facilities. In these facilities, I have heard of residents being both extremely grateful for their nurses as well as being disappointed with their nurses. While one patient may complain to me about their nurse being rude, another patient might state that they are “so grateful for their nurse”. Byron Center needs quality nurses, with top training, to be an advocate and caregiver for the residents of these facilities. I am grateful that as a future nurse, I have been able to and will be able to work in these facilities, giving senior residents an individualized opportunity to live as they want to live with integrity.

Response by Haley Warren, Western Washington University

I believe that some assisted living facilities lack the ability to provide personalized care to seniors because of a lack of understanding of the connection between mind and body. We see more and more seniors being diagnosed with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Diseases like these are still early in their stages of research and need much more awareness and funding in order to provide proper care to seniors. While some universities have neuroscience majors, Western Washington University is one of the few universities that offer a behavioral neuroscience major which looks at the direct link between the changes in the brain and behavior.
While this major can apply to everything from Autism to Huntington’s, it can also apply to degenerative disorders that are popular in seniors such as Parkinson’s. By majoring in this field, I will gain the knowledge necessary to do research in this area as well as spread my knowledge to others to raise awareness of the severity of these diseases. Although the research and awareness I conduct may not directly impact my town, it provides me with the opportunity to make an impact on many people and encourage further exploration.
Already, my program provides assistance to members of our community in Bellingham. My university has an Autism clinic that is open to the public. Students help conduct mental exercises to diagnose or check the progress of autistic children along with faculty members. This provides a service to the community and allows students to gain valuable, field experience that they can apply towards their majors and their future careers. I would love to see a similar service be extended to seniors in our community as well.
With further research, I hope that assisted living facilities will be able to provide more personalized care to seniors. Instead of providing medication to help slow down degenerative diseases, nurses may one day be able to provide mental exercises for seniors to keep their minds sharp. They also may be able to recognize diseases earlier on in order to address treatment more quickly. Also, a plethora of knowledge and research in this field will spark easier, affordable access to medical resources for many people who struggle to afford assisted living services for their loved ones.
While we are still so far away from the place that I dream we will be with assisted living care for seniors, I am very hopeful and dedicated to help as many people in need that I possibly can. By majoring in behavioral neuroscience, I will not be limiting myself to the type or number of people that I may help where I study or work in my future. I am sure that wherever I choose to work or study will feel the impact of my passion to help others, both young and old.

Response by Hanna Alzoubi, Wayne State University

Right now, my grandmother is pulling the turkey out of the oven. Perfectly seasoned, evenly roasted, she smiles. She carries the turkey to the table, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. I move to help her, but she shakes her head.
“I can do it, honey,” she says.
At almost 80 years old, my grandmother is fiercely independent. She lives alone in a big house, spending most of her time cooking and gardening. She likes to do everything herself. But as my grandmother has grown older, she has had to swallow her pride and ask her family for help. Recovering from foot surgery has caused problems with some activities of daily living. Cooking, cleaning, and even personal care have become difficult. She has begrudgingly become less independent. Fortunately, my grandmother’s predicament is temporary. The road to recovery is a long one, but the end is in sight.
However, my grandmother’s current situation has raised other questions. What would happen if she permanently needed help with activities of daily living? Would she move into an assisted living facility? How would she handle such a dramatic change? While assisted living facilities provide an acceptable alternative to the institutionalization of nursing homes, I know that my grandmother would not be happy. Living in an assisted living facility comes at the cost of complete freedom and independence. My grandmother, like many other seniors, is accustomed to leading an active, productive life. Losing independence can make a senior feel useless. Feeling useless leads to depression and dissatisfaction with life. By majoring in psychology and studying to become a physical therapist, I hope to improve this situation for seniors living in assisted living facilities in my town.
With age, people lose strength, flexibility, and balance. They become more prone to falling—falls that could potentially result in serious injuries. Fearing for their own safety, seniors lose confidence in themselves. It becomes difficult for seniors to retain their independence. Being unable to complete everyday tasks because of physical limitations can create a feeling of helplessness. The best way to combat feeling helpless is to regain a sense of control. Physical therapy can restore physical capabilities lost with time. A senior who works through exercises with a physical therapist and sees improvement will feel accomplished and empowered. As a physical therapist, I will be able to help seniors see that they still have control over their lives, regardless of their situation.
To illustrate this idea, let’s look at an imaginary senior—we’ll call her Betty. She lives in an assisted living facility and suffers from osteoporosis. She is unsteady when walking and is at a high risk for falling and breaking her hip. She has difficulty with activities of daily living. She misses her former independence, and is depressed about her current situation. She begins working with a physical therapist, who designs an exercise and training program to improve Betty’s balance and strength. After several months of therapy, Betty has more balance when walking and does not fear falling as much as she did before therapy. Feeling more in control of her own body is empowering for Betty. She becomes more confident and feels encouraged to further improve her life. She takes up new hobbies and reconnects with old friends. Her negative emotions are outweighed by positive ones. Physical therapy transforms not only her body, but also her outlook on life.
In the future, I look forward to empowering seniors living in assisted living facilities with physical therapy. Knowing that I’ll be able to help seniors regain control over their lives leaves me with a better taste in my mouth than my grandmother’s turkey—and her turkey tastes pretty darn good.

Response by Hannah Booker, Bradley University

Baby boomers plus the elderly populations increased need for healthcare services equals a demand for medical careers. Physical therapy plays into this equation by helping patients reduce pain and improve mobility to achieve long-term health benefits. I can’t transform the entire baby boomer population alone, but I can transform one patient at a time using what I learn as a Doctorate of Physical Therapy student to become a physical therapist. Soon all those “ones” do more than add up, they multiply and equal CHANGE. How I will embody this vision as a future physical therapist was best put by Mother Theresa who said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Putting love into every patient interaction will lead to a change that lasts by improving the lives of seniors.
As a physical therapist, I will encourage seniors to put their best effort into the “small things” in order to achieve substantial results. I will help seniors value the little accomplishments. Many people associate success with singular major accomplishments, but more often than not, success stems from repetitive action. Adopting an encouraging attitude will allow me to help seniors regain their independence and strength. In-home physical therapy allows seniors to receive the care they need in the comfort of their own home to remain active and safe. The knowledge I gain from my program will help seniors overcome their physical challenges and make the most of their recovery while remaining in the environment best for their entire well-being.
Physical therapy does much more than restore movement, it transforms the whole person. I saw how optimizing movement transforms the whole person during two physical therapy mission trips to the Dominican Republic. The first year our team treated a young man with uncoordinated motor and speech patterns due to a traumatic brain injury. We designed a program to optimize his recovery but the extensiveness of the damage did not paint a very bright picture. I wondered what the future would look like for this man who instantly became totally dependent on others for care. The following year, we returned to the clinic and in wheeled this same patient. The progress had he made in one year from physical therapy made him seem like a completely new man. Now he was speaking in full sentences and even walking with the assistance of the therapist. He was beaming with pride from his remarkable progress and regained independence. His smile and positive attitude were an encouragement to everyone around him. This experience allowed me to see how I can be part of transforming the lives of seniors receiving in-home care. Seniors vary in the amount they depend on others for care but the desire to be more independent is constant. I will apply what I learned from my education to evaluate areas for improvement and consequently address those needs with therapy exercises. I will have the chance to positively impact seniors on a daily basis by helping them help themselves.
Everyday I am going to serve my patients to the best of my knowledge and ability as a physical therapist. Nelson Henderson once said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Like when planting trees, I will provide seniors with the care they need to remain strong for years to come. I will take advantage of the time I have to work with patients to optimize their movement to improve their lives. I will plant the seeds of redefining senior in-home care one seed – or senior – at a time by optimizing movement to ensure the well-being of seniors far into the future.

Response by Hannah Caringal, Indiana Wesleyan University

As an undergraduate earning a Pre-Medical Biology major and an Honors Humanities major with the intention of attending medical school and becoming a physician, it would be easy to simply link a growing knowledge of medicine and health with the betterment of the elderly in assisted living facilities. This type of answer not only makes sense, but is expected. The problem, however, is that improving the lives of seniors participating in this kind of care encompasses more than just physical health.
The truth is, in my Pre-Medical Biology major, I am not really learning much about medicine or health yet. While I am preparing for that kind of focused education in the future, my present education addresses more than that. This major provides broader exposure. My professors encourage me not just to find solutions but to ask questions, to grow by admitting my lack of knowledge. When I listen to lectures or memorize terminology, whether I am setting up neutralization reactions or dissecting fetal pigs, I am placed in situations that require critical thinking and cooperation.
My other major, Honors Humanities, involves plenty of reading and writing, as well as critical thinking. My professors teach me to look at the world with new eyes and new language, to perceive the world through narratives. Ontology, epistemology, and anthropology, along with other “ologies” are better understood in the context of real life stories. Everyone lives by narratives; everyone possesses their own story.
So when asked how my majors of study improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town, as much as I wish to, I cannot simply state that when I become a doctor I can heal and help everyone to the best of my ability. That is naïve. See, the answer to the question is more than a matter of observation and a step-by-step plan of multiple phases. Lives are the subject, so consequently, improvements are different depending on where and who. Growing up with loved ones in both the United States and Asia has exposed me to vastly different cultures where seniors have varying expectations and needs. Some want greater independence, some want better service, others desire more time with family, and still others merely long for peace and quiet.
What I am currently learning enables me to connect with the people directly involved in this question. By connecting with seniors, by listening to their stories and asking questions, I can then think creatively in order to come up with solutions to improve the quality of their lives in assisted living facilities. My majors of study do more than increase the information accumulating in my head. They form a person willing to solve issues through relationships and resourceful reasoning.
As I learn about human anatomy and history, I grow confident in using the resources available to me to improve the lives of those around me. Those improvements will look different in different situations, but that is the beauty of becoming someone who solves creatively. Whether I improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities through medical means, organizing practical events, or simply by being present and eager to listen, such improvements will occur as a thoughtful product of my education and experience.

Response by Hannah Sauter, Michigan State University

Public Health is a broad field which can be applied to almost any situation. Not only is it applicable, but it is necessary for living in safety, health, and comfort. I believe one of the biggest goals of assisted living facilities is to bring as much comfort and support, emotionally and physically, to those who need it most. Senior citizens are at greater risk of contracting communicable illnesses including influenza and bronchitis, as well as developing chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Such high vulnerability is increased further by living in close proximity with each other. All of these conditions threaten a senior citizen’s basic right of living free from anxiety and prevent assisted living facilities from reaching their goals. Public health possesses the ability to implement programs to prevent the spread of communicable disease, and can make screenings for chronic diseases more accessible.
Senior citizens have dealt with a lifetime of challenges, struggles, and hardships, and have developed years of happy memories. Some facilities may have the tendency to generalize their residents, treating them as clients, or even less than human. I believe each senior is a beautiful representation of life, one that has been lived to its fullest. Seniors have a right to live free from worry after so many years of responsibility, but sadly, they are occasionally at risk of suffering abuse or neglect. Public health has the ability to monitor cases of abuse in facilities, regions, even states. Through examining these numbers, interventions can be put in place to improve existing conditions for senior citizens. Public health would also have a role in creating education and training programs which would teach caregivers how to be respectful of residents’ integrity.
Providing nutritious meals and snacks to senior citizens is imperative for their health and comfort. My own grandmother is on a strict no-salt diet for medical reasons, and many other residents have specialized dietary needs as well. Public health could implement programs to improve nutrition in assisted living facilities in various ways. For example, regulations can be placed and enforced to ensure that residents are receiving the proper nutrients. Education programs could be implemented in order to teach these regulations to the cooks in charge of creating meals. Finally, exercise and socializing are important aspects of health and happiness for senior citizens in assisted living facilities. Public health has the ability to monitor residents’ mental health and implement requirements for exercise programs.
Public health is an important aspect of life in any circumstance. It not only improves the health of a population, but the safety, comfort, and overall quality of life of the people. This is true for assisted living facilities as well. Having a group of residents living at such close proximity raises their risk of developing communicable diseases, because they would travel rapidly among those with potentially low immune systems. Public health can monitor outbreaks of these diseases, preventing major impacts. Senior citizens are at greater risk for chronic, non-communicable conditions as well. Through public health, I could develop and implement screening requirements for the elderly, as well as making the monitoring of disease and medications more accessible. Through training workers and monitoring abuse cases in assisted living homes, the amount of mistreatment among residents could be declined. Finally, public health could monitor and control the nutrition, exercise, and mental health of residents, improving their happiness and overall quality of life. At the end of the road, people should have the ability to relax and live with happiness and without stress. Through public health, I would be able to make this possible for senior citizens, bringing them the proper care to improve their health mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Response by Hayley Steinberg, Carroll University

How can my major change the lives of many seniors in assisted-living facilities in my town? My major can do everything to change the name of the game in assisted-living facilities for seniors. My major can provide the care that these age-experienced people deserve. These seniors have shaped the world we live in today, and to what extent is unknown, but each person contributes to the world that it has become, and I think it’s a pretty good place to live now a day. The world has put little importance in the quality of care that most seniors in these facilities receive. People leave “old-age homes” quite disgusted with how the seniors are treated and their living arrangements, but as nurses we can change this!
Through associations and hard work, nurses can raise the standards of care. For example, we can require that nurses caring for these clients continue on with their education and take classes to motivate and educate according to evidence-based practices to better care for these generations of people. Nurses practice individuality of care, and we can better help these patients by allowing them to make self decisions in their care plans and their daily activities. Much pressure is put on the CNAs and nurses to make decisions for these clients, but let us put the power back into the patient’s own hands and involve them in their plan of care. I mean it is their life and they should most definitely have a say in how it is lived. As a nursing community, we can make these places livelier and happier to be a part of by better caring for the patients. In my experiences, nurses and staff in these places do not tend to be happy with what they are doing job wise, and I feel that some people don’t appreciate the opportunity they have to help these people, who are older in age but are no different than any other client population. That then affects how the patients feel and the quality of care overall, which leads to the demise that gives these facilities such a bad rep. I think that we should help our staff be happier and help them realize the good they are doing, which will then motivate them to work harder and show a positive attitude to their clients, leading to a healthier, happier community within the facility.
Environments also greatly affect a person’s attitude, so if we alter the surroundings to promote happiness this may also help brighten the rep behind assisted-living facilities. This is possible through certain colors of wall paint and different senses that could unconsciously affect someone in a positive manner. We could also employ more alternative medicine techniques such as aroma therapy, pet therapy, and art therapy. All of these are expected to make the patient happier, and everyone knows that a happier patient is a healthier patient.
We, together as nurses and the staff of these assisted-living facilities, need to change the rep ruining the idea behind these places. People of this age should have a place to be happy and healthy to live out the rest of their lives, and they should not be afraid of the treatment they may receive. Every person is a person, no matter the age, and they deserve the best possible care at all time. Now let’s change the name of the game.

Response by Haziel Riviera, El Paso Community College

The aging adult is society’s most valuable possession. For through their keen experience, knowledge, and love, they contribute to the immortal spirit of the past in a hasty contemporary society. The senior generation is an incomparable resource with countless years of advantageous skills, advice, morals, and stories. Unfortunately, the elderly may reach an irreversible deteriorating stage that limits their activities of daily living, social interaction, communication, and ultimately health. As a nursing major, the geriatric population will be a vast component of my career. Through this humble vocation, ensuring the utmost holistic health of every senior at an assisted living facility is the greatest service one can ever provide.
Medicine has always been a career path that has always attracted my attention. A noble vocation that emphasizes empathy, knowledge, and emotional, spiritual, and physical healing. Through medicine even the most damaged individual (literally or figuratively), portrays a chance of achieving a miraculous remission. Nursing is a more patient oriented aspect of medicine that collaboratively works with the healthcare team to achieve the common goal of restoring a patient’s health. Although contemporary medicine dictates the physician as the leading member of the healthcare team, the nurse is bridge that links medicine to holistic health. While the physician treats the patient for a short period of time, the nurse engages on consistently ensuring patient safety, health, and emotional, physical, and spiritual security. Nursing is a profession in which patient security, emotions, and rights always come first. Nurses provide the most welcoming and warm environment one can ever experience. Through their empathetic remarks and caring actions, they make the patient feel loved and cared for. Nurses close the gap from medicine to empathy and promote the holistic care every patient deserves. To be able to medically care for a patient while ensuring their emotional health is the ultimate healthcare that, in my opinion, can be delivered. For through nurses many patients achieve great remission and motivation to continue to fight through against their age, complications, and ultimately death.
In a senior assisted living center, patients work one-on-one with various types of nurses. Whether it’s the wound care or the floor nurse, patients will always have a vivid interaction with nurses. As a future nurse, I would collaboratively work with my healthcare team to ensure the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of my patients and their family. In an assisted living facility, I would enthusiastically interact with the seniors under my care and guarantee the utmost empathetic service. I have volunteered at a nursing home before and I have encountered the loneliness and solitude of the patients there. It is a true shame that their families encounter them as a burden and explore the easiest solution which is to dump them in an assisted living center. Confiding to the guiltless excuse that they are paying for their care, family visitation is rare and brief. Seniors living in these facilities feel abandoned and in solitary isolation. Caring for the mental health aspect associated with abandonment in an assisted living facility, the emotional care of my patients is imperative. Feeling as the only family to them, patients confide in their nurses and seek the acceptance, encouragement, and love they do not achieve with their real family. Understanding this dejected principle, I would engage in loving and protecting my seniors. They would become a second family and through our professional relationship help them achieve the true love and improvement of their lives that they deserve.
The elder generation has given their entire life to contribute to society, and now it’s time for society to contribute back. As a nurse I would be able to achieve the paramount contribution to the seniors through my physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Becoming the family they so far lack and delivering the utmost holistic care will be the greatest improvement of a senior’s life as possible. For the aging adult is society’s most valuable possession and we must learn to preserve and love them. Through the empathetic nurse, the seniors at any assisted living center can achieve an improved life.

Response by Heather Trent, Bellingham Technical College

As a nurse in my community I will be able to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town in many different ways. The issues that I would addressed are reimbursements and overhead costs (i.e. proper staffing), a clearly defined role and acceptance in the community, and appropriately trained nursing staff to assess the residents’ health status accurately. I am passionate about this because I believe each and every resident deserves the best possible outcomes and I am passionate about advocating for the elderly population.
It would be imprudent to dismiss the fact that assisted living facilities are business. The continuous struggle of providing high quality care and maintaining a profit has been the center of numerous issues within assisted living facilities. I believe that if the high quality care is provided effectively the profit will not be indignant. In order to address reimbursements and overhead costs in my community a few things must be done. Firstly, care coordination of each resident is pertinent to lower costs and improve outcomes. With proper care coordination the assisted livings will have the best chance to encounter the insurance reimbursement issues they face and it will help in the effort of continuity of care that the senior residents absolutely need. Furthermore, as nurse it is my professional and moral obligation to have a voice on the level of governance. All too often bills are passed in congress that impact our local assisted livings. Unfortunately voices that are advocating for the seniors in assisted livings are underrepresented. With encouragement and incentives to employees the assisted living community could be moving towards a better future. When people educated on these issues have a voice in the state of Washington or even on a national level the seniors in assisted livings will benefit immensely.
Assisted livings in my community aren’t as clearly defined in their role as I think they should be. Community members and even staff members at these facilities have a vague idea of the purpose and capabilities of these facilities. Assisted living facilities and their senior residents will benefit greatly if they both have a clearly defined role of what is an acceptable level of care. The lead nurse and/or care coordinator can plan with the seniors that potentially need care beyond the facility and utilize other community agencies that are available to help them maintain an adequate level of functioning to continue their care at an assisted living facility. By defining their role clearly and concisely it will also improve the overall safety of the seniors in assisted livings and improve the way the facilities collaborate with the other health care agencies that play a vital role in a successful assisted living.
Overall the most important piece to improving lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my community it to have appropriately trained nursing staff. The costs and quality of care boil down to this vital piece in a successful assisted living facility. Having trained, professional staff that can accurately assess the health status of the seniors in assisted living facilities significantly decrease the chances of a catastrophic accidents or severely ill seniors that needs to be relocated from the facility. Therefore by having appropriately trained nursing staff the facilities are saving money and have better outcomes. By intervening early the outcomes are remarkable. However, this takes trained staff, teamwork, communication, collaboration and adequate nursing care.
As a nursing student I have learned so much and when I continue on with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing I will be able to expand on these ideas, critically think through the problems and learn more about the functions of assisted living facilities to plan and implement a successful design in improving the lives of seniors in assisted livings.

Response by Heidi Rowles, University of Cincinnati

My majors are biology and nutritional sciences. I am pursuing an undergraduate pre-med degree focusing on food and nutrition. This major will help improve the lives seniors receiving in-home care in my hometown because I can help them learn how diet and proper nutrition will enhance their overall health and improve their quality of life. One of the biggest disadvantages facing the general population in terms of healthcare is the lack of knowledge and wrong knowledge about nutrition. I believe that it is crucial for people to have a better understanding of how the food and nutrients they put in their body affect their overall health.
Seniors who receive in-home care often have someone either help them prepare meals or prepare meals for them. Providing these seniors with information about how to eat to improve their health is a vital part of their care. Caregivers who provide in-home care for seniors need to receive proper nutrition education and food preparation training. It is possible to prepare meals ahead of time so that part of one day a week can be dedicated to food preparation for the week. These meals can be properly stored and heated up and snacks can consist of fresh fruit and vegetables as seasonal availability allows. This is not a difficult task but it requires some time and thought. Seniors who cannot prepare their own food need to have their dietary needs met. The caregiver preparing meals for them needs to be able to prepare meals that follow nutritional guidelines and any dietary needs that the senior may have.
Most of us have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. While this phrase is sometimes meant to be funny, it is biologically true. What we put into our bodies in the form of food, drinks, supplements and nutrients is what our body has to nourish itself and to perform all of its biological reactions and cellular activities. Anyone who is going to be a caregiver to a senior should have a good basic knowledge of how the body works and what nutrients it needs to perform at an optimum level. Seniors who are on medications and do not always eat regularly or healthy amounts of food need to have their diet supplemented so that they are still receiving the proper nutrients. Seniors require different amounts of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients than adults and someone who is preparing meals for seniors needs to know what these requirements are.
I believe that nutrition is the core of healthcare. Our bodies cannot function without the proper fuel. Seniors who cannot prepare their own meals or snacks often resort to pre-packaged meals and unhealthy snacks for the sake of convenience. This is a trend that has to be put to a stop because there is too much sodium and preservatives and not enough nutrition in pre-packaged food. Seniors are often on many medications which make them not feel well and can make foods and drinks taste different. It is an important aspect of their care to work with them and find diets that are tasty and nutritious. Seniors deserve to be cared for and to receive proper nutrition. I believe that nutrition needs to be a core component of in-home care for seniors.

Response by Hillarie Hagen, Boise State University

Social work is an important contributor to any field that involves caring for others. Assisted living is one of those fields that can benefit greatly because of the vast roles that social workers can play. Assisted living, or nursing home care, is not something most elderly look forward to. It can be difficult deciding on when, and if, it’s the right time to have an elderly family member go into a facility. Sometimes simply connecting the elderly to resources and having a plan in place can help to relieve the daily struggles that they may have instead of being admitted to a facility. Social workers can help to evaluate their personal situation to see if it really is the best option for them.
Making the decision to move into assisted living is a difficult one for the elderly, and even their families, to make. Moving out of their home may result in moving away from friends, churches, and a change in their routine. It has the potential to create a lot anxiety and a feeling of lost independence. Social workers can help to ensure that the elderly finds a facility that meets their needs and also help their family feel comfortable with the move. Moving into a facility can be even more difficult if the residents have psychological issues. These could include depression, anxiety, bi-polar, loss, and other mental health problems. These often can go unrecognized, misdiagnosed, and mistreated in facilities. Social workers can help in knowing how to appropriately treat these situations and issues a resident might have.
After the move occurs, social workers can continue to provide support to the family. They can be family counselors to help the new resident, as well as their family, adjust to the change. There may be some family conflict if the move was not supported by a family member and the social worker can help them work through that. They can help the new resident get settled in and check to see how the change is affecting them emotionally. They have the training 3 to be aware of any emotional trauma that may be experienced with such a life transition, that maybe even the family may not recognize. They can be the neutral party to help family understand what their elderly family member is experiencing.
As time goes on, social workers can recognize areas that the facility may need to address to make the quality of living better for the residents. They can help identify if there needs to be more activities available and help to coordinate those. Activities are important for residents to have available to them so that they can get to know their neighbors. Having friends and a sense of community can help relieve the feelings of loss and anxiety they may have due to the move. Social workers can help to coordinate with local programs to get churches and the community involved with activities so that the residents don’t feel alienated from society. It’s important for resident’s health and overall well-being to still feel connected with the outside world when they may have lost a sense of their autonomy due to the move to a facility.
Social workers can be discharge planners and case managers. If there comes a time when the assisted living is no longer needed, a plan may need to be in place to help the elderly receive any necessary assistance. This may include connecting them to services in the community to receive help they may need. They can coordinate with local and state programs that may be available. They may also check in with the resident after discharge to make sure their plan is being followed and their needs are taken care of. If they are moving in with a family member, they can be an outlet of support to help the family in this new transition and receive help they may need.
Social workers can also be a support to administrators and staff of the facility. They can help them know how to cope with emotional problems, psychological, and physical problems that may come up. They can help with training in how to effectively handle sensitive situations and to also improve the quality of life of the residents. Social workers can make a significant impact in assisted living facilities in the quality of care and life amongst its residents.

Response by Hollie LaShea Bennett, Samford University

The future. These two words are responsible for many sleepless nights, stressful days, and tense conversations in the lives of many people living in today’s world. The future is closely tied to personal outlook and whether that is positive or negative can determine a person’s next thirty years. I believe each person has a hand in creating his or her best future self. To me personally, I have taken upon the responsibility to impact the world of assisted livings and elderly care through my major and future career. I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Entrepreneurship with a minor in Spanish. I have a plan to take advantage of the duel degree programs to get a graduate degree of Master of Business Administration and Master of Healthcare Administrations together. Through my studies and upon graduation, I plan to implement strategies for expanding assisted living quality control, bettering reputations, and also improving morale among residents.
I have been involved to some extent in assisted livings, nursing homes, and elderly care for the majority of my life and I have become aware of one main need: quality control. Though there are policies in place for up keeping the value of healthcare in assisted livings, I have seen so many times where routine and complacency can lead to a deadly mistake. I plan to approach this need with a strategic tactic to keep superiority in the front of employee’s minds, as they are involved in caring for an individual. There is a need for a new standard, which will never be reached unless we expand ourselves outside the statuesque; and I plan to be on the front lines for it.
As I began my essay, the future can be a frightening thing for many people, especially elderly individuals who are moving away from their homes, control, and comfort in hopes of receiving better care at an assisted living. This is where reputations and the overall life at an assisted living is viewed come to mind. People tend to dread this type of move, when in fact I have seen first hand how moving to an assisted living can improve the life of an elderly individual tremendously by giving them activities, involvement, and purpose. This points back to how to assisted living is managed and marketed and I believe that my degree in business will prompt and push me to transform the reputation of what can be a life improving change of life for many people.
Another key component of a successful assisted living is the morale of the residents, which is directly related to the morale of all family members and employees. Happiness is linked with healthiness and improving and maintaining health should be a main goal of an assisted living. Through the pursuit of my business degrees, I am learning that an individual’s mental stability, determination, and peace impacts so many other aspects of life. I plan to improve resident’s morale with more “out-of-the-box” activities and a come and go style daily schedule to fulfill, teach and grow residents even in their advanced life stages.
The future for the world lies within younger generations, and the future will never reach potential unless it is cared for, and invested in by older and wiser generations. The future does not have to be a scary thing for anyone; but rather, an exciting time to become a better version of yourself. If everyone involved with an assisted living facility can realize this concept, I believe lives can change for the better by constantly striving for more. “Life ends when you stop dreaming, hope ends when you stop believing, love ends when you stop caring” –Unknown. Too many times are dreams, hope and love lost when a person moves to an assisted living; yes, it can be a dark transition, but it can also be a bright door to new worlds if done correctly. Through my educational journey to my future careers, I know the knowledge I am gaining today will impact so many lives in my town to come, and that is something worth investing in.

Response by Hugo Alexander Moran Chavez, University of Georgia

Mr. Hugo Alexander Moran Chavez major is Master of Agricultural and Environmental Education. As part of his major, in the last 3 months, He has been working with Latino International Students in finding and understanding the variety of factors affecting their success in College and also evaluating the effectiveness of the Campus Kitchen program at UGA in fighting food insecurity among senior citizens in Athens-Clark County. His major allow him to lead, teach and communicate to the outside world solutions to problems of food security, environmental degradation and economic and social sustainability, as well as, help to improve the lives of others people by evaluating the needs and recommend improvements to actual programs.
His major of study can help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in Athens-Clark County by providing solutions to the most challenging problems of senior citizens in terms of the need of assisted living facilities and their needs within the assisted living facilities. The first one will be, to develop a needs assessment on senior citizens in Athens-Clark County to compile whether or not these senior citizens need an assisted living facility service. Second, based on the results of the needs assessment to make awareness to their families on the need of consider the service of assisted living facilities. Among the recommendations provide will be by providing valuable information to these facilities that not only these assisted living facilities will provide services to the well-being of their loved ones, but also to meet each client’s need and desires.
The second way how Mr. Hugo Alexander Moran Chavez major can help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in Athens-Clark County is by evaluating the current programs within the assisted living facilities. These evaluations would provide accurate and measurable recommendations for possible improvements to the following services: Comfortable private living quarters, 24-hour security and supervision, Emergency call systems in each apartment, Daily meals and snacks, Housekeeping and laundry service, Medication services, Wellness and fitness programs, Social and recreational activities and Shopping and transportation assistance. The services provided in this evaluation would include, the evaluation of the programs by direct observation, online surveys, interviews and focus groups to the staff and faculty of the assisted living facilities. The evaluations will also include the families of the senior citizens.
By developing and implementing a needs assessment in the Athens-Clark County area, Mr. Hugo Alexander Moran Chavez would be able to discover whether or not there are senior citizens that for many reasons should consider the services of assisted living facilities. Second, by evaluating the current programs within the assisted living facilities, Mr. Hugo Alexander Moran Chavez would be able to make accurate and measurable recommendations to consider improvements in the current services provided by these assisted living facilities. Two targeted audiences would shape the ultimate impact. Senior citizens of Athens-Clark county area that should consider the services of assisted living facilities and to the assisted living facilities of the Athens-Clark county area by providing recommendations to them to improve their services for seniors in help with their activities of daily living.

Response by Ian Williams, Clark College

In the past couple decades, technology has truly improved by leaps and bounds. These improvements can be seen everywhere, from the way we move around, to the way we communicate, and many other aspects of our lives. Healthcare is no exception to this rule – the recent advancements in technology have greatly benefitted the healthcare industry, including the field of at-home care. One of the biggest areas that has seen recent improvement is mobility.
One of the biggest problems when considering aging, for the elderly, caretakers, and family members alike, is getting around. As the population gets older, it becomes difficult to move around, and often times can feel restricted in their own home. If the person being cared for has significant health problems, or is wheelchair-bound, this can pose an even bigger concern, and often times means that they aren’t able to move on their own. Fortunately, recent technological advances have created new ways of getting around, which are perfect for the elderly – inventions coming from the creator of Segway, of all places! The iBOT motorized wheelchair, invented by Dean Kamen, has made many improvements to the traditional motorized wheelchair, including the ability to sit at eye-level to the average person, navigate up stairs/curbs, and moving through different materials. This can mean freedom for many wheelchair-bound seniors, for them to move about on their own, without assistance.
On top of the improvements in the science of mobility, plenty of other improvements have been made in the healthcare field that would be beneficial to caregivers, medical professionals, and family members alike – especially in the communication field. Recently (over the past decade or so), major expansions have been made in the field of digital communications, making them more easy and accessible to everyone. This is most evident in the prevalence of real-time video communication tools (like Google Hangouts, Skype, and FaceTime), where it’s now possible to talk to someone virtually face-to-face, as if they were sitting next to you. These improvements can mean a lot for seniors who may have difficulty getting around or have a health condition, and could be used by medical professionals, caregivers, and family members. While a video- chat option definitely isn’t a replacement for a caregiver that an individual might need, it does present the option for caregivers to check up on someone without having to be there the whole time, therefore reducing the amount of time caregivers might need to be with an individual, and overall giving that person some of their independence and privacy back. Video-chat technology could be used by healthcare professionals, as well – instead of needing to go to a doctor’s office for a periodic check-up, a video call might suffice. Or, if an individual isn’t able to visit with someone due to issues with mobility, they have the option to give them a video call instead. Granted, video calling certainly isn’t a replacement for face-to-face/in-person conversation, it can be used in certain situations where it is more convenient.
While video-calling is certainly one useful way that we’re all becoming more connected, other technological improvements exist that pertain solely to the healthcare field – at-home care, especially. In recent years, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other professionals in the healthcare field are joining the telemedicine movement – the science of medicine, mixed with the connectivity of the digital age. The concept of telemedicine is quite scalable – from larger operations such as a doctor’s office or hospital being able to requests medical records from another institution with ease, to a patient being able to use a simple device to measure blood sugar/blood pressure/etc., and have reports automatically sent to their doctor. One can probably see why this would be so important for at-home care – it allows for healthcare professionals to see important information about their patients, without actually having to physically be there. And, like I mentioned previously, the concept is totally scalable – from a small device like a pedometer, to a blood pressure cuff, even things like dialysis or chemotherapy machines are being integrated with the increasingly digital age. Most importantly, telemedicine machines give patients back their sense of freedom – instead of going a doctor’s office for readings, the doctor would practically be coming to their home, without ever actually being there.
In all, at-home care has been affected dramatically by the increasingly-digital age. More and more tools are available for citizens, caregivers, and medical professionals alike, in order to take care of our aging citizens, as well as let them keep their sense of independence.

Response by Ina Han, St. John’s University

My goal has always been to become a dentist and serve the communities who would otherwise be neglected. I’ve experienced first-hand the impact a dentist can have on a person’s life and the difference oral health can make on an individual’s standard of living. There are many assisted living facilities that do not provide dental services to its residents, unless a local dentist visits the community. I am eager to be able to provide dental care to such underserved communities, as many seniors cannot afford or even physically visit dental offices. As a dentist, I want to improve the lives of these seniors by volunteering at various assisted living facilities and providing much needed dental care to its elderly.
As we age, oral health starts to deteriorate. Losing teeth should not a part of growing older, but for many elderly people, it is a reality. It is easy to neglect dental care, but not many know that such poor oral health can lead to even more serious systemic health conditions. For example, research has shown that gum disease correlates with diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Seniors are already at risk for such diseases, so poor oral health should not be present as another contributing factor. By becoming a dentist and working with the seniors in assisted living facilities, I would be able to improve their health and decrease their chances of disease. Moreover, seniors would feel much more comfortable once that toothache is relieved and when that cavity is finally filled.
By volunteering regularly at assisted living facilities, I would be helping these seniors stay healthy. Regular check-ups are much more important for seniors because the nerves in their mouths tend to get smaller, making it harder to tell if a problem is arising. Another important reason why regular check-ups are necessary is that it is much easier and cheaper to prevent disease than to treat it. Even if a problem does arise, it is simpler to treat a condition while it is in the beginning stages than when it is allowed to proliferate. That small cavity can become a root canal before you know it. I have always wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to my community and making a difference in the lives of these seniors would be the perfect opportunity.
In an ideal world, seniors would have access to all the dental care they need to remain healthy and happy. However, reality makes regular dentist visits difficult, whether it is due to cost, lack of time, or the lack of transportation. It is very easy to neglect oral health among the elderly because oral health has not really been emphasized until as of late. I hope to be able to improve the lives of these seniors living in assisted living facilities by providing them with much needed dental care. I want to be able to use my skills and knowledge to improve society, and volunteering to help those who need it the most would be a great way to start.

Response by Jaci Ignudo-Drennan, Wichita State University

As technology advances, more software becomes available that makes it so that the once daunting task of assisting a community is suddenly at our fingertips. A coworker of mine was recently hired as a medical assistant, and the tales of her endeavors and the difficulties at the assisted living facility in which she works, have opened my eyes to this forgotten community of citizens. As result, I have come up with different solutions or alterations that can be made to not only increase the comfort and accessibility for the seniors but also the staff. My major in Graphic Design can be used to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in 3 different ways.
First, with my technological capabilities, I can help redesign these facilities for the seniors, nurses, and medical assistants. Although architects exist, I play an important role because I am able to modify the structure of a building or room from my computer. It is important to find the most economical and ergonomically best fit option for a facility looking to create more space, develop new facilities, and/or create a sense of community. These assisted living facilities require a sense of community that is not only welcoming, but a place to call home for those that may never leave. It is up to designers and architects to create an accessible and safe environment that provides a generous amount of space for equipment, living quarters, bathing areas, etc… A design can change the atmosphere of a facility even without color. Those living in these facilities should feel welcome, safe, and most importantly at home.
Second, I am able to develop advertisements and pamphlets for seniors interested in assisted living. I can create simplistic designs that are easy on the eyes and yet, very informational without being overwhelming. Seniors may need some reassurance about the overall cost, availability of space, or scheduling, all of which could be made easily understandable and accessible regardless of age. I can provide reassurance by representing the reality of assisted living and the advantages that a consumer would want highlighted for them. Proper representation will allow for more seniors and their families to better decide if assisted living is a good choice, or even if a certain facility is the best place for the senior in their family to live for an extended period of time. I know plenty of seniors who have not yet retired, yet need assisted living, and firmly believe that having at least some plan is better than having no plan at all. Thus, it is by using pamphlets that I propose I may utilize my full potential to provide the information that needs to be communicated in such a way that is easy to understand, is not overwhelming, and feels like less of a burden.
Lastly, with a graphic design background already beginning to take off on my YouTube channel, I can provide online videos that would better advertise and communicate availability of an assisted living facility much like Senior Advisor. I can also film a proposed assisted living facility and create a commercial between two seniors discussing key points on the cost, application process, and available care. I believe that commercials also help represent a company and their service better because it helps create a sense of transparency between the company and the watcher. A newspaper advertisement is not as successful as a digital advertisement, as society is constantly evolving and incorporating online accessible news articles and advertisements into social media. This form of multimedia advertising is even more easily accessed, and can be shared instantly with anyone who might need assistance in deciding on a facility that is right for him or her.

Response by Jackson Stafford, California State University Sacramento

As a working jazz musician, one of the very first things I learned was to know and appreciate your audience. A recent study from Nielsen’s 2014 Year End Report demonstrates that jazz has become the least popular genre of music, with jazz just being 1.4% of ALL music purchased in 2014. To someone of my generation, this shouldn’t be very surprising at all; however, to generations who normally live in assisted care facilities, this should be absolutely shocking. In the 1950’s, jazz was without a doubt the most popular genre, with a massive majority of popular radio songs becoming jazz standards. Upon talking to my grandfather, he personally admitted that hearing old jazz tunes from the 1950’s bring him back to his years in the navy, and conjure up nothing but good memories, so I personally believe that it goes without saying that a plethora of individuals from this generation have a vast and undying love for the genre.
I once played a gig for an assisted care facility with residents who seemed extremely unhappy, bored, and disinterested in their environment. Naturally, I ran under the assumption that I would just play through a set and leave, but to my surprise, I was met with an extremely positive response. Seniors had gotten out of their seats and started to dance and actually enjoy themselves as my combo and I continued to play. Screams and hollers of sheer enjoyment assisted our music in completely filling the room with noise. As a matter of fact, one woman got onto the stage with my combo and danced as if it was the last time she would ever dance. After we had finished playing a set, we were greeted with cheers of “Encore!” and requests for us to play favorite tunes of individuals in the crowd. It was the first time in my life that I had seen seniors filled with so much genuine happiness and youth, and I was beyond excited to have all this passion reciprocated back to me after all my time spent trying to improve my craft. Even after the show, I had multiple seniors approach me individually and thank me for the great time and performance. One woman even told me that the experience was life changing, and that she for once enjoyed living at the place that she did.
This grandiose experience helped me to realize that jazz isn’t just simply enjoyed by seniors and myself. In fact, seeing a modern generation play music that was popular in their time fills seniors with happiness and feelings of youth that was once theirs, and to witness seniors feeling as though they were children again was beyond humbling. It was truly an enlightening experience to see that doing what I love could bring as much joy to others as it does to me, and it certainly goes to say that bringing music back into assisted living facilities would do nothing but improve tenants’ lives and happiness.

Response by Jacob Armas, University of Oregon

Senior citizens are not burdens on the structure and functioning of a municipality. They are often its leaders. They are the ones passing the torch of knowledge and intuition on to the upcoming generation of teachers, politicians, pastors, and community leaders on every level of our society. As such, they should not be put into cold, clinical boxes as they advance in years. They should not be banished to the periphery of the city, exiled away from the heartbeat of their town and what was once their sphere of influence, and in fact, still can be. The false notion that the ageing population of the United States is somehow not essential to the functioning and enhancement of daily life for the rest of the population is deeply embedded in our culture. Yet this owes more to the fact that often our only picture of the elderly in America is of a man or woman slowly drifting away in some remote, quasi-medical facility, than to their actual abilities. My great grandmother has lived in some of these aforementioned facilities. Even in her nineties she is a social woman with sharp memory who takes great joy in keeping tabs on family events and dispensing advice based upon her hard-wrought life experience. In these dismal facilities, however, she shrivels to a shell of her real self. She is isolated from any businesses, entertainment, or restaurants and is then depended on others for transportation.
Every day in America we face a unique situation. More and more senior citizens are living in our towns, and they are living longer on average. Assisted living facilities should enhance their lives, not inhibit them. As an architecture major, I believe there are many things I could do to improve the lives of seniors in my hometown of Medford, Oregon. The population of Medford has a high proportion of senior citizens. As a result, we have many excellent health care facilities in the area, and several entertainment venues that carry programs that senior citizens can enjoy. The problem that arises is the assisted living facilities in my area are not located close to any of these sites. Couple this with the lack of accessible public transportation and you have a recipe for communities of removed, unengaged senior citizens.
One immediate solution to this problem is to plan and build retirement communities that are located in the downtown area. Downtown Medford needs a revitalization. The infusion of senior citizens directly into the downtown area would not only flood businesses with more foot traffic, populate the city parks, and enliven the other public spaces, but would reintegrate these same people, who have helped shape the downtown area in the previous decades, back into Medford. Assisted living facilities in this area would also put senior citizens next to the Rogue Community College/ Southern Oregon University campus downtown. This would allow them to extend their personal knowledge at the university level by auditing classes, while also opening them up as accessible bastions of wisdom and experience to college and middle aged class members. Another benefit to building assisted living communities here is the access senior citizens would have to local restaurants. Medford is slowly developing a foodie culture, and an influx of customers within walking distance would rapidly expand their business. This would then lead to even more places within walking distance for senior citizens to meet and engage the wider population.
Building structures for seniors in the heart of downtown would be ideal, but there are other things that can be done from an architectural standpoint on a smaller scale. These are simple things, such as building trails and gardens around existing assisted living facilities, building auditoriums and stages for bands and speakers to come into assisted living communicates, and designing warm, inviting rooms with good light and views instead of sacrificing senior comfort and livability on the altar of keeping construction costs down.
As an architect, I would design space for seniors to not only continue living as they have, but to elevate their lifestyles beyond what it was during their working years. I would respect the unique needs of these citizens, creating spaces that are open and allow others to assist them, contrasted with private spaces for them to age in peace and out of the prying eyes of others.

Response by James Romero, Biola University

The degree that I have chosen to pursue at Biola University is Business Marketing. A basic description of this field of study is learning how to effectively move products from producers to consumers. Fundamentally, every business needs a good marketing plan to keep their business functioning. An Assisted Living is a producer with a consistent turnover and needs to continue to bring in new consumers. By working with other local businesses (producers) to bring their products and services to their residents (consumers), a good reputable Assisted Living can simultaneously keep an active working profile in their community and improve the lives of their Seniors.
Over the last five years, I have become very familiar with the Assisted Living in the bedroom community of Simi Valley, California where I live. I have noticed many things that my grandmother’s residence has done well. Services that are brought in to help the seniors have been cosmetologists, podiatrists, dentists, and many entertainers. Additionally, the Assisted Living in our town has done a great job of reaching out to the community by holding open houses, boutiques, car shows, and many fabulous free holiday events for the families of residents. The seniors have also gone out into the community to give back by reading each week to different preschool classrooms and raising awareness by speaking to different service organizations. However, there are many unmet needs that the Seniors have that if were offered could greatly improve their lives and in turn benefit local businesses.
Being able to run basic errands is a major need for seniors. Doctor appointments, bank visits, church attendance and shopping trips are all needs that many seniors wish was more easily accomplished. Most Assisted Living Residences employ only one or two drivers who have access to a car and a van that can accompany wheel chairs. Most residents find it frustrating to travel and wait for hours as the van stops, assists and waits for each traveler to do their errands. Private outside businesses could help with some sort of “Uber-type” or “Dial-a-Ride” business that individually assists the Seniors to get to where they need to go and possibly help them shop.
Technology is an area where many Seniors are apprehensive and are being left behind. I would propose a working relationship with the local Apple or Best Buy Store to send in weekly trainers on how to use a simplified tablet to enable Seniors to communicate with family or do online banking or shopping? Texting is also another difficult skill for many seniors and many families of Seniors long for a simple device. Until that day arrives, a working relationship with the local cell phone companies can help. Sending their liaisons to the Assisted Living facility to offer weekly texting training would not only build their businesses but make the lives of many families with Senior members easier and more productive.
Other local businesses that could participate in helping to upgrade the quality of life for Seniors that live in the Assisted Living environment by offering their services are Real Estate and Insurance agents, lawyers, audiologists, estheticians, massage therapists, exercise instructors, restaurant owners, grocery stores and movie theaters. By the simple understanding of creatively getting their products to the Senior consumers, both local businesses and Seniors will benefit. An added benefit would be that the families and friends of Seniors will be grateful and will become loyal consumers as well. Over the next three years in college, I am looking forward to learning and acquiring the Marketing skills to help businesses and Seniors come together.

Response by Jamie-Lee Hall, Marian University

My major of study is nursing, and my intended field I want to work in when I become an RN is geriatric nursing. I have worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant for two years and I absolutely love working with elderly people. This is simply because the people I care for are not “just another patient.” They are the residents I care for every day and I am their family. Working as a Certified Nursing Assistant is the most rewarding job I have ever had, simply due to the appreciation and love my coworkers and me receive from our residents we care for. Through working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, it has shown me all I can do once I become a Registered Nurse, and it has me more excited than ever for what the future holds.
Nurses are always needed no matter what the age of someone is. However, nurses are especially needed to aid seniors that are unable to live on their own without help from a caregiver. In-home care is the best solution for any elderly person that needs assistance, and in today’s society it is hard to find in home care nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants to aid the elderly. However, with the elderly remaining at home, they feel more comfortable than being in a nursing home and they are allowed to keep their homes and feel as though they have more freedom when it comes to their care. Which, in my perspective, that is a very important part of aging. After all, when a person feels helpless and begins to give up, that is usually when they begin to decline and fail to thrive. That is exactly why I believe that, through me becoming a nurse, I can aid the people in my town and in the community.
Through the nursing major I will become a registered nurse and will be able to provide cares to in-home seniors which will enable them to be more comfortable even though they are unable to do the different tasks they used to be able to accomplish. Although I will not be able to help everyone in my town, I will be able to provide my skills and compassion for as many people as I can while they remain in their home and even provide them with company. Many seniors feel as though they are alone and even though I will just be a care giver in most people’s eyes, I will see them as family, as I do now with the residents I care for at Harbor Haven. In-home care is more than coming to someone’s home, doing cares, and leaving. In-home care requires people to have genuine compassion for people and the elderly and keep them company and hold a nice conversation with them, even if they are in a hurry. Caring for people requires more than just the use of skills that are taught in college, it requires compassion and care.
Through my field of study, I will be able to work as an in-home care nurse and provide the genuine, loving, care the seniors of my community deserve. As we all know, the world can always use more genuine and caring nurses to aid all ages of people, especially seniors that need it the most.

Response by Jason Michael Rogers, University of Utah

While teaching in Korea, most of my students were of university age; and, in Korea, there is a requirement in most universities for students to fulfill a set amount of hours of community service. Especially those in the Humanities, Social Services, and Education departments, all of which I taught in. And, I wanted to join in with students in the social volunteer work so that I could be an example to them and maybe they might keep doing the volunteer work after they graduate.
Plus, with the election of the current president Park Guen-Hye a few years ago, social work took the emphasis during her term in office. The former president Lee Myung-Bak focused on education, especially university, so for most all the time I have spent in Korea, there have been many social programs to volunteer for and help with. And, with the displacement of the older generation in Korea over the last many years due to a tremendous generational gap, there have been numerous programs and funding to help the elderly generation in assisted living facilities.
Those with alzheimers, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and the beginning stages of dementia need help (from professionals and volunteers), and I have always tried to help out when I can, mostly with students. In a sad twist, some elderly husbands and wives both suffer with crippling handicaps and/or neurological disorders, so both need a lot of help. And, then there is the problem with their lack of children and grandchildren, or offspring who don’t have the time or the care to help. Also, there are the time constraints some of the children and grandchildren have when it comes to taking care of their parents and grandparents. There are many issues, and a lot of people need our help, especially those who find it difficult to help themselves. Sometimes it is stressful for the volunteer, but the smile and ‘thank you’ from the elderly person makes it all worth it. I know that sounds like a cliché, but clichés do have a basis in reality.
Furthermore, my students and I have helped with feeding, general care, reading, and whatnot throughout the years. And, there are the more basic activities I have helped with, like teaching the elderly how to use a smartphone and a computer. It is slow going but helps the elderly get around a very well connected society like Korea. And, I have helped, with my students, teach the elderly how to read and write (yes, in Korean). The older generation has a high illiteracy rate, so the reading and writing classes have usually been pretty packed, especially in the more rural regions.
There have been years of helping the elderly who really needed and with just basic necessities of everyday life, and I want to continue on with this volunteer work. And, as a teacher, I will be able to continue with getting students to do volunteer work through school programs. Through my continued work as a teacher, I can have a big impact on those in assisted living facilities just like I have for many years. Even if I don’t have a direct connection with the elderly, I can still have an impact through my students and future volunteer programs. When I get my teaching license, I want to continue to live overseas and teach on military bases or international schools. In many foreign countries, the American military and various international schools already try and take part in community programs, so the basis is already set up in most countries. Therefore, I can continue with what I have been doing for many years now, not just through my employment but with many of my relatives who have suffered from alzheimers and dementia. My mother is even in the beginning stages of alzheimers. It is sad, but I hope my experiences will help benefit her when she finds it difficult to take care of herself.

Response by Jenna Zehr, Indiana Wesleyan University

The problem I see in the assisted living industry is just that. It has become an industry far more focused on making a profit and less and less focus on the patients. The assisted living facilities in my home town are great if you have the funds to be fortunate enough to go into one that is well staffed and trained. Unfortunately, that is not the case in far too many facilities. With rising costs and a healthcare system that leaves many without adequate benefits, the care is often subpar. This gives way to understaffed, low waged care givers who are more interested in collecting a paycheck than taking care of their patients. There is one simple quality that a nurse should possess above all other qualities…and that is to simply care. Compassion and empathy is not something they can teach you in a classroom. You must search deep inside and pull it out at times. But it essential in this profession.
The doctors diagnose and treat their patients with the prescriptions and nurses administer and adhere to doctor orders. But it goes far deeper than that.
A nurse must care.
We must learn to talk with the residents. Care enough to hear their story. What they were like as a child. We should listen intently and be completely focused even when they repeat the same tale over and over as if we are hearing it for the first time.
We must care enough to bath them and change them, so that they can keep their dignity as if this is no big deal and that they have nothing to be embarrassed about.
We must care enough to let them cry because they are lonely and miss the people in their lives that had once been their whole world.
We must care enough to laugh because they are often silly.
We must care enough to be patient because their bodies do not work as well as they once used to.
We must care enough to reassure their loved ones that they are in the best possible place, with the best possible care and that although the decision is a tough and heartbreaking one, it is for the best.
I have held the hand of many residents who just wanted to feel another’s touch. They are scared and frightened because the world, as they knew it, is now gone.
I have held the hand of many a caregiver because they feel defeated in their duty to provide for their loved one and now must leave them in the hands of strangers.
We must find a way to make this affordable regardless of financial status. We must educate the medical field that these residents are not simply paychecks, but real people with real feelings and real emotions. We must communicate with our government and demand that we owe our seniors, veterans and disabled citizens a far more dignified way of living.
So you see, it isn’t a fancy facility with a personal chef, all sorts of activities, or a beauty salon that is needed in assisted living, although those are very nice, it is simply someone to care. It isn’t about the grades, or what school you attended, or how much money you can make, it is about loving and caring for another when they are at their lowest point. When they need you and depend on you the most. This is their last stop before going “home”. If mine was the last face they saw before passing from this world, I would want them to know that I cared about them. I want them to know that they were loved. I want them to know that our time together would forever be a cherished memory.
Let’s improve ourselves as humans, the rest will fall into place.

Response by Jennifer Grant, Wayne State University

Assisted living communities care for people who often begin requiring minimal assistive care. As people age their needs for assistance and health care increase. Residents often have multiple health comorbidities and are subject to infections, falls, and decline in functional status. Health care is an extremely important aspect of care for residents of assisted living and nurse practitioners with a doctorate of nursing degree are perfectly prepared to fill this need. In addition to providing primary care nurse practitioners can function as a health care leader in the assisted living community in order to case manage patient’s multiple health care needs. Implementing and directing research is an added benefit to having a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) prepared nurse practitioner in assisted living communities.
Residents of assisted living homes need access to good primary care providers. Often residents have difficulty leaving the assisted living community and finding adequate transportation to the primary care provider. Primary care physicians have multiple demands on their time and are decreasing in number. Many times people have to wait over an hour to see the provider which is difficult for the residents of assisted livings because of health issues. There is predicted to be a shortage of primary care physicians in the future and nurse practitioners are the perfect provider to fill this gap. Nurse practitioners can play a vital role in the well-being of residents of assisted living homes. Nurse practitioners can visit patients at their residence, order testing, and adjust medication regimens far more frequently than most physicians are able to visit. The ability for nurse practitioners to visit patients at the bedside negates the need for transportation and waiting in an unfamiliar environment. Nurse practitioners also practice from a holistic health model which is consistent with the social model of health found in assisted living communities Nurse practitioners are able to provide high quality primary medical care to the assisted living his patient population at their bedside.
In addition to functioning as the primary care provider, the addition of the doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree could allow the practitioner to function as the health care leader of an assisted living community. The DNP degree brings with it advanced training on health systems and administration. The residents of assisted livings need a provider who can help manage the routine primary care health needs along with supervising staff which implements care to the residents. Additionally, networking with local hospital staff to help decrease readmission rates and provide effective discharge planning allowing for a seamless transition for the residents of assisted living communities between care providers.
Finally the DNP degree in particular is designed to bring evidence based interventions to the patient’s bedside. The DNP role is also designed to find gaps in evidence and help focus new research to create new knowledge to benefit patients. With the aging population there will be a greater need for long term care. With up to one-half of residents of assisted living communities having dementia there needs to be more research with non-medicinal interventions to help patients with dementia. The DNP in practice can help focus, implement, evaluate and improve research for assisted living resident with dementia. Research involving aromatherapy, music therapy, meditation, physical activity and synchronizing care to the patients schedule can all play a role in helping with anxiety for patients with dementia. The DNP can facilitate research to help the residents in the assisted living and beyond.
The DNP nurse practitioner can improve care for residents of assisted living communities in a variety of ways. Providing primary care, functioning as a health care leader, and assisting with research are a few ways to improve the quality of life for the geriatric resident.

Response by Jennifer Marie Perez, Miami Dade College

In a recent holiday commercial Publix, a supermarket company, told the heartwarming story of a boy inviting one of his elderly neighbors to his family’s Christmas dinner. While the commercial portrayed the giving spirit found during the holiday season, it also sent a message to the public about a reality facing many senior citizens within communities throughout the country. This heartfelt commercial reminded me that I need to make a larger effort to welcome others into my family when their loved ones are not around, especially towards the senior citizens within my community. As a Communications major hoping to one day work in the areas of public relations or advertising, I could have the opportunity to evoke a similar involvement in the subject area of seniors within assisted living.
The media has such a significant impact on the thoughts and opinions individual’s have on a particular subject. One commercial, advertisement or campaign holds the power to improve, transform or ignite a change within society. The media can improve the lives of seniors within assisted living because it can inform the public about issues senior citizens face which can arise to a change occurring. Many people do not realize all the challenges or issues faced regarding senior citizens in assisted living. The media can serve as the communication bridge between senior citizens within assisted living and the rest of the community to provoke a change in society.
There is a power with numbers. While there are many senior citizens within society, not many people within the group can advocate for their benefit because of lack of resources or ability. For this reason the media can serve as the main advocates for senior citizens. For instance, if assisted living facilities receive a cut within their funding but the issue only remains within the community of senior citizens and their families then it is unlikely for the problem to become resolved. However, if the news reports this issue then the likelihood of receiving more funding can increase because more people will become aware of the problem. Using the media to bring this attention to the entire community can result everyone raising more money for the assisted living facility, solving the funding problem. The media has the power to change and improve conditions for senior citizens in assisted living facilities because reaching more people creates more advocates with society for this community of individuals.
With the media, the lives of senior citizens within assisted living can drastically improve. The media can serve as the source of information to society. In addition, with the media more individuals can be informed about ways to assisted seniors in assisted living facilities. From studying Communications, I believe I will receive the necessary training and knowledge to create an effective advertisement to inform others or provoke a change within the senior citizen community. With my degree, I hope to one day create a campaign or commercial that positively impacts an individual’s thoughts and motivates them to act as a solution to a problem.

Response by Jennifer Simes, Sinclair Community College

Choosing to live in an assisted living facility is a major life choice for seniors. There are many outstanding facilities to choose from and they range from small home like environments, to apartments with some moderate assistance, to cottages with light assistance. Seniors have to face many issues when trying to decide if this is the best choice for them. One of the most important things I recall about working in an assisted living facility was that seniors do not want to give up their independence. These are people who had worked hard their whole lives to provide for their families and be productive members of society. These individuals are nurses, professors, military personnel, educators or business owners. They have spent their entire adult lives making their own decisions about day to day activities. Now they have someone helping them choose what type of unit they will live in, when and what they can eat, what day they will have a shower, and when they can take their medication. If you’re not a senior these are things that most take for granted every day. Even the smallest choice can have one feeling like they are losing their independence. It is extremely important that a senior take an active role in the planning of transitioning to an assisted living facility.
Similar to the planning of activities of daily living, seniors will also need competent and knowledgeable assistance with the financial and legal transition. Important decisions with estate planning and probate will need to be made. Seniors have much to consider when it comes to their spouses, family, home, and assets that may be involved. Decisions like; healthcare, Medicare and Medicaid planning, long-term care insurance, retirement planning, and special needs planning. I will have a firm that focuses on these needs for seniors. I will travel to see clients at their home or facility of residence if they are unable to visit my office. I would also like to host an information day once a month for seniors at a local senior center. The information session will provide valuable information on probate and estate planning issues. It will also be a point of resource and referral for elderly social services such as; transportation services, family and respite support services, physician offices, and financial planning contracts. I will also host law clinics once a month where I can provide knowledgeable information, and pro-bono legal services for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it. One more area I will focus on is being an advocate for their safety and security needs. It is important when living in an assisted living facility or nursing home to know oneself is protected from theft and personal injury.
The senior population is important; these are the individuals that have helped to lay a solid foundation for our thriving economy and society today. We must not forget them but help provide them with the necessary tools for a smooth transition into a different stage in their lives. Having the right tools to make an informed decision are the first and most important steps of any serious choice that will affect a major part of someone’s life.

Response by John Bonde, Boise State University

I started caregiving in summer of 2014 in a special needs group home. I applied for this job because I was just looking for something in the summer and I thought it was something I could do. I also thought it would look good on my resume. After a few weeks of working full-time, I found myself adapting quite well; I began developing a bond with some of my clients. I found out I was good at caregiving. One reason I know this is my supervisor liked me—and she has a reputation for removing poor caregivers. Another reason is I discovered that the one resident who is known for hating everyone liked me. I believe I was able to achieve this because of my patient and quiet manner, and I treat all of my clients as though they are my equal. I worked at this home for a little over a year.
Before I majored in business, I was in mechanical engineering, which is what I had planned on doing several years before. After three semesters, I found that I wasn’t enjoying it and it didn’t feel like something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided to switch to finance because I have always been fascinated with business, money, and numbers. This change happened after the fall 2014 semester. After my first semester in business, I knew I made the right decision.
In the following summer of this year, I wanted to find another job. I didn’t mind my job, I just wanted to do something in which I could have more conversation and interaction with my clients. I was looking for both administrative jobs and senior caregiving positions. I ended up being hired on the spot by my boss for home care when she was meeting with my grandparents. My grandmother was going to have surgery and my grandfather, who has dementia, would be needing extra help while she was recovering. I made it my job to make sure that they got the right provider, and I came out with a job that I love.
It was after getting this job that I decided to make it my goal to start my own assisted living facility. The baby boomers are just starting to retire, and in the next 5 to 10 years the demand for assisted living will explode. There will be a lot of places that will only be after their money. I see this as the perfect opportunity with my long time aspirations of being a business owner and my skill in caregiving.
Studying finance is only one precursor towards my goal of starting my own facility. Finance, in its most basic terms, is about helping businesses make money. In my major I will be learning things such as planning, investing, raising revenue, and managing costs. For a business major there are a lot of prerequisites in subjects such as accounting, marketing, and management, which will help to give me a better understanding of the world of business. Getting this degree in finance will give me important knowledge in how to run a successful business.
Another part is gaining experience as a caregiver. The caregivers are the most important part of assisted living. Caregivers spend the most time with the residents, thus they will have the greatest effect on clients’ lives. At many of the facilities I have been assigned to work, the biggest problem I have seen is the caregivers; most of them don’t have the patience and/or understanding, and tend to treat clients as though they are children, instead of as the adults they are. I want to change this.
My studying of finance will improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities in Boise, Idaho. Studying finance will give me the tools to run a successful business. My caregiving experience will help me manage an excellent assisted living facility. By putting the two together, my plan is to create the best facility in the area, creating the standard for the rest to follow.

Response by John Smilges, Capital University

“We are the risk-takers; we are the innovators; we are the developers of new models. We are trying the future on for size. That is our role,” urged Maggie Kuhn to her closest friends in 1970. “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes.” Like many of the emerging progressives of the late twentieth century, Kuhn recognized that there was unaddressed injustice in the world, and she made it her mission to stand for truth, even when it was not popular. But distinguishing her from her contemporaries was Kuhn’s age. After being forced into retirement because she turned 65, Kuhn realized that her self-concept did not match society’s expectations of her. Despite her age, Kuhn foresaw years of proactive involvement in charities, institutions, and the various social causes she supported. Much of her family and many of her friends, however, suggested that she slow down and not overexert herself. They feared she would risk injury or illness. Kuhn, though, refused to be dissuaded. To her, age was not a limiting factor; youth and vitality were states of mind to which she gripped with angst. She was alive, breathing, speaking, and moving—perhaps more slowly than she had a half century before—but nevertheless still able to fight for what she believed in. Starting with just a handful of friends, Kuhn established one of the most prosperous and effective social justice organizations in the United States, the Gray Panthers, which boasted the membership of over 70,000 people when she died in 1995.
Stories like Maggie Kuhn’s are the ones that instigate positive reformation in society, challenging norms, questioning assumptions, and ultimately standing up for the inherent rights of all citizens. But arguably more important than her work, Kuhn herself represents a historic distinction: “older” is not synonymous with “lesser.” Even though a person grows older, she is not necessarily weaker, less intelligent, or less capable of benefiting society. As an English major, I study the influence of semantics—word choice—in literature, in films, and on people. I analyze how labeling an older person as simply “old” or “elderly” servers no other purpose but to demean them, reducing them to faceless, burdensome beings. People like Kuhn, though, prove that such labels are not only offensive but purely fallacious. Unfortunately, inaccurate terms can still cause tremendous damage, and I plan to use what I learn from my major to combat the harmful effects.
By studying English, I plan to use my language skills to redefine the concept of aging, creating a table of words that connote wisdom, strength, and ability. Rather than focus on the physical debilitations that coincide with aging, I will develop new ways of thinking about senior citizens. Then, by working with corporations and marketing agencies, I will educate others on how they can modify their descriptors to better promote the well-being and equal treatment that older people deserve. While state and federal laws, such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, have helped to reduce the number the workers fired because of their age, they have not changed the general population’s perception of seniors. A study from the University College London, “Perceived Age Discrimination in Older Adults” (2013), reports that one third of people aged 50 and above have experienced age discrimination. Whether it be in hospital care, out shopping, or while eating, a third of participants surveyed recalled instances of disrespect, harassment, and threatening (Rippon et al.). These experiences were the ones Kuhn stood up against, reminding the world that age does not dictate ability.
I plan to stand along with Kuhn, promoting her voice with my own, exhorting society to reexamine their treatment of older people. I will use my background in English to transform the rhetoric surrounding the aging process and will promote a new era for growing older—one that is cause for celebration, not rejection or humiliation. It is not our place to curb another person’s will to live her life, especially if she want to reinvest herself into the betterment of society. Instead, we should cheer all people, lift all people, herald all people—no matter their ages—to “live outrageously,” (Kuhn).

Response by Jordyn Quast, Mid-State Technical College

The lives of those residing in assisted living facilities will be exponentially better if someone like myself were present there, having the knowledge that I do about the aging process as it incorporates health and wellness. As I’ve learned throughout the Health & Wellness program, the older adult population is growing and will continue to grow in the years to come. This means older adults will be a big part of the service population for those in the health and wellness field. I t is extremely important to include the older adult population when thinking about health and wellness.
Someone with a degree in Health & Wellness would be very beneficial to those who settle in an assisted living facility. As professionals, we’ll be able to assist adults with not only their physical health, but also their emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, and environmental health. Most individuals only think about physical wellness when they think about health, but it is much more than just physical. As a health and wellness professional working in an assisted living facility, I would be able to improve the lives of those who reside there by having expertise in more than just physical health. All of the aforementioned dimensions of wellness are interconnected to each other and by having a health and wellness degree, it would ensure that no dimension get forgotten or pushed to the wayside . And as I’ve learned throughout this program at Mid – State, if one dimension is lacking, than all other dimensions will soon follow. So, to ensure all older adults living in that facility are experiencing the absolute best wellness that they can, I would make sure that all dimensions are highlighted while they are residing there; whether it is through group activities, individual sessions, or many other potential options.
I think, especially in the small, rural town that I currently live in, people are under the impression that health and wellness for older adults is just eating right and exercising to the best of their ability. But as I’ve already stated, health and wellness encompasses all the seven dimensions of wellness. This is why I feel as though someone with my degree would be extremely vital to the assisted living facilities in my town. I would ensure that no dimension goes unconsidered when discussing and planning the well – being of the residents. Touching on all dimensions will tremendously increase the quality of life for those individuals. Having someone with a degree in Health & Wellness with the knowledge and skills in all dimensions is essential when the main goal is to improve the lives and the comfort of residents.
The quality of life for an older adult is dependent on more than just healthy foods and some physical activity. Intellectual health as well as emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental are as equally important as physical health for everyone, but especially for the older adult population. It is often forgotten that all of these dimensions are intertwined with each other and if one is lacking, than the others most likely will be too. So, it is clear that all of these dimensions are important to consider when contemplating older adult wellness and quality of life and I feel as though my degree would be a particularly important addition to the staffing and management of an assisted living facility, especially in rural Wisconsin.

Response by Joseph Buchanan. University of Northern Colorado

My major throughout college will be in Journalism and Mass Communications, focusing mostly on Telecommunications. My goal post-college is to work at a local news station and provide news to the local population. While I wouldn’t be able to assist seniors directly through my career choice I will be able to keep them informed and entertained on a daily basis.
According to research published by Nielsen Broadcasting the largest audience for local news broadcasts in most cities were people 55 years or older. Trust is key to having that audience continually choose to watch the local broadcast. This means that the news broadcasters can’t afford to lie about or dismiss topics that their audience deems important. So to continually have a reoccurring audience news stations must provide the most up to date and reliable information that people can find. This not only keeps the news station crew on their toes for all major events happening both locally and nationally, but also keeps the local population informed on any topic that could affect their lives. Through this system, my time working with the local news team would benefit a large number of senior citizens by keeping them informed on any topic that could affect them or their family’s lives.
In time I hope to move up in my career to work for a national news service. National news service have even more diverse audience than local news, however, senior citizens over the age of 55 still hold the largest percentage of the audience of each of the evening news stations. This means that throughout my career, no matter where I work, I still will be catering to a large audience of senior citizens. Through a national news network, however, I will be reaching an audience well beyond my local area and helping senior citizens and others across the nation stay informed on much bigger picture topics than I would in a local news station.
I will also be able to entertain my audience. A sizeable portion of the audience for nightly news broadcasts do not even really care what topics the newscasters will be addressing that night. They just want to watch television, and the nightly news is a lot like a show with new episodes every night. From the critical issues discussed every night to the much more light hearted stories taken on by newscasters, both local and national news is entertaining. People are able to catch up on their favorite teams, learn the weather to plan activities, and learn about anything happening locally. Entertainment is vital to mental health especially in places like assisted living homes. With many senior citizens not able to move very far or even leave the house, a reliable source of daily entertainment like an evening newscast is a solace to them.
Evening newscasts are a reliable source of information and at the very least, are an entertaining nightly television show. With senior citizens being such a high portion of the audience for the newscasts, many of the shows are geared towards the elderly population. These nightly broadcasts help the people in assisted living homes stay informed and entertained on a nightly basis. This is one of the many reasons why I chose to pursue Journalism and Mass Communications as my major.

Response by Joshua Mawhorter, California State University Bakersfield

Elderly people can be appreciated for the fact that they are often very politically active. Those who participate in in-home care may not be as politically involved as they used to be but they have usually set a consistent example that we should be grateful for. After all the years of commitment and the addition of value they have contributed to the community the favor should be returned. As a teacher I would like to teach appreciation for more mature generations.
Multiple generations need to be together and that often occurs in the context of community college. Some colleges have the chance to invite older people to come and speak what it was like to grow up in the times they did and experience the events that they did. Another thing that can contribute to helping these people is a teacher has a unique place to stand as an advocate for these people. Teachers have a platform to show others the needs of these people, what they experience, and how others can contribute to their community through helping at centers that house and care for elderly people.
Someone who has an extensive knowledge of politics and public policy also has the opportunity to help guide local policies in order to make sure that appropriate help is given to these people. Unfortunately elderly people are often unfairly overlooked and people forget that they are just normal people who enjoy to talk, have others pay attention to them, have a good time and so on. It is simply wrong to pass over these people who need the attention of the community possibly more than any other particular demographic.
Education is necessary for improving the lives of all people. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to educate people who will benefit the lives of elderly people in assisted living homes. If I have a hand in the chance to educate the next doctors, lawyers, politicians, physical therapists, etc., then I can help shape and ensure that those people provide and improved quality
Teachers are, arguably, in one of the best positions to take part on social and cultural change. The current situation in this country with how the elderly are viewed is something that we should be ashamed of. This does not mean that there needs to be some sort of movement where the government introduces new things in order to meet the responsibility of others. What people should be ethically ashamed of is the attitude of entitlement that receives support from so many parents and grandparents and others and then they are not taken care of. There is no reciprocity and that is something that needs to be changed on a person-to-person basis or class- by-class in terms of teaching.

Response by Joshua Meier, Northeastern University

Imagine not being able to recall that you just read this sentence. Despite it being just a couple seconds ago, you are unable to remember the words just used and have no idea what I’m talking about in this essay. And the sentence before this, gone. For one of the seniors my mother cares for, this is the reality of life. Due to Alzheimer’s he has a severe deficit in short term anterograde memory. When my mother is caring for him he will forget anything she just said, did, or even who she is, so she must introduce herself to him every time she goes to assist him. He is unable to leave his home because he could not find his way back, forcing him to become a shut-in. His case is not rare, nor unusual just a little more extreme, but for many seniors who need care, insufficient mental faculties are their greatest inhibitor.
The only way to improve the life of the aforementioned man, and the lives of so many other seniors, is through neuroscience. The Behavioral Neuroscience program at Northeastern University has given me the opportunity to study these disorders, along with other aspects of the brain, and after I graduate I hope to earn a master’s degree in neural systems and neuropathology with specializations in graph theory and statistical analysis. The man’s disorder is most likely caused by neuronal decay of his medial temporal lobe, more specifically the hippocampus proper, causing an inability to generate novel explicit memories from new sensory stimuli. The only way to restore some personal function, and any sort of independence, to his life would be to repair the degenerated brain structures and stop any further decay, either through regeneration of neural tissue or repair of damaged synapses and neuronal cellular structures. The field of neuroscience holds the key to unlocking the possibilities of these treatments.
Next semester I will be working in the lab of Gunther Zupanc PhD., as part of a directed study involving the teleost fish. The teleost fish has an enormously greater capacity as an adult to generate new neurons, than mammals have. My work will involve proteomic analysis of suspect proteins involved in the regeneration of spinal tissue. The goal of this research is to expand the understanding of the regenerative processes, and their behavioral repercussions, and apply this knowledge to treatment of degenerative brain disorders in humans.
Restoring the mental faculties of seniors who receive in home care would have a profound impact on their lives. Future research in the field will develop new treatments to halt the further degradation of the nervous system, and stimulate the growth of neurons. In addition to that, understanding the brain through neuroscience has so much to offer for improving the lives of seniors now. Expanding caregivers’ knowledge on how to care for and understand people with these disorders will allow for a greater level of comfort and happiness in the lives of people around the world. Take for example again the case of the man with no short-term memory. While he may not have a functioning explicit memory system, his implicit memory capacity (i.e. muscle memory and sensorimotor skills) is present, innate to the physiology of the neuron. Knowing this, caregivers, like my mother, could help him improve his life by presenting tasks he struggles with as repeated motor skills, which despite a dysfunctional memory system can still improve. So while he may not remember trying the skill the day before he will still be able to improve at the task, such is the case with his ability to make meals. He cannot remember the words of a recipe, but his neurons recognize the tools and ingredients, the sensory stimulus of the smell and feel and are able to activate the motor systems to complete these tasks. There are so many seniors who need care because they struggle with mental faculties that inhibit their daily lives, and as a result are unable to operate with the independence they would like to have. Restoration of cognitive capabilities and improvement of care and treatment for those with degenerative neurological disorders will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on the lives of seniors who require care, and as such it is undeniable the role neuroscience will take in improving the quality of treatment and care for such cases.

Response by Julia Steffen, Northern Kentucky University

I currently work as a physical therapy aide at a clinic to ensure patient progress while assisting the therapists. A recent patient sat with her husband while the therapist asked about the bruises that had appeared on her neck, hip, and arms since her last visit. The patient trembled with exhaustion and confusion. She did not know how she got the bruises. They were just products of her many trips and falls that occur more regularly in her home. The patient revealed that she is afraid to go to the doctor because she fears she may have to leave her home due to her lack of safety there. While working with elderly populations at the clinic, I often notice a sense of fear associated with the possibility of leaving one’s home if a nursing home or assisted living facility is a more appropriate fit for the patient. These experiences have demonstrated to me the importance of considering the safety of patients to ensure proper care regarding where they live and are cared for. I am pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree so that I may provide guidance and encouragement to elderly populations in similar situations. I hope to recommend the safest avenues of care for these individuals while promoting the value of independent living at assisted living facilities. Studying to become a physical therapist will allow me to improve the lives of seniors by fostering their physical well-being and serving as a support system so that they may obtain safe, active lifestyles.
Most seniors living in assisted living facilities have participated or will participate in physical therapy at some point in their lives. I hope to serve as a physical therapist who strives to impact these individuals beyond only improving their mobility and physical health. Each senior patient in assisted living is somebody’s friend, sister, grandfather, or loved one. I plan to treat each patient as though he or she is also my friend or loved one. This approach would promote the building of interpersonal relationships with patients, which is something I have witnessed to be essential. By compassionately serving my patients in this manner, my goal would be for my faith in my patients to translate into their own confidence in their abilities to succeed. Therefore, I would be able to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities by impacting their physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing. Promoting the value of assisted living facilities to these patients would improve their own acceptance of their living situation, especially in cases similar to that of the patient I recently encountered. I would encourage independent living to my patients in physical therapy, while familiarizing them with the resources that are available to them to further promote their health and wellbeing in assisted living.
Furthermore, I have always had a passion for educating others – a passion that would be fulfilled with a career as a physical therapist. As a college student, I have worked as an academic tutor, interacting with students in science courses to facilitate their understanding of course materials. Knowing that education can be an integral part of physical therapy makes this career even more appealing to me. As a future physical therapist working to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living, I would pride myself in ensuring that my patients have a deep understanding of the therapy process. This educational approach would facilitate the seniors’ investments in their recoveries to help them progress at appropriate rates, avoid subsequent injuries, and show more interest in their overall physical health to maintain their own level of independence associated with assisted living.
Thus, it is with great enthusiasm that I look forward to furthering my education in my pursuit of obtaining a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. I am confident that this area of study would prepare me for a career that would allow me to impact the lives of aging seniors. I hope to have the best interest of my patients in mind so that I may encourage them to consider the enhanced safety and resources associated with assisted living. I want to shed a positive light on the benefits of assisted living so that patients no longer tremble with fear at the possibility of leaving their homes where they can no longer live safely without additional care. Studying to become a physical therapist will allow me to promote healthy, safe living so that senior patients can continue to be active members of society in assisted living.

Response by Julianna Adamitis, Alvernia University

At this time, elderly individuals are living longer than ever before due to advancing technologies; consequently, residents of the assisted living facility are more prone to come in contact negligence or malpractice, racial and ethnic diversities, and the “burden” that families and friends have when they have to take care of an aging adult. It is critical to train future nurses in gerontology, the study of aging, before they are employed at any assisted living facility in a community.
Negligence and malpractice is a colossal issue that needs to be acknowledged in assisted living facilities. Limited resources for the residents and undertrained staff are some of the most common factors that contribute to negligence or malpractice. This can lead to medication errors and acquired infections. Some of the most documented reports in assisted living facilities are inadequate pain management, decubitus (pressure) ulcers, the improper use of restraints, and feeding tubes. The ways in which these issues can be avoided is through proper evaluation of the resident and making sure the resident is being turned in their bed, walked, or is assisted to the bathroom every two hours. It is important for nurses currently studying at their university to pay attention in their adult and geriatric courses and in their clinical rotations. In addition, the nursing home that they wish to be employed by should offer a safety course and evaluation of the employee before he/she begins working at the assisted living facility.
Racial and ethnic diversity is increasing in older adults throughout the United States. Religion, faith, and spirituality are the three key components that allow individuals to make sense of certain experiences, including illnesses. Regardless of an individual’s religious background, it is important for nursing students to become educated about theology because it informs them on how to care for residents from a variety of different religious backgrounds; in turn, the student will know how to effectively communicate with a variety of faiths regarding the personal needs of the residents of the assisted living facility, interactions with staff members, and decisions about treatment. Neglect in this aspect of health care may lead to ethical dilemmas.
One of the most important characteristics of a nurse is their critical thinking ability, which allows that individual to provide competent, meaningful care to the resident because they will recognize the wide variety of cultural backgrounds. When the nurse is not knowledgeable in various religious backgrounds, the communication between the nurse and the resident may create differences that will result in medical care that may make the resident feel as though they are not cared for properly. The way in which nurses can overcome that barrier is to first become aware of their biases regarding different cultures so that they can appreciate the differences in other cultures. Next, they can obtain knowledge in other cultural backgrounds, such as their beliefs, and apply it to their patient care. When nurses are educated about different cultures and religions it will lead to increased resident satisfaction and improved clinical outcomes.
In addition to caring for the geriatric resident in a nursing home, it is important to also be aware of the condition of the family members of the resident. The family members who may be taking care of a resident who has a chronic illness or disability, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, may also be facing issues of their own. The family member may be experiencing mental problems, such as stress or depression, or physical problems, such as back issues. It is important for the not only the nurse, but the whole staff of the nursing home, to coordinate their care plan for the patient and provide comfort that the family is making the right decision in placing their family member at this long-term care facility.
It is important for colleges and universities to accurately educate their nursing students on the care of geriatric residents of assisted living facilities. In addition, the way in which the next generation of nurses chooses to take advantage of their education will indicate the quality of care that they will give the residents of the assisted living facility. It is also the assisted living facilities duty to do accurate background checks of the prospective employee and to do a proper orientation of the regulations that the facility has for taking care of the residents. Once the nurses know how to care for their residents properly, they will overcome the issues that assisted living facilities in various communities are currently facing today.

Response by Julie Brown, Kent State University

In general, a Master of Public Administration degree requires a person to really understand research, policy planning and implementation, and serving the public. While those qualities don’t seem to easily relate to assisted living, in reality they are instrumental. From a public health standpoint, it is essential that the elderly living in care are protected from infectious diseases. For that to happen, the Centers for Disease Control and other public government agencies have to work together to create and implement policy designed to protect the elderly.
In addition, public health administrators can work to create plans to follow federal guidelines regarding healthy dietary standards as well as access to exercise options. Public health administrators can work with other agencies to make sure that there is adequate quality indoor air, free from mold or other allergens. They can educate the residents and employees in ways to reduce chances of bedbugs.
When thinking what a person with a public administration degree can do regarding seniors in assisted living, I think about my own experiences with seniors in care, or seniors who needed to be in care. My grandmother is currently in assisted living. The workers are kind, and the facility feels clean and as much like home as it possibly can. The standards the employees follow were established by some level of public administration, whether it was the state Board of Health, federal departments, social services, or other agencies. These administrators took federal laws and statutes and created rules that reflect the laws. They then created ways to determine whether the rules are followed, and if they aren’t followed, then they created policies and procedures to correct the errors. Without public administrators, it would be difficult to enforce the rules and regulations.
A degree in public administration is extremely beneficial when it comes to discussing policy writing or rule implementation. But possibly even more important is the research experience gained through obtaining the degree. Without a firm understanding of the methods, and even the point of research, it would be impossible to acquire and correctly interpret data to properly determine what changes may need to be made. Public administrators are trained in research methods including the best ways to obtain the data, and then what to do with the data once you have it. Properly obtained data and interpretation is essential in providing necessary support when approaching stakeholders or policy decision makers.
Another way that a public administrator may get involved with a senior in assisted living would be regarding payment or insurance coverage. A public administrator may use comparative research to ensure that facilities are charging a fair rate.
Public administrators, including those here at Summit County Public Health, often have a close relationship with Adult Protective Services. We actually have several Adult Protective Services social workers who work at our agency. They work hand-in-hand with our housing inspectors and the county Sheriff’s department. In this way, we are better equipped to make immediate recommendations if we learn of a situation where a senior citizen isn’t being safely cared for, whether it is due to caregiver neglect, lack of financial assistance, or other reasons.
A public administration degree may not be the first choice that comes to mind when thinking about degrees that can help improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living. Other degrees like nursing, social work and other forms of management may be more popular choices. But in reality, many aspects of senior’s lives are affected by public administrators.

Response by Julie Slama, Yale University

As a child, my family would pack up the car and drive four hours to visit my Great Aunt Bonnie, who suffered from an intellectual disability and required assistance only a nursing home could provide. In our last trip to visit Aunt Bonnie in the summer of 2006, my mother found significant bruising on her arms, which Aunt Bonnie claimed were from her new boyfriend. When my parents gave this information to the nursing home staff, they were assured that Bonnie would not have contact with her boyfriend anymore. Bonnie passed away of a heart attack a few months later, and we were shocked to find more bruising on her extremities, very similar to what we had seen before. Upon my father’s return to Aunt Bonnie’s nursing home, the staff claimed that no complaint had been filed by our family, so Bonnie and her boyfriend were allowed to visit each other with varying amounts of supervision.
Watching this scenario unfold as a ten-year-old child made me feel especially helpless, but it inspired me to pursue a career as a lawyer specializing in elder law with an emphasis on elder abuse, neglect, and fraud. This dream continued through high school, strengthening when both of my grandfathers passed comfortably without fear of extortion. During my undergraduate education at Yale University, my major of Global Affairs will allow me to travel the world and research different structures of elder law. After graduation, my hope is to pursue my Juris Doctorate and then become an associate at an urban law firm. Once I gain sufficient experience, my hope is to return to rural Nebraska and begin a chain of law offices, specializing in the protection of elders from abuse, neglect, and fraud.
This chain of offices would fill a massive need in rural communities, as most small-town lawyers only have experience in estate planning, while guardianship and elder protection are delegated to more expensive urban lawyers. As a result, most families in small towns just try to solve these problems internally, which rarely ends in favor of the elder in question. My dream would be to expand my services to the rural areas throughout the Midwest, giving elders the chance to seek legal counsel at an affordable price.
My pursuit of a JD with a specialization in elder law will allow me to fill a desperate need in rural communities. The suffering of my Aunt Bonnie gave me insight into the world of elder law and the void of proper legal representation and oversight for the elderly, especially in nursing homes, in rural communities. By filling this need at an affordable price, my hope is to provide comfort to both the aging heads of families and their children. Outside of my legal practice, my research of different systems of elder law around the world will also allow me to provide counsel to government officials on the local, state, and national levels to ensure that protection of the elderly in the United States of America is the envy of the rest of the world. Together, we can solve the problems of elder abuse, neglect, and fraud in rural areas.

Response by June Dooley (Yasenov),San Jose State University

My Master’s Degree in Archives and Records Administration can improve the lives of seniors in my town by making archives accessible to the disabled and seniors living among us. Research is a great hobby for many housebound people. Most popular is genealogy research. From the comfort of their home, a senior can surf the web to find hidden family treasures from the past. There is so much that they remember from their childhood that makes this task much easier for them than their younger counterparts. They can remember minute details of a street in which they lived, which can contribute to finding evidence of the family’s origins as well as other familial data to intrigue their kids with.
I think seniors have been largely forgotten in many respects, but mostly for the abilities of their minds. Realistically, they do think slower than the younger generation, but their facts from the past are usually perfect. I think we can utilize that brainpower and give them a great outlet for their intelligence to shine again. They have a lot to offer the world and their families by going to the archives to study family trees. They will have a lot of fun in the process too. I think seniors deserve a bit of fun, don’t you?
My degree will enable me to be the reference archivist the seniors will ask questions of. Seniors will be able to email me, phone me, or make the trip to the archives in person. Either way, I will be the friendly face that greets them and helps them to discover family treasures that lay hidden in the past. They will be able to bring this newly found information to their kids and grandkids with the pride of knowing they are making a difference in their loved one’s lives. Children love to hear about a courageous ancestor who sailed across the ocean for a better life in a new land called America.
I would like to do outreaches as well to visit senior centers in my town to educate them on what we have to offer at the archives as well as how easily accessible we are to a typical senior. An intelligent hobby like genealogy can really help a senior’s self-esteem. So much of their lives are dictated by doctors and well-meaning children, who are too busy to think about the benefits of a senior having a hobby that opens new worlds for them. I think my encouragement of each senior I come in contact with will bring about some much needed self-respect in them to realize that they too have a lot to offer the world.

Response by Justin Pecot, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

I am a fourth year music major at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo.) I have also earned three AA degrees from Cuesta Community College. The connection between music and increased quality of life (for seniors or developmentally disabled persons) has been scientifically proven. Whether it is helping re-capture speech for a stroke patient via singing, or the link between songs and past memories, music can be of great service people. For the elderly, health is of great concern. Below, a few methods for therapy are listed.
At a senior living center a musician or music therapist can be on staff, part-time, or a free-lance artist. In-home senior care poses many problems to that model. The first solution is to hire medical professional with some aspect of musicianship in their portfolio. This seems an unlikely solution. A person that correctly meets those criteria may be one in a million. And so this model couldn’t possibly be used on a wider-national scale.
A more likely solution is a music therapist. Someone that can come to a scheduled visit and analyze the senior to come up with a prescription (or regiment) to be utilized. On a small scale, a simple conversation of the music that the senior enjoys may even prove to be fruitful. Perhaps from there, the musician can create playlist, samples, or even new recordings tailored to both the enjoyment and music- therapy of the individual. At first, this idea may seem silly. Who couldn’t make a playlist for someone? We all have iTunes these days yeah? But there are numerous factors that can come into play. For instance, the tempo (or speed) of a song can greatly affect a persons mood. A tempo that is too fast may aggravate a person. A specialist can take a song from a seniors past and alter the tempo to better fit the patients requirements. Perhaps the melody can be altered from a sad-minor key to a happier-major key. Songs that a patient may enjoy may have lyrical content that stirs up harsh emotion in them. These songs can be crafted into instrumental versions; where the lyric/melody is imitated by a saxophone.
Those were merely examples of “songs” for patients. Music is much more than collection of songs. Music therapy can involve the use of frequencies for specific outcomes. For hundreds of years certain frequencies have been used for prayer and medicine. For instance, prayer bowls omit a frequency (with perhaps a few overtones) that can increase one’s concentration; and send a person into a deep trance. Some monks have been known to chant a drone note for increased focus. Individuals that are schooled in the mathematics of music can analyze and prescribe listening based on the individual. Similar to a person lacking a nutrient, frequencies may be lacking in their “diet.” Afterall, we are bombarded with sound all the time. The Earth itself omits a frequency; as does the Sun. It is possible that exposure to certain sounds may restore balance in a person.
Even if music therapy, or studies related to that field, are “mumbo jumbo.” there is a high possibility that putting a senior on a regimen of good music (relatively speaking) could increase the joy in their life. A positive attitude and/or increased happiness are certainly of great benefit to anyone with failing health. I must stress the fact that when I say music, I do not mean overhearing Jay Z whilst shopping at Vons. I mean critical listening; a person’s focus directed solely on the music. Think of it like exercising your muscles…yes it is great that a person takes the groceries to and from the car to the house…but it is not strategic exercise. To reap the benefits of musical therapy one might have to sit alone with headphones for an hour a day.
The field of music therapy is new to the western world. But I believe that is what you are looking for in these essays. One could easily regurgitate medical methods that are already in practice. It is through new ideas that breakthroughs are possible. I believe in the healing power of music; and not in a superficial way. Sound is one of the most powerful phenomena in the universe. And I believe that it can be harnessed for advanced quality of life. With a few visitations from a musical consultant, and said consultant doing a fair amount of work at his home (or studio) perhaps we could see great results. And how much could the cost possibly be: two 1 hour consultations and 5-10 hours of side work…I couldn’t see it costing more than a few months of prescription pills.

Response by Karaline Hallett, UNKNOWN

While living in Brockville Ontario, I have witnessed a dramatic increase in the population of persons age 65 and over. Recently, calculations made it clear that for the first time in Canada’s history, those over the age of 65 outnumber those under 14. In my town, the statistic is even higher. As of 2011, Brockville’s population aged 65+ made up 21.0% of the inhabitants as opposed to the national percentage of 14.8%.
When I first decided to enter into the healthcare field, I received some interesting feedback from my friends. “The field is becoming flooded,” they observed. It is true that a large number of those attending my school are studying to fulfill the roles of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. The increasing rate of the elderly in the U.S. as well as in Canada, however, call for large numbers of capable, educated individuals to help the elderly maintain as much independence as possible in their day-to-day lives.
My hometown is populated with many elderly individuals, but this does not make the town dull and boring. On the contrary, the stories these incredible men and women can tell of hardships and times of flourishing add character and beauty to my hometown. Unfortunately, many of these individuals will be unable to live independently due to falls and strokes. To a young individual, a minor trip up the stairs is nothing to be concerned about; however, to an elderly individual, it could easily be the means by which they lose their ability to live independently. After such an injury, one is not only physically impacted, but emotionally affected as well.
Over the past couple of years, I have begun to realize the responsibility that comes with a profession in occupational therapy. Recovery from a stroke or injury is a long path that many people fear. As an occupational therapist, I want to help my patients recover physically, mentally, and emotionally. For the past couple years, I have been learning how much psychology is involved in the healing process. Those who don’t believe recovery is feasible will find themselves set back again and again. I want to stimulate confidence and motivation in my patients. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to inspire passion in someone. I have always been an extremely passionate individual, and I want to use that passion to inspire others to accomplish what they might see as an impossible task. I will be sure to set short-term goals which they can meet to give them confidence, but I also want to be sure my patients never lose sight of their ultimate goals.
If I could improve one aspect of the lives of those residing in assisted living facilities, I would do everything I could to help them regain as much independence as possible, and I would try to give them hope. I want those who are living in fear and doubt to rediscover their purpose and value in my community. My town is special because of these individuals. As students studying for a career in healthcare, we should recognize our responsibility to help the elderly regain any independence they might have lost, and learn from them along the way. As much as we think we’re helping them,. We need to be prepared to listen and learn.

Response by Karli Ramirez, College of New Jersey

When politicians think about the future of America, they tend to care more about the younger generations who will serve the country in a few decades, rather than the adults who currently serve it. Unfortunately, this also leads to a lack of representation for those who are generally unable to serve the country any longer: senior citizens. Of course, there are current programs in place that assist the elderly in monetary ways, such as Social Security and Medicare. These programs, however, require copious amounts of funding from the federal government, which in turn raises taxes for the working American. Because of the debate that surrounds the issue of senior citizen aid, legislators have called for cuts to these programs, and some have suggested doing away with them altogether in order to spend their funding in other areas. This directly affects senior citizens living in assisted living facilities, who already are ineligible for funding for long term care from Medicare and rely greatly on social security to pay for the astronomical costs associated with it. With a degree in both political science and economics as well as a Juris Doctor degree, I will have the knowledge to both advocate for and protect the federal financial support of senior citizens who are unable to represent themselves.
Multiple advocacy groups exist specifically to fight for the rights of senior citizens and use lobbying as a way to garner support from politicians in office. Lobbyists also have the ability to draft legislation for Members of Congress to introduce, and those lobbyists with a background in law can strengthen those drafts by using legal support. With my fields of study, I’d be able to write legislation that calls for full financial support for senior citizens in extended care facilities as well as a fixed income for all retirees over 65 years of age that is not subject to change when the federal budget is addressed annually. It seems like there could possibly be a disconnect between the protections that the federal government may provide and what the states will actually provide; however, addressing this issue on a federal level will give states incentive to follow suit.
If senior citizens were guaranteed to be financially stable even after they retired and able to reside in an assisted living facility without the burden of finding ways to pay for it on their shoulders, it would no doubt improve their lives immensely. These days, people spend their lives constantly worrying about money and when they’re unable to work for themselves anymore, if their retirement funds aren’t sufficient or if they have no family to support the costs, they rely on the government to take care of them. If the government backs out on that agreement, an entire population is left struggling when there is nothing they can do. We give children places to live and support when they are orphaned or lacking a stable environment, yet with the elderly there seems to be some sort of exception although they are equally as helpless. Children may be our future, but they wouldn’t be here without the senior citizens of today and it is the job of politicians to ensure that they get the care they deserve so that they may live out the rest of their lives in comfort.

Response by Katelyn Mulvey, Duquesne University

Occupational therapy can improve the lives of senior citizens in assisted living facilities in my hometown of Manalapan, N.J. and other cities across the world. Occupational therapists serve assisted living facilities in a variety of ways. They can suggest specific adaptive equipment for the elderly and then assist them with teaching them how to use it. The therapist can help the elderly with providing a grab-bar to help them get into and out of a bathtub or shower or even provide a tub bench to prevent slipping and falling. Senior citizens often have difficulty brushing teeth, washing their face, shaving, or even brushing their hair. Occupational therapists can provide wrist splints to help stabilize a person’s wrist to give them more mobility to groom themselves. They can provide long handled brushes and combs and universal cuffs to hold toothbrushes, razors, and make-up. The therapist can then practice various techniques so the elderly can complete their bathing and grooming activities as independently as possible.
Besides bathing and grooming, many senior citizens often have difficulty feeding and dressing themselves. Occupational therapists work with the residents in assisted living facilities to promote self-feeding and dressing. They often provide utensils with built-up handles and angled utensils. This especially can help someone who does not have enough grasp or wrist control. Scoop dishes are often provided by the therapist which is a dish with one side sloped upward to allow the person to scoop food onto a fork or spoon with ease. Dishes with non-skid material are often used to provide stability during feeding. Dressing sticks can assist the elderly to reach their legs without bending for putting on pants. Elastic shoelaces can be put in place by an occupational therapist which is permanently secured to allow shoes to slide on and off. Button hooks can help someone with poor hand control to fasten buttons. Occupational therapists work with the elderly to ensure that after much practice they can use their assistive devices to help them accomplish their tasks on their own.
Occupational therapists also work closely with the recreational or activities director by recommending a balance of activities that promote the person’s self-esteem. The recreational and occupational therapist at assisted living facilities devise an individualized treatment plan that is linked to the particular person’s abilities and interests. Depending on the person’s goals, the plan most often includes ways to help someone regain abilities that they have lost or find new tasks that make them happy.
Some occupational therapists work with the assisted living facility director in recommending renovations to help the resident make the most of their living quarters. This can range from the type of floor used to decrease the risk of falls to what type of lighting is used to help those with vision problems cut down on glare and heighten visual perceptions.
Occupational therapists aid in figuring out how to help the elderly with behavioral problems triggered by dementia or Alzheimer’s. These patients suffer from memory loss that disrupts daily living. They often misplace things and are confused. The therapist enhances the environment of those with cognitive impairments to improve their safety. The occupational therapist who works with my grandmother labeled her drawers to make it easy for her to find what she is looking for. The elderly and therapist can work together to manage simple tasks cautiously and with as little stress as possible.
The field of occupational therapy benefits people of all ages. From helping a child with cerebral palsy with eye and hand coordination to aiding an elderly person do a task such as brushing his teeth, people from all walks of life can benefit from having an occupational therapist in their lives. Although I have just started my journey on the road to becoming an occupational therapist, I know that with much hard work and perseverance, I will do my best to provide the skills and opportunities to help those engage in their life occupations. I look forward to working with the geriatric population promoting a sense of achievement and generating a feeling of self-worth in them. For many senior citizens, the goal of independence with the help of an occupational therapist is within their reach. Occupational therapy is a profession that requires someone with compassion, understanding and empathy. My career choice has inspired me because I know that I will be making a positive difference in someone’s life simply by assisting clients in solving daily tasks. I am seeking a degree in the occupational therapy field because I want to go to work day after day knowing that I am making a difference in someone’s life. I am looking forward to helping people accomplish what is important to them, so that they can feel a sense of pride while preserving their dignity.

Response by Katheryn Bermann, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

My chosen field of study is psychology, specifically Experimental Psychology, and my primary areas of interest within this field are social and media psychology. Psychology is a very broad discipline, and a degree specializing in experimentation will allow me to approach the topic of improving the lives of seniors in my town from a number of different angles. Three areas in particular could benefit from further study by a psychologist: why the elderly sometimes do not receive the care they need in order to thrive, why the elderly are sometimes mistreated, and how we can address the stigma associated with caregiving. I believe that by earning this degree, I will be able to investigate the reasons behind these phenomena.
There has already been some study on how to improve the quality of life of individuals receiving aid with the activities of daily living (Langer & Rodin, 1976; Rodin & Langer, 1977). In particular, it’s been found that if nursing home residents perform tasks that allow them to retain their sense of independence, their quality of life will improve dramatically. Similarly, if residents continuously engage in tasks that call for nurturance and responsibility, such as caring for a plant, they will also report a high level of enjoyment. It’s likely that these results would also apply to senior citizens receiving in-home care. However, many people I know who are currently caring for or have cared for the elderly are not aware of this proactive approach. I believe that earning a degree in psychology will allow me to revive the public’s interest in improving the lives of our senior citizens, and hopefully changing the caregiving system for the better.
Next, though it would be ideal if relatives of senior citizens could know that their loved ones were being treated with respect and consideration, unfortunately sometimes our eldest citizens are taken advantage of. I personally know someone who discovered that his elderly mother was being mistreated. This is undoubtedly tragic, so we must ask ourselves why it happened in the first place. Earning a degree in experimental psychology will allow me to examine the factors that lead to this sad phenomenon, and ideally take steps to eradicate it completely.
Finally, there is such a stigma associated with caregiving that even though family members may know of people who would be very accommodating and respectful, relatives of senior citizens sometimes opt for nursing homes or assisted living facilities instead. There seems to be a stereotype among the general public that the drawbacks of caregiving outweigh the benefits. We as a society need to find a way to make the benefits of caregiving known in order to correct this assumption. Again, a degree in experimental psychology will allow me to empirically examine the effects of caregiving, both for the caregiver and for the recipient of care. Ideally these results will show that caregiving, while it does require a lot of effort, is very rewarding and beneficial. Hopefully making these findings known will encourage more families to provide in-home care to their elderly members.
Overall, my pursuit of a degree within the field of experimental psychology will allow me to approach the topic of in-home care from a number of different angles. First, it will enable me to become more involved with the caregiving process itself, and perhaps invent new ways to make caregiving more beneficial to the recipient. The experimental emphasis will also ensure that I have the resources necessary to investigate the reasons behind such unfortunate phenomena as elder mistreatment. Finally, it will allow me to begin attempting to reshape the public’s view of caregiving. Hopefully by concentrating my efforts to these three areas, my degree will enable me to make a positive impact on in-home care and the care of elderly people in general, not just in my hometown, but within society as a whole.

Response by Kathryn Mendez, Miami Dade College

I want to revolutionize the way that seniors live in assisted-living facilities by changing both their mentality about their health and their living conditions. In my humble opinion, I don’t believe the stereotype that assisted-living facilities have a negative effect on senior citizens, but directly affect patients by bettering and assisting their conditions. In order to improve their stay, seniors must take initiative towards their health and reflect a positive mentality towards the care given. To initiate this change of focus, I want to encourage seniors to receive interactive education, which will allow them to fully understand the depth of their conditions and the extent of their care in hopes to better the relationship between patient and caregiver. I also want seniors to be involved in passing on traditions to the next generations. They can participate in a volunteer program where engaging youth from surrounding communities visit and assist seniors through partnering to assist and create mementos, which can be passed down from generation to generation.
For example, Hispanic communities are known for their century-old recipes. Volunteers from these communities could collaborate and create a cookbook which will carry on the traditional recipes which need the “abuelita” (grandmother) touch. Other projects can include services in which volunteers assist seniors in creating small motivational journals, which contain advice that they wish to share with future generations. In addition, seniors can participate in family days where they can reminisce and interact with their children and grandchildren through family-oriented activities, which initiate communication and stimulate memory. These projects, since they are closely related to the youth of the communities, can better improve the outlook and perspective individuals inside assisted-living facilities.
More importantly, no matter how many governmental volunteer programs are put in place, seniors can only benefit if they have the right mentality. Both nurses and volunteers need to encourage participation in order for the seniors to receive the full benefit of activities. For example, seniors can maintain their mental agility by doing crossword puzzles and word searches, but will be cheating themselves if they feel it is an obligation. They will benefit the most if they keep a positive mentality and are excited to participate in daily activities. Caregivers can also make exercise fun for seniors by playing music and lightening the mood. Some seniors have trouble getting out of bed and are unable to participate in group events that the assisted-living facility has regularly. Caregivers should have individual sessions where these seniors have the opportunity to participate in mental agility and exercise activities in order to stay active.
All in all, an assisted-living facility should be a place where seniors are both cared for and encouraged to enjoy each day and look forward to its endless possibilities, not the ordinary weekly bingo match. Seniors have so much wisdom to pay forward and can share it with future generations through governmental volunteer programs. They can impact the youth of today, and innovators of tomorrow.

Response by Katie Young, University of Utah

It’s well known that America’s population is aging. Though historically a younger city, my home in Salt Lake is no exception. Assisted living facilities can be found in practically every neighborhood, with new ones constructed all the time. Locally and nationally, our current healthcare system is struggling to meet the needs of older adults. In response to healthcare reform, The National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) has introduced a quality initiative.
It includes goals to:
1. Increase staff stability
2. Increase customer satisfaction
3. Reduce hospital readmissions
4. Reduce antipsychotic use.
I am passionate about healthcare reform, which is one reason why I chose to pursue a Master Degree in Public Health. My thesis and future work will focus on an improved model for healthcare systems. I am convinced that two specific initiatives will be particularly important: defining costs, and developing checklist protocols. These areas will directly impact the quality improvement goals set by the NCAL.
Defining Costs
University of Utah Healthcare was recently featured in the New York Times for designing a cost tracking system. They are working to answer questions like: what does an MRI cost? how much is an hour in the operating room? By defining the cost of care, the University is decreasing their own expenses as well as expenses for patients. It seems basic that a healthcare provider should know what it costs to provide care, but that’s actually not the industry norm.
What most healthcare providers do know is that healthcare is intensely expensive. Healthcare providers, insurance companies, and individuals pay for and deliver care based on arbitrary principles. This practice is perhaps most harmful to seniors, especially seniors in sometimes-costly assisted living facilities. Tracking every component of care, from supplies to staff time, will allow us to regulate costs and eliminate waste. If we can decrease the approximate $43,200 per year it costs to live in an assisted living facility, that will certainly increase customer satisfaction.
Developing Checklist Protocols
Atul Gawande is a surgeon, public health researcher, and leader in healthcare reform. He and his team created a “surgery checklist,” implemented around the world. It was meant for every person involved in the surgery, including the surgeon, and was very specific. This simple checklist resulted in an astounding 47% reduction in death rates.
This principle has application in assisted living facilities. For example, one leading cause of death for residents is urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are relatively easy to prevent, but potentially deadly if untreated. Most nursing staff are familiar with hygiene protocols to prevent UTIs. However, it’s easy to miss important steps due to insufficient staffing and other complexities. A formal checklist outlining these steps would simplify busy staff schedules.
Checklists could be developed for practically every area of care. After a resident’s surgery, nurses could use a checklist upon readmission to the facility. This would positively impact hospital readmissions. A checklist of interventions to apply before administering an antipsychotic would decrease the use of such drugs. Staff would be empowered to do their job effectively, increasing job satisfaction. Certainly all of these components would increase customer satisfaction.
Impact Now
Though these ideas are population-oriented, I am currently enjoying many opportunities to improve the lives of individual seniors in my community. I work at a clinic that cares for many patients in assisted living. One persistent problem we face is lack of transportation to and from appointments. Many of my patients lack funds or assistance for travel. The facility-provided rides sometimes can’t wait for their resident to finish their appointment. In these cases, I help my patient find a ride home, through coordinating a taxi or providing bus money. I always wait with my patients to ensure they leave the clinic safely. This time has allowed me to build treasured relationships with many of my older patients.
A quote by John Wesley has long spoken to me: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” I feel that this largely describes the goals of public health, which deals with the health of populations. As our senior population continues to grow, public health professionals must structure a health system capable of providing the best care possible. That’s a wonderful initiative to be part of.

Response by Kayla Hall, Indiana Wesleyan University

I recently returned from three months of studying nursing in Africa. While working in hospitals and homes during this experience, I encountered a culture very different from our own here in America. A culture where elderly are held to the highest respect and fully honored because of their experience, which outweighs our own. A culture that does not talk over, ignore, or shut in those who are older but seeks to reap the wisdom that has been so carefully learned over many years. As I returned to my job at an assisted living home in the states, I began to notice the casual disregard for seniors in assisted living facilities. The subtle push – aside tendency we have for our elderly parents, grandparents, and others at the senior level is somewhat appalling, but so frequently unnoticed. When seeking an answer to this problem, I realized that the solution lies in the job of a nurse. I believe that nurses play a vital role in the community of assisted living because a nurse’s education allows for the restoration and maintenance of resident’s quality of life.
Many believe that nurses just care for the physical health, however, in nursing school I am trained to assess and enhance the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well being of the individual requiring care. With this education, it is essential to have nurses on staff in an assisted living home in order to improve the care of the residents. In my four years of experience with the elderly, I have watched as days, weeks, and months pass without a family member contacting their loved one. I have watched as those same loved ones steadily deteriorate physically and mentally as their loneliness begins t o overshadow their desire to take part in their own care. This is where a nurse comes in.
A majority of assisted living facilities house individuals or couples just beyond the cusp of complete independence but not yet requiring total assistance. The goal of many facilities is to merge increased care and community while maintaining the individual’s independence. However, many times it is not the administrators that carry out that desire, but rather the personnel with the residents 24-7: the nurses.
Out of any majors, nursing is the only one that has the most tangible and direct impact on improving the lives of seniors in these facilities. By aiding a person in their physical health first, I can then assist in creating a more positive outlook on the remaining years of life. In assisted living, it is not my job to “do” for the residents. Something I always tell my residents is, “ I’m here to help if you need, but why don’t you try it yourself first”. By promoting independence, my residents feel more in control of their own care and can restore respect and dignity. Many would agree it i s difficult to focus on mental, spiritual, or emotional health when the physical health is lacking. By educating and supporting physical health and healing first, I can then assist in creating a more positive outlook mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in the remaining years of life . Nurses strive to maintain independence while caring for and improving all aspects of a resident’s well being resulting in the most holistic approach possible.
I have the important ability to change a person’s outlook on their life through encouragement, education, and empowerment. A nurse sees an elderly resident not as someone who used to be a vital person in society but one who still is a contributing and necessary part of their community. If these commonly ignored and overruled individuals are empowered by nurses to truly believe that they have purpose still in their world, imagine how much their quality of life could improve. Nurses have the opportunity and responsibility to create a place in assisted living where respect is similar to the African culture that I experienced. Without nurses, assisted living would lack the vital source of respect and dignity – laced care to the entire well being of the residents. N o other personnel provide such thorough and positive healing to an individual. The reality that many of us will eventually become residents in these assisted living homes further supports the belief that nurses are exactly what we need to improve and sustain our quality of life.

Response by Kayla Leland, University of Maine

My response is quite simple: I am in management, therefore how could my major not improve the system?! I love my major because it is so versatile. I could do anything I want with it, and this includes improving senior care. My nana and papa are both currently in retirement homes, but before they were placed in a home they were receiving in home care. Their experience as far as I know was wonderful. My nana loved her nurse and actually became very close with her. That being said, not everyone is fortunate enough to have as lovely an experience as my grandparents had. There will always be bad people in the world, and some of these people seep into the healthcare system unnoticed. These people can abuse or grandmothers, fathers, brothers, aunts and friends. While it is a very serious problem it can be so hard to diagnose. It can happen in so many ways, like physical, mental or emotional abuse.
My major in particular could improve the lives of seniors receiving in home care in many different ways. First, we could perform background checks. If these checks are already in place, we could make them more extensive to help us catch the bad seeds who somehow fly under the radar. Second, we could do random checks on the seniors and their caretakers during the days that they are together. If the caretaker does not know that a supervisor or someone from management will be checking on them, it will be more likely that a bad act will be caught and apprehended sooner than if no one was checking on the employee. Third, while it is far-fetched, we could pay our CNA’s better for the incredible work that they do. One of my best friends is a CNA in a nursing home, and she is hit, kicked, spit on, and has fowl language directed at her regularly; not to mention the fact that she and the nurses all have to take care of their patients after they are done hitting them and calling them names. But let me tell you, they do it out of the love they have for their job and patients if nothing else. These nurses do an incredible job day in and day out taking care of our grandparents, parents, and friends when we can’t be there. Lastly, we could find more activities and fun, engaging things for the seniors to do so that they are not cooped up all day. There are so many studies telling us to keep our minds active in order to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, which our aging friends are more and more prone to the older they get. I think the seniors would really enjoy getting some time to engage!

Response by Kaylee Campbell, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

For many individuals, the thought of in-home care seems daunting. It could be expensive, seemingly invasive, or just uncomfortable. However, in-home care is a very viable and affordable option for seniors. Occupational Therapists are able to provide this type of personal care for those in need. Occupational Therapy encompasses treatment for a myriad of different injuries and disabilities and focuses on the ways to aid each person individually in their everyday tasks. In my town, there are not any home health care agencies that employ an Occupational Therapist that I am aware of. This is an unfortunate reality that the in-home care in my small town cannot cover the needs of everyone.
Since Occupational Therapy is such a broad area of study, there are a few key areas that are focused on with senior in-home care. Some of the illnesses that are generally managed by the use of Occupational Therapy include: stroke, heart failure, diabetes, cognitive health conditions, as well as many others. These issues are incredibly common among seniors. With each of these illnesses, there are different ways in which an Occupational Therapist could aid the client. With the common chronic illness diabetes, a therapist could work on management techniques in the home for the client. That could consist of meal planning, hygiene care, as well as use strategies to compensate for the potential motor or vision loss that can accompany this disease. For some health professionals, these may seem like easy tasks that can be figured out on their own, but Occupational Therapists specialize their techniques to each patient to ensure that they feel comfortable and empowered to take care of themselves. While medications and the usage of other health professionals are helpful, there could be alternate ways to improve the senior’s quality of life through the use of different forms of therapy.
Occupational Therapy is one of the lesser known types of therapy to the general public, so some individuals, especially senior citizens, may not be aware of the benefits that they could be gaining. It is also a relatively new therapy to in-home care, so few studies have been done to show the benefits of it. The first step to Occupational Therapy gaining way in in-home care is for all home care practices to make it an option. Have information available to clients and potential senior clients that describes the benefits and potential drawbacks of having an Occupational Therapist perform certain parts of home health assistance. If the practice is unable to have an Occupational Therapist as an employee due to lack of funding, which is the case in my small town and many others like it, there should be other options available to the potential clients, through other agencies or medical facilities.
In-home care benefits so many seniors today, enriching them so they can live to the fullest. It is more affordable for the clients, and is also easier for them, especially if they have mobility issues. Clients can enjoy company, and feel confident that they can keep their independence in their own home once the health professional leaves. Occupational Therapy is just one more way to keep the ones we love happy and healthy.

Response by Kayli Schout, Grand Valley State University

Upon mentioning the title Speech-Language Pathologist, most people usually think of a Speech therapist working within a school setting with children who have language disorders such as speech impediments, dyslexia or a biological disorder such as cleft lip. Seldom do people think about Speech therapists who are working with elderly people who have swallowing or communication deficiencies due to an experience such as a stroke, which is my preferred area of interest. With the increasing amount of senior citizens due to the aging on the Baby Boomer generation and increasing technology improving health care as in industry, there is going to be an increasing demand for all jobs regarding the elderly population. Considering this increase, it is remarkably crucial that health care professionals are receiving the best education possible to equip them with the resources and knowledge to ensure that seniors within assisted living facilities are receiving the best possible care.
All too often people are known for making first impression accusations and then forming judgments based off of those accusations. Regarding my education, the one thing that has stuck out of me more than anything else within my major as a Speech-Language Pathologist is to address the patient as an individual, not the disorder. It is extremely important to get to know the human being as a person before one is able to identify their disorder to eliminate how you, as the caregiver are responding to the needs of the individual, especially as an assisted living aide. The strongest quality a caregiver can develop is the ability to empathize with the patient, meaning that the caregiver is able to put themselves in the patient’s shoes and is able to see through their eyes. Upon empathizing with the patient, the patient will feel a stronger sense of identity and will be much more willing to trust their caregivers. This trust is key in strengthening the patient-caregiver relationship, and will overall have dramatic benefits on the overall health of the patient.
It is also tremendously important as a caregiver to be critical of your own work and habits that you are performing to the individual. Within my Sociology of Healthcare class, we are learning that the realm of healthcare is typically seen as objective because of all the science and data to back up the facts. However, we are addressing the fact that in reality, healthcare, like that of most other subjects, is more subjective than meets the eye. Treatments and knowledge are changing and increasing on a daily basis, and as a healthcare provider it is exceedingly important to keep up on new information. Upon pursing my profession as a Speech-Language Pathologist to the elderly population, I consider it my sole responsibility to make sure I am critical of the tasks I am using to help develop my patients’ speech and swallowing skills. I will make sure to step back often and readdress the techniques I am using as an assisted living caregiver to do whatever I can as a professional to help my patient’s improve at the highest possible level.

Response by Kellie Kaplan, George Washington University

As Baby Boomers age and continue to enter assisted living facilities, never has the need for health care professionals been greater. Pursuing my masters in nursing to achieve a role as a Nurse Practitioner is beneficial to this issue. A Nurse Practitioner is a healthcare professional who looks at their patients holistically; not only can they provide primary care and healthcare supervision, but also concentrate on the human response to a diagnosis and treatment of an illness. Their focus is on disease prevention and health promotion. In today’s world Nurse Practitioners are becoming increasingly popular for various reasons including: decreasing the healthcare professional shortage, increasing patient satisfaction, and increasing health care accessibility. For seniors in an assisted living facility Nurse Practitioners are beneficial in these ways and more.
Giovanni and Florence. These are the names of my favorite 93 year-olds that I am fortunate enough to call my grandparents. Growing up my grandparents seemed like the perfection of health. They never became sick nor did they have any ailments (that they informed me of). I was always so amazed by them and by the way they were able to live and enjoy life while growing older together. As one gets older, it is sometimes said one gets “stuck in their ways”. My 93 year-olds are no exception to this rule. A couple of years ago significant changes began happening in my grandparents’ health. One of them began needing weekly blood draws for medication levels, while the other was going to weekly eye appointments. The medications began to pile up and the doctor appointments became more frequent with each ailment. While they were still able to drive, these increased health care needs were manageable and not as noticeable to the rest of the family. Then very quickly they were no longer able to drive which meant not only was it difficult to get to appointments and obtain medications but that they needed to ask for help. Asking for help seemed to be the hardest change of all.
Recently my grandparents made the big decision to move to a senior living community with continuing care as an option for increased health needs. This new living arrangement allowed them to live in a community where many everyday needs were within walking distance which included access to healthcare. It also provided their family (me) the reassurance of knowing someone was looking out for them. In a major incident my grandfather fell and hit his head in his apartment. The facility’s medical staff, including a Nurse Practitioner, was at his apartment within minutes to assess him and aid in his care. Without the medical staff at this facility the outcome for my grandfather could have been much different. A Nurse Practitioner is highly beneficial in a situation like this. Not every situation is life-threatening, however to have a Nurse Practitioner that can quickly assess a situation, determine if an ailment is life threatening, and make an appropriate judgment call can be crucial to a senior’s outcome.
Not only is it beneficially to have nurse practitioners on-site at an assisted living facility for emergencies, they can also fill many other roles including: administration, primary care management, specialty care management, risk management, wound management, education to staff, patient’s and family, and medication therapy. Nurse practitioners can improve the lives of seniors in an assisted living by providing onsite care which in turn removes the need for transportation. By providing this easy access to professional care, seniors are able to get the care they need while being able to keep to their private lives without having to ask for help from loved ones. Nurse practitioners provide care to patients holistically with an emphasis on smarter health and lifestyle choices.

Response by Kelsey Stalvey, Pacific University

In-home care of seniors is an important topic considering the aging of the baby-boomer generation. When most middle-aged people think of in-home care, they often think of nursing and medical services, and tend to neglect thought of diet and medication. Many in need of in-home care are also in need of assistance with their medications and coordination of medication therapy with their caretaker. Portland, Oregon is home to a very forward-thinking geriatric population, and with all the alternative medication options available, pharmacists play a vital role in the health of these patients.
Recently, I had the opportunity of listening to a lecture from a geriatric pharmacist who worked for a medication therapy management company. Her job was to enter the patient’s homes, analyze their medications and environment, and identify potential obstacles to optimum medication and diet compliance. Examples of these obstacles would be improper storage of their medications, reluctance to discard expired or inactivated medications, language and literacy barriers, memory issues, and voluntary noncompliance. After identifying these obstacles, she created a plan in which to minimize compliance barriers for these patients. These solutions might include introduction of a talking pillbox for easy reminders, medication reconciliation with the patient and the provider to determine correct orders and dosing, reprinting the bottle labels in the correct language, or discarding expired medications. She also analyzed the patient’s medication list for medications that are affected by diet, and worked with the patient and caretaker on maintaining the proper diet while on a specific therapy.
While I was crudely aware that these issues for seniors existed, it had not occurred to me that a pharmacist had the ability to create such a position for these seniors, allowing the services a pharmacist offers to be available right in their own home. Having a pharmacist at their disposal meant improved patient outcomes, improved compliance, and improved communication between patient, pharmacist, provider, and caretaker.
Portland, Oregon has a reputation for favoring anything and everything alternative, and it is here I have found many seniors active in holistic therapy and medication. While these are certainly viable and adequate options, many people are on traditional Western medications in addition to these herbal treatments and supplements. Many of these therapies can have dangerous and potentially fatal interactions. When receiving medication through a mail-order pharmacy or caretaker, these herbal medications are often overlooked. A pharmacist is able to identify and prevent these interactions, and by being able to enter the patient’s environment, they may spot potential dangers unknown to the patient and caretakers.
Seniors process medication differently, making many commonly prescribed medications dangerous or harmful. It is common for an elderly patient to be on several medications at once, and perhaps fill at different pharmacies in an attempt to save money. These medications may also have dangerous interactions with each other, and can be easily overlooked depending on the amount of people handling the patient’s medications. A geriatric pharmacist would be trained to reveal these potential dangers, as well as remove and solve any problems preventing optimal medication compliance. For these reason, I believe my field of study is of the upmost importance to not only seniors receiving in-home care, but also any senior taking medication.

Response by Kenneth Fierro, Rocky Mountain University

Thousands of individuals turn 65 every day. They are grandparents, CEOs, war veterans, and more. Although their bodies have changed their minds are still active and ready to grow. In order to help these individuals have a good quality of life in an assisted living environment it will be important to care for the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of my patients. As a physical therapist I need to be aware of all these factors and how they affect each other. I’ll begin by talking about the physical and how it affects a patient that is recovering from a total hip replacement.
It will be evident that the musculature around the hip will be weak. Energy levels will be low, and range of motion will be limited. It is imperative to begin exercising the patient as soon as possible. The body atrophies very quickly with bedrest, and so my job is to make sure the patient progresses at the appropriate pace. It’s easy to under prescribe work out programs for the elderly because they look fragile, however they are much stronger than they look—and it’s important to help them realize this. Increasing repetitions and pounds for every exercise takes patience and attention to detail. This is how I can address the physical aspect. Now at the same time I need to be aware of the emotional side of therapy.
Compliance with therapy is crucial. So I need to look at the emotional support and motivation they have. Are they overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness because their family is not there to support them? This is my cue to call the family and find out how they can play more of a role in the rehabilitation process. Family members could come in the evening and assist their grandparents with exercises that they need to do for homework. I could also invite family members to be with the patient during therapy so that family members can see the motivation or lack thereof that the patient has. If the family members identify a lack of motivation it could be because the patient has adopted the psychological paradigm of being too old.
“Being immobilized is just a part of being old.” Patients that adapt this negative paradigm progress slowly and get farther away from being independent. One way to gauge this negative mentality is to look at the goals the patient has. Do the patients see themselves returning to the same assisted living facility? Do they see themselves eventually having the strength and function to have the same lifestyle they had before the surgery? Every visit is critical in terms of reinforcing a positive prognosis after their therapy is finished.
If I find out that the patient loves to play with grandchildren then I can use squats to reinforce a positive prognosis. Every time they squat I can have them imagine themselves picking up a grandchild. I can also emphasize that increased squat repetitions is equivalent to increased time with their grandchildren. It’s amazing what my role can do to change the mind.
There are physical, emotional, and psychological components involved in physical therapy. If I ignore one component then it will leak over and affect the others. This is what I will do as a physical therapist in the assisted living setting. I will help keep these pieces in balance and therefore improve quality of life for my patients.

Response by Kristin Langebartels, Indiana Wesleyan University

When people think of psychology, the first thing they usually think of is a counselor, or someone who is always trying to psychoanalyze the others in the room. This is a narrow view of the field. Psychology can be used in every career whether directly or indirectly because knowing how oneself and other people operate helps in every area of work. That being said, the major can be applied better in some places than others.
Assisted living homes would be a great place for psychologists to come up with a better plan for how the homes operate. Psychologists would be able to go into these homes and look at the systems that are in place and assess the quality of life of the residents. Then, as they assess this quality of life, they can see where the problems are and find a solutions to those problems. When my grandparents went to an assisted living home, the difference that I saw from a psychological standpoint was that their brains were not receiving the necessary stimulation that they needed to keep their mental capacity at a high functioning level. A phrase that many of my professors have used when speaking of mental functioning is “use it or lose it.” When people move into assisted living care, a good majority of their responsibilities are not needed anymore, such as paying bills because they become automatic payments, so they are not using those areas of their brains to do things that need to be done. This causes them to lose mental functioning in those areas. They also have everything they need in the assisted living home, so they are not getting out of the building. This is a cause for lower levels of brain stimulation that they could receive from going places and participating in activities outside of the home. Although from the outside it seems that not having responsibilities and having someone to do everything for one who needs help would be a wonderful thing, it aids in the quicker decline of the mental and physical health of the residents.
A solution to delay this onset of mental decline that a future psychologist like myself would suggest would be to give more options of stimulating activities to the resident and have some sort of minimum requirement. It is dangerous for a resident to simply sit around all day, eat food, and watch the television or sleep. For this reason, assisted living homes in my town should explain this danger to the residents and families of the residents before they make the decision to join the home. Then, there should be a contract signed saying that the resident will participate in a certain number of hours of stimulating activities per day, and then the employees would need to keep the residents accountable. These activities could include an activity as simple as doing a crossword puzzle, or it could be more invigorating such as going to a museum or the zoo with other residents. It is also important that the residents get social interaction every day whether that be with other residents, friends and family that come to visit, or employees. It would be up to the assisted living home staff to come up with activity choices each day for the residents, but the residents could also find their own activities outside of those offered by the home if they did not enjoy the ones offered for that day. These minimum hour per day requirements would give the residents proper brain stimulation in order to keep mental functioning up and delay the onset of dementia, memory loss, and overall cognitive decline.

Response by Laura Russo, University of Maryland

A graduate business degree, in marketing nonetheless, may not be the most directly correlated career path for healthcare. One strength of an MBA student is the ability to creatively solve problems, which can benefit the Assisted Living industry. This growing industry must respond to the Baby Boomer population seeking elder care for their loved ones. An important step in the assisted living process is the initial decision of which facility to place a loved one. My skills in marketing could greatly assist with the many aspects of that major decision. During their search for the right facility for a loved one, the Baby Boomer generation may also envision themselves living at this same facility in the future. I have witnessed this personally with my parents as they looked for assisted living care for my grandmother. It is apparent that this decision is first made with best intentions for my grandmother’s care, but also for my parents’ comfort to know that she is in a facility which is comfortable, clean, and offers a home-like environment. This decision-making process presents a unique opportunity for me to use my marketing skills and MBA education to improve the lives of the residents in assisted living facilities in my town.
I understand that assisted living is not only a healthcare service but also a business, and maintaining customer satisfaction for both the residents and their families will ultimately drive continued revenue. For these facilities, revenue growth is vital to maintain a high quality of living care for residents and to provide funds for capital investment to continually improve the facility. Therefore, I would use my marketing background to better promote Assisted Living facilities in Allentown, PA in order to maximize consumer awareness and maintain a high occupancy rate in the homes.
The first way I would enhance marketing for Assisted Living locally is to spend time with focus groups, which are a great way for business owners to speak with real customers and understand their needs and wants. I would conduct focus groups with family members who have made the decision of where to place their elderly loved ones, which would provide insight into what features are most important to them in an assisted living facility. After gathering this information, I would carefully craft a well-rounded marketing campaign to appeal to this generation seeking elder care for their loved ones. This campaign would include communicating the following benefits of assisted living: specialized 24/7 medical attention; peace-of-mind for loved ones; luxuries of home; and convenient visiting abilities.
Beyond using the focus groups for marketing purposes, I would also use the feedback to adapt some of the services that the Assisted Living facilities offer. As loved ones get older, it is apparent through my visits to my grandmother that little is needed at this point in her life. The facility’s comforts and amenities are largely there for families to feel comfortable that their loved ones live there. After speaking with my parents and their friends, suggestions for improved services at assisted living centers included digital medical records and on-site skilled care in addition to independent and dementia units. By digitizing the medical records, it would be easier for my parents to monitor my grandmother’s medicines and to easily share records with new doctors. It would also be useful to have this information, as well as notes from doctors’ visits, hosted on an online portal so that family members who are unable to visit regularly could stay updated and involved.
Using my MBA degree and marketing skills to achieve the steps outlined above would help improve the lives of residents at assisting living facilities by keeping customer satisfaction high and raising awareness of the homes in my town. Since the elderly do not usually make the decision on which facility they will live in, I would utilize focus groups to make improvements that will help ease the day-to-day logistics for the primary family caretaker, who are typically the decision makers when choosing facilities. By ensuring the entire family is pleased with their loved one’s stay, this will lead to local word-of-mouth endorsements so that the local assisted living facilities are top of mind when other families seek elder care. It is important to me that assisted living facilities remain viable because I know firsthand how important their service is to both the elderly and their families. If given the opportunity I would be proud to offer the knowledge gained through my graduate degree to a well-deserving assisted living facility.

Response by Lauren McCombe, Northern Illinois University

Music is one of the most universally understood languages in the world and combining such an expressive art with the health field creates a triumphant way of healing. Scientific studies have shown that a certain melody of a song is one of the last memories that leave a person’s mind. This expanding method that is used to strengthen mental health is known as music therapy, which is an evidence-based health profession with a strong research foundation. Music therapy is found within many clinical facilities, such as medical hospitals, cancer centers, and correctional institutions and is administered to patients with schizophrenia, amnesia, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, mood disorders, speech disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome.
From a young age I have performed with my harp at various venues and have experienced distributing music therapy first-hand by frequently playing for memory care residents at assisted living facilities. Sharing classic songs such as “Over the Rainbow” and “Edelweiss” with people who are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s has shown noticeable results. There was once a blind woman named Rose who resided in the Mary B’s Memory Care wing at Bickford Senior Living in Oswego, Illinois. Every time I would come to play she would describe the social dances she used to have with family and friends when she was a young lady. She would hum along to every song I played and express the joy that the music brought to her.
Another encounter with witnessing the power of music was after I finished performing at Senior Star Memory Care in Romeoville, Illinois. As I was leaving a nurse told me that one of the more subdued patients suddenly became alert as I was playing. The exposure to music therapy has played a role in my life and I am inspired to give back to the community by continuing to entertain others with my degree in music performance.
Music is a significant part of my life. I have been a musician for over ten years and I feel that I have a strong connection to music. I know how to play the piano, the harp, and various percussion instruments. I am currently an honors student at Northern Illinois University. When I am enrolled in honors classes, I am required to complete an extra task in order to fulfill the requirement of the class. For instance, some professors ask their students to complete a certain number of service hours with the activity of their choice. Although, the opportunity has not come for me to complete service hours, I know that I would take my instrument up to the nearest assisted living home and perform for the residents.
In the book Healing at the Speed of Sound by Don Campbell and Alex Doman, they express that “playing music or singing, as opposed to simply listening leads to even greater benefits. Playing virtually any instrument, from harmonica to keyboard to electric guitar, strengthens muscles and can improve dexterity and depression, fewer falls, fewer doctor visits, a stronger immune system, and better health overall.” Music is also one of the many opportunities available to help create a positive outlook on life. By coming in to share music with the residents at assisted living homes, I am not only contributing to their overall health, but also to their happiness. Studies have shown that listening to at least ten minutes of relaxing music every day can have a soothing effect on the brain.
In conclusion, music is an art that needs to be taken advantage of in the United States. The study of my major at Northern Illinois University is not only providing me with the skills of a professional musician, but also with the opportunities to perform in front of others, including those that need it the most, such as the residents in assisted living homes all over the country. Although, my major is not specifically music therapy, it is just as close as it comes and touching others with the simple pluck of a string is a gift and an act of service that is extremely fulfilling to the performer’s and the listener’s heart.

Response by Lauren Mifsud, New York University

Assisted living is often a good alternative for individuals who are no longer able to remain living in their own homes, but who do not require the level of care provided in a nursing home. Assisted-living facilities are a rapidly growing source of supportive housing for the elderly and there is enormous potential for social workers in this setting. More and more residents being admitted to assisted living facilities that possess complex needs, as well as the existing members in the facilities. My major of study, social work, can improve the lives of seniors living in assisted living facilities in my town for many reasons. Having social workers on staff in assisted living facilities is important because they can bolster both their well-being and life satisfaction of the residents. Although assisted-living facilities offer a broad spectrum of services, focusing more on mental health in assisted living facilities will have significant positive affects for residents. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, depression is the most common mental health problem faced by the elderly. Many times psychological issues like depression are unrecognized or misdiagnosed in assisted-living facilities. Social workers can definitely address this issue and work with residents in assisted-living facilities by making treatment and health plans.
In addition, social workers can help residents easily transition into the assisted-living environment and help them adjust to their new home. They can also help the well-being of the residents and their families. Social workers can help with a resident’s anxieties, anger, and feelings of loss when they move to a more institutional setting. Roles that social workers can play in an assisted living facility are abundant. They can be family counselors, case managers, discharge planners, and staff trainers just to name a few. Social workers can play more roles and serve in a less formalized way than in nursing homes. Social workers can have multifaceted positions in the assisted living realm and can provide an array of services for residents.
It has been shown that social support, such as social workers, provides protection against poor mental health. We are all human beings with feelings, beliefs, childhoods, ideas, and dreams that have the potential to show compassion and learn from one another. I believe that understanding populations who are sometimes isolated by society is crucial to affect positive change on not just one individual, but an entire community. Fulfilling my dream of being a social worker will provide me an opportunity to combine my natural talents with the greatest need of community members—their mental health and well-being. Without one’s health in order, one does not have the capacity to passionately work toward greater goals, such as gaining more independence or advocating for improvements in their community. In addition, as a social worker, I desire to work with as well as educate patients. By teaching and supporting individuals to improve their mental health, they will then have the capacity and tools to bring others together in a sustainable manner to better their community.

Response by Lauren Rempe, College of Saint Mary

With a broken hip resulting from a fall and an aging mind at the ripe age of 90 years, returning home after an extended hospital stay wasn’t an option for Grandpa. Rather, an assisted living facility would be the new place to call home. Disappointment held Grandpa in its grip. In a brief period of time, to him, he lost everything – his health, home, independence, and worst of all, the ability to drive. He was forced to move to an unfamiliar place without a choice. How could life go on?
This story about my grandpa’s move to an assisted living facility is not uncommon to other seniors. Aging can be a scary thing as the body and mind deteriorate, independence is lost, and with the realization that life is gradually coming to an end. Although these are aspects that often come to mind when thinking about aging and leaving home, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Occupational Therapy can assist individuals in enjoying life no matter the condition or location.
I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to leave their home, especially at a time when there are so many other changes going on. At this stage in life, it’s common for elders to withdraw from social interaction and cease engagement in activities and tasks they had previously participated in due to various reasons that accompany aging such as loss of body functions, loss of cognitive abilities, decreased energy, and even grief.
Occupational Therapy is a health care profession focused on enabling individuals to participate in the activities they want and need to do in order to attain meaning in their lives. This scope of practice includes working with a wide range of deficits, disorders, and diseases that can be experienced across the lifespan. Here, though, we will focus on geriatrics and touch on a few of the many ways Occupational Therapy can make a difference.
Occupational Therapy can help an individual modify his or her environment in order to adapt to changes. For instance, a common challenge an elderly person might face is decreased function in the hands due to arthritis, which would make it difficult to perform tasks that others of us take for granted. What if you could no longer open the cap on the tube of toothpaste? What if your fingers wouldn’t allow you to button your blouse? Occupational Therapists excel in educating patients on the use of adaptive equipment that can assist in these simple but necessary tasks. Another intervention approach is prevention. For example, falls are a major concern in facilities centered on geriatric patients. Creating a safe environment for these individuals by performing home evaluations and making recommendations based on clinical reasoning can ensure continued levels of independence.
While adaptations and safety precautions are an important part of the job, personally I think the most significant role an Occupational Therapist plays in a geriatric setting is that of an enabler. Immediately following Grandpa’s move, it was obvious that he did not want to be where he was. He felt defeated, helpless, and stripped of his freedom. As these feelings continued, he became isolated, wanting only to leave his room for meals. Grandpa’s motivation to engage in activities other than sleep plummeted, and it looked as if death was lurking around the corner. Again, Grandpa’s situation is not uncommon to others in similar circumstances, and that is where Occupational Therapy comes in. Often people in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities are deprived of what they know as “normal.” All they want is to have a choice about what they do, what they wear, what they eat, etc. Basically, they want their freedom, and in essence, their life back. Allowing seniors to maintain their routines and transition their prior activities and occupations to their new environment can make all the difference in preserving their life’s value and purpose. Occupational Therapy can do just that.
When I visit my grandparents, I often think about the contributions an Occupational Therapist could provide to the residents of their assisted living facility. Thankfully, my grandpa has come to terms with his new living situation and has found a way to once again enjoy living life. The journey doesn’t always end happily ever after for all aging adults though. However, with the use of Occupational Therapy, I firmly believe that the lives of these individuals can be enhanced to enable them to live their life to the fullest.

Response by Lena Ayari, Texas A&M University

Imagine a future in which technology is used to help disabled people regain normal functioning in all aspects of their lives. Picture an external skeleton-like suit that allows a paralyzed man to walk through the use of weight sensors, a wheelchair that allows an elderly woman to reach up to grab an object from a high shelf, and a bionic eye that can partially restore a blind child’s vision. This may all sound like science fiction, something that we will not be seeing in our lifetimes. In fact, the devices that have just been described have already been invented. The new challenge is to make such devices widely accessible to the people who need them.
During my senior year of high school, I competed in the Health Occupations Students of America Healthcare Issues exam. I had to keep up with healthcare news from specified sources throughout the year and take an exam to test my knowledge of current issues in the healthcare field. Several of the articles that I read were about developments in rehabilitation technology, which are geared towards helping disabled people gain function in certain parts of their bodies. These articles piqued my interest, and I spent a lot of time doing outside research on such developments. I ended up winning first place in the national competition, but I continued to look up related articles even after the competition was over. Throughout the summer before my freshman year of college, I devoured any articles I found that discussed developments in the field of assistive technology.
One of the emerging devices that I read about that I found especially interesting is the standing wheelchair, a device that allows people who are confined to wheelchairs to push up the wheelchair and grasp objects that they normally would not be able to reach. Another new device that fascinated me is the Google “smart spoon,” which gives people with hand tremors the ability to eat without spilling their food, thus increasing their independence. A common motif of such devices is increased independence, which I believe is an important aspect of maintaining both physical and emotional health. I am currently working as a nurse aide at St. Joseph Manor, a facility that offers both 24-hour skilled nursing care and an assisted living unit. While working, I have observed that the residents who are able to participate more in their care also tend to suffer less from depression and are more physically active, taking more initiative in maintaining their health. Although most of the residents in the assisted living unit are able to carry out several tasks on their own, I have seen that several of them feel uncomfortable when they are forced to call an aide over to help them because they feel as if this is a sign of weakness. Many still insist on doing everything on their own, which can be dangerous because this increases the risk of falls. I believe that increasing access to devices such as the ones I have described can dramatically improve the lives of senior citizens in assisted living facilities by increasing their sense of independence.
My first two undergraduate years as a biomedical sciences major will allow me to acquire a solid foundation in chemistry, physics, and biology. After completing these courses, I will be able to choose more specialized classes, such as Core Ideas in Neuroscience, Computer Applications in Public Health Research, and Experimentation in Physiology Research. I am also about to start a program that will allow me to receive a biomedical research certificate and gain valuable experience participating in research teams. This educational background will set me on the path towards a career in assistive technology. As an assistive technology professional, I hope to play a role in manufacturing and increasing access to adaptive devices. I believe that there is enormous potential in such technology, and that they should be taken advantage of more often in the field of geriatrics. The focus of geriatric care should not only be to maintain the residents’ health, but also to help them regain autonomy.
The developments in assistive technology hold significant meaning in the future of geriatrics, both in increasing the independence of senior citizens and in maintaining their sense of dignity. I envision a future in which devices such as standing wheelchairs and tremor-resistant spoons are common features of assisted living facilities, which is why I am working towards a career in which I can help make this future possible.

Response by Leonard Harper II, Arizona State University

The art of storytelling has been around for centuries. While no one knows for certain who the first storyteller was, what is certain is how stories move people. Stories can be used to calm fears, or to encourage. Stories can inspire and convict. Stories communicate messages and entertain. Storytelling has run the gamut from oral storytelling (where humans had to rely on their memory to learn), to written (books), and now visual storytelling through film. Film can excite us because it stimulates us visually and allows us to see the world. Parts of it that we may never have otherwise seen. It is precisely this reason that my major of study, which is film and media, can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town.
It is well known that seniors are often times, a forgotten segment of society. They are in their golden years and many of them want to continue to be productive members of society. Yet, this may prove to be a difficult task for them. People who are younger than them may not see them as valuable members of a team. Others may not have a desire to learn from their wisdom and experiences, feeling that seniors are a boring group. Their family members may no longer have a need for them, and thus, have no desire to be around them for long periods of time. However, the stories that can be told through the medium of film can help to change these misconceptions. A compelling story can be crafted and told visually through film about seniors who live in assisted living facilities.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, a film’s worth is immeasurable. Movie studios spend massive amounts of money every year producing films, and even those who are considered a financial disaster still draws some viewers. Recently, thanks to the success of films starring actors such as Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman, movies have been made that have provided entertainment for both the young and the older alike. So, there is a ready made audience for films that show seniors. A commercial, short or even feature length film can be made about seniors and their experiences in assisted living facilities. The film can be used to contrast and compare the options that seniors have of living alone, with full-time skilled nursing care, and with assisted living. It can highlight the staff and those who spend their time helping these seniors while they go about their daily lives in the assisted living facility. It can inspire the viewing audience to do more than just watch, but to become a part of the assistance that helps this segment of the population. And of course, many members of the film crew could also be made up of seniors, which will add to their feeling of independence and worth. Highlighting needs that certain facilities may have through film may also increase the quality of life that the seniors experience. People will actually be able to see for themselves what areas may need to be improved.
Film is a great medium for communicating messages and it can easily be used to communicate how seniors live in assisted living facilities. Whether their lives are good to great, or require some improvements, this is a great area of study that can be used to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town.

Response by Leslie Wood, Kent State University

My major of study is Medical Sociology, which involves social research detailing the interactions of everyone included in the world of healthcare and medicine. Gerontology is a massive component of healthcare in our country, and I believe that the quality of life for aging and ailing individuals should be the top priority when considering possible avenues for care. I would love, in my future career, to focus on advocating for individuals and the best achievable outcomes for their specific cases, and also for their families and caregivers. In-home care is the most advantageous option for a voluminous number of those in need of help caring for themselves; there they receive individual attention and far more freedom of choice in their daily lives and activities than is fathomable in any institution. This allows for a far more gratifying aging process.
The home health care industry is booming in my hometown of Akron, Ohio, as I assume is also true around the country. One of the problems faced by all sectors of eldercare, however, is the retention of caregiving employees, which is crucial to providing harmonious treatment. Individuals remaining in their homes do not often wish to be cared for by random strangers sent out by their chosen agency; it is a far more amicable situation for all involved when one or even a few specific aides can provide ongoing care. Familiarity and reliability are comforting and necessary, especially in the face of illness and varying levels of incapacitation. An aging person needs to be able to feel in control of their care and trust the person(s) providing it.
During the course of my studies, I have done some surveying and interviewing research pertaining to State Tested Nursing Assistants, in order to discover the elements of their jobs that cause them to be stable or transient in a given position. Almost every individual stated that the reason they chose to work in their field is because they want to take care of people, and the reasons they stayed at a position were largely due to relationships they had built, with the individuals they care for, and with their coworkers. Common reasons for leaving a job involved feeling that the company they worked for did not care about them or treated them unfairly. I am quite willing to speculate that these same issues exist for those who provide in-home care, as the caregivers often work in multiple sectors of the eldercare business.
If we wish to create the optimum quality of life for the members of our aging society, it is necessary to be mindful of the people who put their hearts into taking care of them. Social research involving in-home caregivers, their clients, and the affected families seems essential to improving the acquisition and retention of compassionate and reliable caregiving employees. Ascertaining a path to build lasting relationships in such a delicate arena is perhaps a grandiose endeavor, but it may be imperative to establish the tools to do so. Now is a critical time, with the impending expansion of the aging population around the country. Modern medical innovations which provide us with the ability to live longer must be balanced with appropriate social research and applications, because a prolonged life is futile if the quality of that life is unsatisfactory. Improvements made today in home health care and various other aspects of eldercare can be built upon as technology initiates the ability for lives to extend into many more years. It is the responsibility of medical sociologists to undertake this task, and I am motivated and grateful to be a part of the process.

Response by Lia Dykes,Winston-Salem State University

I smile as my ninety-six-year-old grandmother exclaims, for the second time, “there really is nothing better in the world than chocolate!” She reaches back into the basket, and with her frail, arthritic fingers, slowly but purposefully selects and unwraps another piece of Christmas candy. Moments later, eyes twinkling, she looks up at me and says, “There really is nothing better in the world than chocolate!”
After my grandfather passed away she moved from the independent living area to an apartment and then later to the assisted living home. Through all of these different living arrangements, and changes in cognitive and physical health, my grandmother has been fortunate to have the same nurse. Although she may no longer remember her nurse, the nurse remembers my grandmother, and I appreciate the value in this level of continuity.
Working daily as a nurse aide with residents of a local retirement community gave me a unique perspective on what matters most during these final stages of our lives: health, love, family, respect, and trust. As my relationships with clients developed I became aware of how these values are not so different from my own, and how nurses hold the keys to connecting with their patients, making sure their needs are noted. This is why I could not be more excited about pursuing a career in nursing. Of all healthcare providers, nurses tend to spend the most time working directly with patients and communicating with their families.
During the clinical portion of my nurse aide class I had the opportunity to shadow a wound care nurse. I spent the afternoons watching in awe as he took measurements, changed dressings and chatted with his patients about their unique wounds. I sympathized with these patients with their crippling amputations, painful sores, and seeping reminders of surgeries. Although I initially felt a bit queasy at the sight and smell of the first patient’s wound, my fascination and curiosity, along with the desire to be just as respectful and confident as the nurse, allowed me to overcome my hesitation and open up to the patient’s experience. A good nurse has a presence that can transform the way a patient experiences his or her visit. I have seen how nurses, with their skills and compassion, can provide support to discouraged ALS patients or offer comfort to frustrated Alzheimer’s patients. I observed how this wound care nurse tackled the near impossible some days and on others, joined with the patient in the celebration of newly healed skin.
One morning, while working in a wound healing center, I noticed an elderly man checking in at the front desk. I hadn’t seen him before, nor did I know the details of his visit, but I wheeled him back to the exam room and began taking his vitals as usual. He had arrived from an assisted living facility and seemed nervous and confused in these new and foreign surroundings. When the nurse asked for a hand, I unexpectedly walked into something I will not soon forget. The smell of necrotic tissue and feces filled the air, a mosaic of reds, browns, and bone took the place where skin should have been. I stood at his bedside, supporting his frail back while the nurses cleaned the enormous, life threatening sacral wound. Even though he was anxious and in pain he took the time to compliment me on my smile and crack jokes. I periodically checked on him, brought him water, adjusted his pillows, and stood by his side. His face lit up when I told him about the city I lived in; he had lived there too, many decades ago. When I learned that he had passed away that night, I felt determined to remember just how important it is for nurses to be attentive and proactive in caring for their patients.
Through my experiences with patients in assisted living, I have seen first hand the positive impact that nurses have on our health care system. I feel a deep gravitational-like pull to make every sacrifice and effort possible to succeed in school and begin my career as a registered nurse. I’m confident that this path will give me the opportunity to not only help heal outer wounds, but also the inner wounds of aging souls- never once underestimating the power of chocolate.

Response by Linda Meliani, University of Virginia

As a prospective business major, I am developing a skill set that will enhance my entrepreneurial spirit and allow me to execute a business idea that will fill a void in the lives of senior citizens. Self-esteem often declines with age, especially in the case of senior citizens who must often rely on others for assistance. Also, many senior citizens have trouble maintaining their physical appearance, which can have a big impact on confidence levels. There is no denying that a well maintained appearance can have a positive affect on people, and this idea should be applied to the lives of senior citizens to both increase morale and confidence in assisted living facilities. It is essential that programs are implemented within assisted living facilities that will encourage positive energy and self-assurance in elderly individuals.
My major of study and extracurricular involvement have inspired me to come up with efficient ways of implementing confidence-enhancement programs in assisted living facilities. In addition to pursuing a major in business, I am the Membership Chair for the fashion association, and the Fashion Director for the arts and culture magazine. I have experience working at a small boutique, and spent a summer interning in the women’s division of a modeling agency. The skillsets that I gained from these experiences and my business courses can be applied to organizing programs for senior citizens. Arranging partnerships with local boutiques and department stores to provide comfortable and stylish clothing options to be presented to senior citizens within an assisted living facility can make for a fun social trunk-show style event, and give senior citizens the opportunity to select their own high quality styles. Also, grooming services that handle bathing, hair and nail care, skin care, and makeup options will allow senior citizens to feel fresh and confident without the hassle of looking for the materials and doing it themselves. Light exercise group classes that are tailored to the abilities and needs of the senior citizens can also be offered, as this type of programming will keep seniors active and increase their physical fitness. With this type of care, senior citizens will feel more comfortable having visitors, socializing, and making friends within the facility. A personalized grooming and confidence enhancement program put in place within assisted living facilities will give seniors access to services that they may be unable to perform themselves, or may not be comfortable enough to ask for from facility staff. Assisted living facilities should offer the high quality care to senior citizens that will allow each individual to enjoy their later years to their fullest potential.
Another way I can use my business skills to enhance the lives of senior citizens in assisted living facilities is to arrange partnerships with technology specialists to provide basic technology skills. The skills would focus on teaching senior citizens to text message, use the internet, arrange Skype calls, and create social media accounts. This technology education will allow senior citizens to remain knowledgeable about current events and give them the resources to communicate more frequently with their family members.
Senior citizens need to stay connected to their families and friends, to maintain their emotional health and reduce loneliness. Taking care of one’s appearance is a necessary step to feel comfortable in social situations. This is an easy task for young people but it can be a daily hurdle for senior citizens. The addition of personalized grooming services and useful technology classes will improve the quality of life for seniors in assisted living facilities.

Response by Lindsay Hatcher, Johnston Community College

A nursing degree could greatly impact the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. More nurses graduating with this degree would mean more nurses to provide care to those people in assisted living. With a larger pool of registered nurses, assisted living facilities could hire more registered nurses to their staff. This could help to individualize the attention the residents of these facilities are receiving. As someone who has performed duties in assisted living, I have seen how the small numbers of registered nurses takes a toll on those working there, as well as the residents. These nurses who are employed are stretched thin and are more likely to make errors or be too busy to notice signs and symptoms that could have been noticed if not so overworked. Employing newly graduated nurses could provide the enthusiasm for the job that may be diminished in those nurses that have become complacent. These new nurses could help alleviate some of the stress and workload placed on the mature nursing staff as well, making the whole staff a happier one.
The ADN programs are designed with the best patient care in mind. With this degree residents of the assisted living facilities and their families could rest assured that they are receiving the best care for their needs and gaining an advocate for them. Nurses can provide the hands on healthcare they need as well as the psychosocial aspects. A nursing degree would allow for the resident to have a nurse who is not only medically trained as well as one who can provide and advocate for their emotional and social needs as well. Even if the nurse was not able to care for all of the needs directly, the ability for a trained professional to recognize the need for additional support is a great asset. The sole purpose for a nurse is to ensure that the client’s needs are met and restoration of mind, body and soul are continually at the highest point attainable.
Nurses would not have to be employed by these facilities to have an impact on them or their residents. These clients are often transported out to other facilities for routine doctor appointments or other ailments that assisted living facilities are unable to support. Nurses in other facilities would be able to care for them with the skill and compassion deserved. More nurses could mean quicker care for patients. Nurses in other facilities also know what level of care is to be expected of other facilities and can help have a positive checks and balances effect on care provided to the residents. This degree would provide more people the ability to be advocates and a voice for assisted living facilities and their residents.
The Associate Degree of Nursing curriculum also empowers people not only to be advocates but to be leaders. The program helps mold people with strong character and morals. These graduates are a valuable resource for our community. They can impact regulations on facilities and help implement ideas that can progress the standard of care in these types of institutions. Having RN’s in the community builds a strong base of support for community health and education in many areas, including geriatrics and assisted living. Nurses in any position can provide education to the public and an outlook on care for elders that may influence others to take notice of the importance of that care. This degree and the people that hold it are a force to be recognized when it comes to changing the face of healthcare in any setting. With such a focus on geriatrics in the nursing schools, it is a definite that the healthcare in assisted living facilities will improve as well as the care provided to residents in other healthcare settings.

Response by Lisa Carpenter, University of New Haven

As a Criminal Justice Major there are many different fields I can pursue after graduating college. This means that there are an abundant amount of jobs that could help improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care. During my studies, I took a White Collar Crime class and learned of numerous methods on how fraud is conducted in the medical field. By going into Criminal Justice I could protect these individuals receiving in-home care by ensuring that they are safe and being treated correctly.
The false account of services rendered or goods provided is a common method of medical fraud. A son or daughter may pay for a visiting nurse for their elderly parent but the nurse never visits the patient. The individual is still paying for the service even though there is no actual service being provided. Another example is a paying for a visiting nurse to come three days a week but in actuality the nurse only comes once a week. When an individual pays for a service or a good and receives something less, the wrong item or nothing in return this is considered medical fraud. Seniors are especially targeted by criminals because they assume they are an easy target. With this mentality our criminal justice system needs to keep an extra watch to ensure the safety of the senior population.
Upcoding and unbundling are another common method within White Collar Crime. Upcoding refers to billing an individual for a higher priced service or good than what they are receiving or really need. Diagnosing a patient with a more severe condition than what they really have is considered upcoding as well. For example, a patient may have hip pain that is simply Arthritis but the doctor informs them that they need a hip replacement. Not only is the patient paying for a surgery not needed but will also have to pay for the in-home care needed to recover from the strenuous surgery.
Unbundling allows a doctor to charge a patient more money by breaking down procedures that are normally billed together. A senior just received hip replacement surgery and is billed in a group package for a discounted price for the procedure, a visiting nurse and in-home therapy three times a week. A doctor committing medical fraud would break down the three services and charge the patient separately making the price of the medical services astronomical.
All these different methods of White Collar Crime can be prevented by an individual going into the criminal justice field to help stop these crimes. White Collar Crimes are the crimes that cost our country the most, especially medical fraud. My major can help reassure seniors who receive in-home care, particularly medical services, that they are being protected and if something does occur an investigator will track down the criminal. No one should be taken advantage of, especially those in need.
A precautionary step to help prevent criminals from taking advantage of seniors in need of medical care is by having a short informational lecture about medical fraud. An individual in the investigative field of White Collar Crime can inform seniors of the different types of medical fraud and their red flags. The investigator could also inform how to report suspicious activity and what to do if medical fraud is being conducted.
Every aspect of Criminal Justice involves protecting our nation and its people. Working to prevent medical fraud and White Collar Crime can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care and help to reassure them that they are being protected. The medical care world often goes unnoticed when dealing with crime. As a Criminal Justice major I will be able to ensure the protection of seniors by not allowing them to be taken advantage of by greedy criminals. All majors can help improve seniors’ lives who receive in-home care but Criminal Justice is the major that guarantees safety.

Response by Lisa Coyle, Eastern Washington University

Earning a gerontology certification opened up the possibility for me to pursue my current study in psychology. Taking various classes to assist older populations in the navigation of unique transitions such as home care and access to services, made me aware of practical psychological considerations to this population. In gerontology classes I learned of various social services available to aging populations, and toured assisted living facilities in my community. Doing this provided me with unique insight and technical skills to serve an aging population. While my certification taught me social services skills to serve this population, I also learned of special psychological considerations as well. Hearing that depression and social isolation often affect this age group, I became interested in studying psychological aspects including health and wellbeing. Continuing my education in psychology has allowed me to pursue such topics in greater detail.
The Future of Assisted Living Scholarship has encouraged me to consider and integrate my current research interests of psychological and environmental health, with my background in gerontology in a way that uniquely addresses specific building features of assisted living facilities such as natural lighting to promote wellbeing of employees and residents.
Engaging in nature is vital to human well being. I am conducting research at Eastern Washington University that looks at how access to natural areas, improves health. For instance, simply having a tree outside of your window can encourage wellbeing and productivity. My current study psychology and research focus on nature and wellness could help improve the lives of individuals in assisted living in Spokane, Washington through demonstrating the importance of having access to natural lighting, green spaces, and open communal areas that facilitate social interaction, and promote wellbeing among residents.
When designing and modifying assisted living facilities, psychology an essential part of this process because it allows for the identification and communication of the needs of individuals who will be occupying the space that architects design. When I finish my BA in psychology I would like to study applied social and health psychology at Colorado State University. The program is unique in that it offers a specialization in environmental psychology, where students have opportunity to engage in research at the Center for the Built Environment.
More specifically I plan to study a concept known as anthropometry or how humans make use of the space they are in. Working with other professional such as architects, I would identify psychological aspects of building occupants in assisted living facilities such as common types of interactions that would take place in a given space layout. This important psychological design feature takes into consideration the needs and interactions of the people who will be using the building. Having a strong background in psychology, and an awareness of the effect of natural areas on health, I would help design areas with psychological needs of an aging population in mind. I envision consulting with building Lisa Coyle Eastern Washington University planners to communicate social needs planning in order to modify and design buildings that promote wellness. Ultimately, this includes the recognition of the importance of sunlight in alleviating depression and encouraging wellbeing, as well as spaces where individuals can come together to easily engage in social activities.
Psychology provides an excellent background because it allows for the identification of specific psychological needs of certain populations that will use the building space. For instance, assisted living facilities with adequate sunlight and areas where individuals can get together to engage in communal activities, can encourage wellness and social interaction. With awareness of social considerations of people who will use the space, building features can much more adequately be established.
Using research in my field of psychology I plan to communicate a vision for future assisted living facilities, that includes areas where residents can easily come together to engage in social activities, have access to natural sunlight, and designated places for activities such as gardening or other nature related activities. Additionally, this would include spaces that encourage long-term sustainability and energy reduction.
With that said, designing sustainable buildings with psychological needs of residents and workers in mind, can in turn help reduce depression, promote social activity, improve relationships, and facilitate residents in living independent and productive lives.

Response by Lisa Martinez, Western University of Health Sciences

As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I plan on providing primary care for low-income, underserved adult populations in my community upon graduation. Since the senior population comprises a good portion of patients treated in primary care, many of my patients will be seniors, including those living in assisted living facilities. I have learned a great deal from my classes and from my patients and feel that I will soon be able to provide high quality, culturally competent care to seniors. I have outlined the most important lessons below. They are applicable to seniors living in assisted living facilities as well as those that are in other placements.
Ageism exists, even in health care settings. An indirect form of ageism, or positive ageism, is a common form of ageism in health care. This is a stereotype in which a person assumes the senior has limited capacity simply because they are old. This is especially insidious because the senior begins to believe this as well and has thoughts that they are “too old” for certain things. Therefore, it is necessary that health care professionals become self aware, educate both co-workers and lay people, and serve as role models. In my practice, I will treat each senior as an individual and encourage them let go of limitations. I will also speak up when I notice ageism.
Disease is not a normal part of aging. Although the risk for many diseases does increase with age, all patients should be given hope that they can control aspects of their health, and that pain, suffering, and depression can be mitigated. Prevention is very important for seniors. In my practice, I plan on emphasizing diet and exercise. Even among patients already diagnosed with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart failure, focusing on diet and exercise can limit the sequelae of these diseases.
Depression and cognitive impairments often missed in primary care. Many seniors are at risk for depression as they experience loss of home, partners, family, friends, and hobbies. Therefore, I will regularly assess my patients for depression and cognitive impairments. It is important to identify these diseases early and take action in order to prevent larger problems. In addition, knowing this information is critical when filling out the physician’s report for residential care facilities. This ensures appropriate placement for seniors. For example, my mother-in-law, who has multi infarct dementia, is better served by a memory care unit in an assisted living facility than by a regular assisted living facility.
Seniors are just like everyone else. They each have a story and it is good to know these stories. They want to be independent. They want to live at home or in the community, such as in an assisted living facility. As a practitioner, my role will be to help seniors maintain their health which will foster independence. For patients who experience functional impairments, I will find ways to maintain independence in other areas and encourage independence in decisions related to health care.
Seniors may have financial concerns. Seniors are often on a fixed income. I have encountered several patients who mention that the cost of certain medications is problematic or who state that have trouble eating healthy. As a practitioner, I will keep this in mind when prescribing medications and try to select the least expensive option. Also, I will have resources available for seniors. When it comes to eating healthy, this may be as simple as having a list of farmers markets available, or a list of food kitchens and food delivery services.
And last but not least, LISTEN. Listening is important for two reasons. First, it will allow me to fully treat the patient which will result in better patient outcomes. Last week, a 90-something-year–old patient came in to the clinic. At the end of the visit, the patient stated, “I would love to be able to dance again.” From this statement, I understood what the patient wanted and needed from me. I realized that the statement came at the end of the visit. Had I rushed through the visit, the patient might not have not shared this with me. Second, listening will allow me the opportunity to learn from my patients. I have learned not only about health and illness, but about life from interactions with senior patients. I am a lifelong learner and I will continue to learn from patients each and every day if I just listen.

Response by Lisanne Murphy, Brigham Young University

“Ignorance is bliss,” a phrase only true if you plan to live in a bubble fooling yourself into security. Ignorance means a lack of knowledge. Knowledge means information acquired through experience or education. The key word, in my opinion, is “experience.” Knowledge exists freely in our digital world; but, if I may be so bold, the ignorance of our nation has increased. Why? Because we do not act on the information we have. Ignorance diminishes only when knowledge is transferred to action.
As a Public Administration student, I intend to change individuals and societies by helping public and private organizations not just fill the world with information, but promote ways to act and be involved in the causes with which they identify. Organizations need to have a continuum of contribution activities available; varying from monetary offerings, to intellectual aids, service assistances. These methods of involvement will be communicated through social media mediums to reach desired audiences.
The emphasis I am studying with my business degree is Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. I chose this emphasis with the intent to better understand any organizations’ most powerful and important resource—its people. As I gain a formal education on how to manage and inspire others, I hope to consult organizations on how to maximize the use of their employees. Then, to help other organizations reach out to the community and help areas of need.
Some of the specific causes I hope to become involved with in educating the ignorant is with helping solve the issue of the elderly of our society being ill-cared for, or even forgotten. One of the greatest resources any society has ever had throughout history is the elderly. In ancient societies, the elderly were treated as God’s or even VIP guests at any event. With the advent of technology and information, what the elderly have to offer has seemed to diminish in value.
I would submit that, the value of the elderly in our society cannot be diminished by technology or our fast-paced life styles. We must do more as communities, companies, families, and individuals to learn from the experience of our elders. This will be critical for the development of our nation.
Putting the benefits aside, the focus on the elderly will be valuable for them. The aging generations have given so much to who we are today as individuals and communities. We must show care for them, and honor them for their contributions. For us to not do this would be selfish.
My degree will help me to work together with public and private organizations to reach out to the elderly and make sure they feel valued and are able to continue to add value to our society. Governments can pass policies to help the elderly more than just through local recreation programs. Awareness and action are needed from all angles to ensure the precious aging generation and what they have to offer is not lost.
Specifically, governments can incentivize families to choose in home care to ensure their aging loved ones can remain with family and in the comfort of their residence or a family members’ residence. Keeping the elderly in their own home or with their loved ones greatly enhances the life of the aged. This incentivizing of in-home care will allow families to make decisions based on what is best for the aging family member, not just chose the option that is cost effective or affordable.
The ignorance and inaction of people paralyze the progress of humanity. Acting on knowledge will bring like-minded people together in a social tribe that will create synergistic change in our communities, allowing us to stop turning a blind eye to the inequality and injustices around us. I am passionate and devoted to educating the ignorant. Helping people become their best selves, will help individuals and organizations not just have a desire to promote change, but actually make a positive impact on the world, especially the elderly.

Response by Lucy Bolton, Western Washington University

I fully intend to relocate to an assisted living facility as my body begins to rebel against my daily chores. Using my study of Urban Planning and Sustainable Development to better the lives of those already in those facilities is a priority, especially knowing that there are already 735,000 residents nationwide, a number that will only continue to rise with the passage of time. The ways in which the assisted living experience can be improved upon through my area of study are unique, unexpected, and breakthrough.
From my perspective, some of the biggest problems that seniors face when moving into, or considering moving into, assisted living facilities are: monthly cost, an average of $3,600 nationally; difficulty adjusting to living in a group setting, or in close quarters with others; the increased exposure to infection, when compared to a single-family home; and feelings of isolation from family or loss of independence. While there are a variety of solutions to consider, substantial and marked progress can be made by implementing changes that follow a sustainably-minded agenda. The ideas that I have to improve the quality of life in these facilities do not require new buildings or expensive remodels, rather they suggest a shift in focus that will, in fact, bring the operating costs down.
The most grandiose of my ideas is to use a variety of renewable energy sources to convert assisted living facilities into zero-energy buildings, where the amount of energy expended is equal to or less than the amount of energy generated on-site. Specific plans would need to be created for different geographic regions, but could include installation of solar panels, wind turbines, and even simple insulation upgrades as well as energy-use reduction through small habit changes and thoughtful behavior. If a facility, as opposed to a household, can become a zero-energy building, the savings realized would make an enormous impact on the budget of the organization and with time, allow for lower, or at least stabilized rates for residents.
A smaller project that has the potential to bring about a lot of positive change is to create a garden – starting small, but with plans to increase the size as staff and residents become comfortable tending to it. Though conventionally viewed as an extracurricular, these gardens (which would ideally include greenhouses) would provide fresh produce for the kitchen, a therapeutic space for residents to work (or idle) and tour with visitors. The medical community agrees that fresh, local produce provides extraordinary health benefits, particularly disease prevention, therefore offering a partial-solution to the concern of illness prevention. Furthermore, spending time outside (even on the cloudy days) boosts ones immunity, mood, and overall resilience. By offering residents the opportunity to garden together, we help foster relationships between them. Studies show that adults who work on a project together make friends more quickly than those who do not. What a great way to help someone adjust to a new home!
And, simpler yet, bring the outside in! While many residents might enjoy having plants, they may not take the initiative to acquire them or harbor concerns about proper plant care. By providing live plants (and care of them) to all seniors (and in common spaces) people will literally be getting a “breath of fresh air”. There are a multitude of air-purifying plants that suit a variety of climates and lighting variations. These plants help remove formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, and more from the air. The benefits to both mental and physical health by the addition of live plants into a space have frequently been overlooked, but thanks to NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America’s joint study investigating the ability of plants to remove toxins from the air, plants are now seen as a viable option for increasing the health and well-being of indoor-dwellers.
Urban Planning and Sustainable Development is a field which aims to improve the lives of all. I have always especially cared for the lives of seniors. I do believe that a long life is worth something and that the last of your life may as well be the best of your life. To help make that a possibility for seniors living in assisted living facilities, I will be embarking on a quest for knowledge. With more knowledge, experience, and connections, I will become a pioneer in the transition to zero-energy, garden-fed, plant-filled facilities I dream of. Starting in my own home state of Washington, this will be a process that spans the nation – and hopefully quickly, too!

Response by Luis Razo, Columbia Basin College

Shortly after becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant in 2013, I began working at an assisted living facility in Kennewick, WA. I worked in close proximity and under the supervision of the few registered nurses that were employed there, but the facility was understaffed and the staff overworked. As a result, I found myself being cross-trained in many of the duties that would normally have been taken on by a Registered Nurse. In spite of this, I still found myself wishing that I could do more for the residents so I decided to major in nursing.
The nurses I worked with exercised considerable influence over the lives of the residents–so my major of study, nursing, will help me attain a position that allows me to positively impact those same lives as I apply my training and my experience to the job of being a registered nurse in an assisted living facility. I cannot speak for how things are done at other facilities in other areas, but here I saw firsthand how important it is that the staff in charge of resident care understand and value not only the physical but also the mental well-being of those under their care.
On this point, assisted living facilities in my area sometimes fail in their attempt to provide certain services that one might ordinarily expect. Unlike other types of facilities for the elderly where near-total dependence on nursing staff is required, assisted living is just that; independence, to what extent it can be, must be preserved. At times it seemed as if residents were being given only basic care, with few accommodations being made for their other needs or desires, and insufficient services being offered to help them live rich, full lives.
Additionally, while most of the residents were reasonably healthy and fairly mobile, they often lacked the autonomy that they might otherwise have had due to the aforementioned insufficient services. I feel that this was more of a priorities issue than a funding one; the services were lacking not because the facility could not afford them, but because the staff did not understand just how important those services were. Studying nursing will make me better able to see to it that residents in my area can live the life they deserve, as I will have a direct hand in planning and administering their care and will be in a position to advocate for a reassessment of priorities. The elderly need access to enrichment activities as much as, if not more, than everyone else. It is absolutely critical that they be assisted as needed in maintaining a connection to their community and to their family.
As an aspiring nurse in an assisted living facility, I would also play an important role in resident-family relations; nursing staff interact with residents on a daily basis, and they are often keenly aware of the resident’s needs and desires. I would thus be in the best position to recognize and address the concerns of both the resident and their families, and to act as intermediaries when necessary. While as a nurse I would never attempt to force interaction, I look forward to doing everything in my power to incorporate family activities into the services offered by the facility, and to encourage family involvement in those activities.
In my daily interactions with residents, I got to know the individual needs and expectations of each resident—things which are often lost in the bustle of paperwork. Each resident has their own unique needs, and the one-size-fits-all methods that some local facilities adopt are less than ideal. Some residents need more care and attention, some less, and this can only be understood if one takes the time to get to know them.
As a registered nurse I will be in an authoritative position that will allow me to make sure every nursing assistant has a good understanding of what an assisted living community is all about. I will be able to see to it that every nursing assisting under my supervision understands the importance of resident care not just on a physical level but also on an emotional level. Furthermore I will be able to educate nursing assistants and provide them with the necessary resources to be able to excel at resident care. With my degree in nursing I will be able to change the way assisted living facilities in my community operate so that no resident is left behind.
Residents of assisted living facilities deserve not only the necessary medical care, but also the autonomy and community that led them to choose the facility in the first place. As a nurse, I will be in a great position to provide them with just that.

Response by Lydia Kegler, Naropa University

My Grandmother moved into my house when I was nine years old. She had Alzheimer’s disease and it was extremely difficult to see her mind deteriorate, as well as frustrating for the family to try and figure out how to care for her. Once a week a professional yoga instructor would come to our house and practice yoga with her in the living room. My grandmother was extremely nimble for a woman in her eighties, and she loved this chance to move her body. Watching her as she was directed in these gentle movements revealed how central this kind of physical care is for a person whose mind is deteriorating. After her mental awareness began to fall away, the happiest and most content I ever saw her was on these days. With the tolls of old age, I have observed that physical sensation is one of the few things that remains. My grandmother was swiftly losing her senses one by one. She could not hear, she could not smell, and most terrifying of all, she could not remember who she was in the world. When she was directed to move her body, however, she returned to herself, because she was present in the moment with the familiar sensations.
As a yoga instructor, I plan to work in part with people who have physical limitations, such as seniors. Anusara is a form of yogic practice that focuses on body alignment and can be specifically therapeutic for people in need of very gentle exercize. The physical limitations for seniors, due to their their bodies becoming much more fragile, and often living with injuries, requires more uncommon exercize methods. Weight lifting, spinning, and even walking can be too rigorous and can have a damaging effect on an aging body. As a one-on-one yoga teacher, I think that I could be a meaningful asset to in-home senior care in my community. Careful attention in a one-on-one situation is central because our bodies become more fragile as we age. Physical exercise must be low impact cardio, and resistance training and stretching are very beneficial. Yoga as a physical therapy for seniors has great potential to help sustain an elderly person’s ability to live at home. As the body ages and movement becomes more painful, lack of exercise will only speed up this process of immobilization. Regular gentle yoga can restore the body and slow down its decline.
Not only are the positive effects of yoga on the physical body endless, it also can improve one’s mental state. Old age can be an extremely confusing and scary time of life. People lose control over so many aspects of their lives during this time. Practicing gentle yoga with a senior allows them to relax and rest their mind. As an in-home practitioner, I would be giving one person my full attention while helping them work with their body in the moment, forgetting the stress of failing memory and senses. Exercise puts people in a better mood and improves mental well being. It reduces blood pressure, and helps chronic, and disabling conditions that often come with old age.
Physical exercise is a crucial part of life that is vastly missing from the life of elderly people. The importance of not putting strain on the body as it grows more sensitive with age demands a method of movement that is extremely careful and specified. Physical exercise for seniors can improve almost all aspects of their lives. One-on-one yoga therapy for in-home seniors is a solution to this area of need that I know I can affect as a yoga teacher. Many ailments of old age are caused by a lack of physical exercise. Implementing movement into the way we care for seniors would be a beneficial caring service to people in the last years of their lives.

Response by Macey Leann Hance, Tusculum College

I have always wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl. I want to be able to take care of others when they are not feeling their best and make them feel comfortable. Nursing is not an easy occupation, it has good and rewarding times, but it also has rough patches that an individual has to face. I am currently in my senior year of nursing school and I cannot wait to graduate in May 2016 and make nursing my career. I am excited that I will be able to help improve the lives of individuals in my community by applying the knowledge I have learned throughout my time in nursing school.
With nursing as my major of study, I can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town by being an advocate for the patients. Individuals in assisted living facilities depend on me to help support them and make decisions that are in their best interest for their health. As a nurse, it is my job to make sure my patients are safe and that they know I stand behind them in the choices that they make. I will improve their lives by protecting their rights and providing the best care possible. I will make sure they have everything they need and are well taken care of to give them the best quality of life while they are at the assisted living facility. I will be there for them to talk to, if they need a shoulder to cry on, or just need someone to listen to them. People in assisted living facilities deserve to have their independence and be treated with respect.
I also plan to use nursing to help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities by doing research on medical issues that individuals in these facilities suffer from. I want to make new discoveries that help nurses provide the best care possible for the residents of assisted living facilities. Also, I will be able to help improve the lives of seniors by helping my fellow nurses care for them. It is my responsibility to help the people I work with when they need it or I have taken care of my patients. One of the most important parts of nursing is teamwork. Working together and communication helps patients get the care they deserve and receive anything they may need.
I think it is important to make sure that individuals in assisted nursing facilities maintain the most independence that they can because this helps them with their self-esteem. I will encourage the individuals to complete their activities of daily living independently if they are able. As a nurse, I will always be there to help them when they need it, but I will encourage them when I know they can do it themself. We all know that no one likes to depend on others for the things they need done, so I will always try my best to not take away any individual’s independence.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. It would be a great honor if chosen to receive the 2015-2016 Future of Assisted Living Scholarship. I can assure you that I will use my major to the best of my ability to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town. Nursing school has impacted my life and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for my career.

Response by Madeline Papuga, East Carolina University

The healthcare profession is possibly one of the most rewarding, challenging, and controversial professions of them all. There are many different types of healthcare facilities ranging from hospitals to physical therapy offices to assisted living communities. All of these facilities are crucial to patients and create jobs for many different health care workers. The healthcare workplace consists of many different workers with various educational levels and degrees. Every one of the workers does an important job in healthcare that simply must be done.
Assisted Living Communities are essential to providing patients with the care they cannot obtain at home. These communities can be seen all over the United States. Assisted Living Communities vary from other forms of healthcare facilities in the simple fact that most patients live at the communities, or spend a great amount of time there for rehabilitation. Patients at a doctor’s office or hospital come and go. The patients of assisted living communities having a longer stay allows for them and the healthcare professionals that work there to build relationships and bonds that benefit both of them. My mother is a Physical Therapist Assistant and she works both in an outpatient clinic, and at an assisted living community. I have had the privilege of being able to job shadow her at both facilities. Being that I am currently in nursing school pursuing a bachelor’s degree, I have spent a lot of time comparing different workplaces for nurses. Nurses are needed at every assisted living community to perform tasks such as feeding, bathing, administering medications, and simply keeping the patients happy. Nurses at these types of facilities must work harder to build relationships with the patients, and serve as their friends and family in their home away from home. They work alongside the doctors and therapists to ensure the patient’s safety and emotional well-being while gaining their trust. Nurses are often able to spend more time with patients than the doctors, which in turn makes them a very significant figure in the patients’ lives. While I am intrigued by the fast pace, action packed environment of hospitals and outpatient clinics, I do understand and appreciate the importance of assisted living communities and the significant role that nurses play in these facilities.
In conclusion, nurses play a vital role in creating a stable and successful assisted living community. They also play a very significant part in the lives of patients, often times creating lifelong relationships in which the patient views the nurse as a family member or friend. Nurses improve the lives of patients in assisted living communities by using the skills they learn in nursing school to improve the quality of life in patients who cannot perform daily activities alone. These activities are things such as tying their shoes, getting dressed, feeding, or using the bathroom. The nurses gain the trust of patients in the assisted living communities and serve to give them care that they can no longer receive at home. I can only hope to someday be able to use my skills as a nurse to improve the lives of patients and possibly work at an assisted living community.

Response by Madison Knigith, Indiana Wesleyan University

Assisted living has become a very attractive choice for seniors that are losing their independence. It is popular among families that care for aging loved-ones because it still allows some independence while providing twenty-four hour assistance. This need recently became real to me when my grandfather began falling. My grandmother needed help and found that within an assisted living community.
In Michigan, my home state, there are several choices for seniors experiencing reduced independence. Transitional senior communities allow movement into smaller living (apartment type) spaces with greater care options as their independence lessens and their needs increase. Privately owned, many offer a continuum of care including full-time nursing staffs through end of life. There are privately owned homes that house residents with a limited care level available. This is the option my grandfather is utilizing. Lastly, there are government subsidized care facilities that are more affordable but often provide a lesser caregiver-to-resident ratio.
While watching my grandparents navigate this transition, I asked, “How might I be able to make a difference for others going through this?” One of the needs I have observed during my family’s transition is the emotional adjustment needed for seniors to survive a major life change. Often this type of transition happens after a loss of some sort like failed physical abilities or loss of a spouse. Anyone that experiences a loss encounters adjustment periods. I have learned how to design and develop recreational programs. You may think that seniors are not the best candidates for such programs in the way that most of us define recreation. Maybe you wonder how recreation helps with emotional survival. I believe that seniors, especially in life transitions, are excellent candidates for programming that is thoughtful and well-executed.
My degree has trained me to develop programs by assessing the needs of the participants, creating an inventory of resources and space available and then planning options for multi-faceted activities and involvements that can cultivate an increased level of mobility, connectivity, and improved emotional well-being. Quality recreational activities can help reduce the helplessness a senior might experience during this transitional time by keeping their mind occupied and by keeping the body active. These programs can also help new seniors to a facility become connected which helps with the adjustment.
The programs designed do not have to be limited to just community residents. The best designed program is one that brings groups of people together. Programs for assisted living communities can be created to involve the entire family, helping all make the transition more easily. Inclusion of local elementary schools, daycares, libraries, youth clubs, etc. can create win/win situations as old and new come together to form friendships. My training helps me develop programs for all ages and needs. My education is preparing me to make a difference wherever I am called to work. My degree also equips me with the skills to plan the building of and future needs projection for assisted living communities working with builders and program planners in the development of spaces for their recreational resources including dealing with legal guidelines for such facilities. This allows for optimal programming in the ever changing world of seniors.
The expectations of those choosing assisted living options, because of the costs involved, are high. My degrees qualifies me to develop programs that improve the quality of residential life and increases overall family satisfaction.
My education allows me to do planning for privately owned assisted living properties and programs but also for the development of foundational plans that can be adjusted and executed by different types of senior service facilities and programs. For instance, a mobility improvement program that is designed to be used in an assisted living community might easily be adjusted to benefit independent seniors that are involved in day programs at senior centers or through local churches. A recreational activity calendar specifically designed for a senior assisted living home might be considered for use in a community senior center. As I continue my studies and move into the workforce to use my degree, I look forward to seeing how I can help improve the lives of those in my community and hopefully in all corners of the world. Thanks to for continually challenging college students to look for ways to improve senior living and for supporting students in their education as they strive to improve the world in which they live.

Response by Maggie Turk, University of Iowa

The nursing major has the ability to impact many future medical advances and practices. Therefore, I have the ability to make an impact in whatever specialty of nursing that I choose. With the growing baby boomer generation, more and more geriatric care is needed. A real-life example of this are the waitlists at local assisted living facilities. The people living in these facilities are affected by the nurses who care for them every day. Everything from the nurses’ demeanor to his or her level of patient-centered care can greatly impact each person’s day. Through nursing research, especially in the field of Gerontology such as that of Dr. Kristine Williams at the University of Iowa, nursing professionals are working to create better standards of care, strategies, and training for nurses to work in geriatric and dementia units. I have had the honor of working with Dr. Williams’ and her team for about one year. During this time, I completed environmental coding on 107 videos in hopes of finding a relationship between the quality of environment in a nursing home and a patient’s resistance to care. The future of assisted living lies in projects like these. By evaluating these relationships, nursing professionals can develop new methods to decrease resistance to care from the residents and increase the quality of patient care. Dr. Williams and her team continue to evaluate possible relationships that can increase the quality of care provided to a resident.
Nursing professionals continue to explore new ideas and implement new practices through the use of conferences. This spring, I will have the opportunity to attend the Midwest Nursing Research Society conference to present a poster on my work with Dr. Williams and her team. Nursing conferences are an incredible collection of efforts to change practices for the better. The most notable aspect of nursing research is the ability to implement research findings into practice almost immediately. Unlike pharmaceutical research, nursing research is focused on methods for procedures, different protocols, and patient care so years of research for possible side effects is not necessary. I believe this is one of the most important reasons that nursing will have the greatest impact in improving the future of assisted living.
The nursing profession focuses on hands-on care of patients. Nurses are often the primary source of personal communication and relationship in an assisted living facility or nursing home. By focusing on building relationships, nurses can improve the quality of life for people living in assisted living facilities. Emotional well-being is a huge factor in overall well-being for residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If someone is not emotionally cared for, then they are less likely to work to recover from an injury or fall. They begin to lack a drive for life and recovery. By improving communication between staff and residents, nurses will have the tools to create person-centered conversation and form better relationships with residents. Nurses are also often the primary form of healthcare at a nursing home or assisted living facility. When a resident becomes ill or has a medical question, the nurse is the first person approached. By making educated and thorough assessments, nurses can create plans of care in-house to avoid sending residents with colds and non-emergency injuries to the emergency room. By avoiding unnecessary use of the emergency room, residents are spared exposure to other ill patients, high levels of stress, and long wait times before receiving medical attention.
By pursuing a degree in nursing, I will be able to improve the assisted living facilities in my town by working to provide residents with the highest quality of care. I am blessed to have a strong and love-filled relationship with my parents and grandparents. As they age, it is a priority of mine to ensure they have the best care and treatment so that they can continue to thrive for many years to come. In this way, my parents motivate me to explore more efficient care procedures and approaches for others as well. From improving the quality of care for a single resident to increasing the amount of advice, support, and training available to staff in assisted living facilities nationwide, I truly believe that a career in nursing will allow me to have the greatest impact not only for the aging individuals who require care but also their families who love and cherish them.

Response by Makenzie King, Indiana Wesleyan University

Music is a form of therapy and one of the only things in the world that uses every part of your brain. Music has been proven to help patients who have had brain injuries recover partial to all of their normal brain function. However, the power of music does not just stop at brain injuries—it can help the elderly as well. There is a very moving video on YouTube titled “(original) Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era.” The video is about six minutes long, but I encourage you to have a look! In the video you meet Henry, a man who has Alzheimer’s disease. His daughter comes to visit him and he doesn’t even know who she is. We are informed that he is normally mute and has been in this nursing home for 10 years. Seeing Henry, it is very apparent that he is not “completely there.” The nurse puts headphones on his ears and Henry’s demeanor is immediately different. He is alive! He sings and dances. The doctor explains that after listening to music, Henry is able to talk and answer questions for a short while before returning to his mute state. I find this absolutely incredible. There are many other videos of this nature on YouTube as well. Music can restore function.
Because music uses every part of your brain, it has the capability of restoring some memory to those memory-limiting diseases. I once heard a story from a friend of mine whose grandmother was in a nursing home for several years also with Alzheimer’s disease. As a young girl, her grandmother played piano all the time—one of her favorite pass times. However she stopped playing once she started developing this disease because she could no longer remember. Her health deteriorated quickly, and she soon didn’t even know who she was. Upon one visit to the nursing home, my friend encouraged her grandmother to try and play piano again. My friend, her grandmother, and all of the staff witnessed a true miracle that day. Her grandmother was actually able to play an entire song that she learned over 60 years ago! While playing she had a huge smile on her face, and remembered who she was. About 20 minutes after playing she returned to her “normal” state of not knowing again. Music can restore memories.
In my high school choir, around Christmas time we would always visit a local nursing home to sing some carols. This was one of my favorite memories every year. The residents from the nursing home came from a wide spectrum of reasons why they lived there. Some had Alzheimer’s or a similar disease while others just didn’t have any family around to care for them in their old age. I’m sure living in a nursing home can get depressing after a while, especially if you have no visitors. Our time spent there was always the same. We would go into a small room and squish together in front of all the residents, who were in wheel chairs. Their faces were blank. By the time we finished singing, every single one of the residents’ faces were lit up with joy—even those that normally showed no emotions. It was truly a humbling experience to see the joy we brought to each one of their lives every year. Music can restore happiness.
Over the past couple of years I have finally realized why I am being called to major in music. I have been given these musical gifts not just for my own gain, but also to bless others. Music has the power to do so much in the lives of those living in assisted care. It is said that music is the medicine of the soul. The best part—it’s completely natural. It is true that music can restore function, memories, and happiness, but overall music restores life.

Response by Mallory Petersen, Southern Utah University

I am an art major with a museum studies minor and I think art can apply to so many aspects of our lives. I also believe there is an artist inside of everyone that just needs a chance to create.
As part of a church youth group, I helped out with a talent show at a local assisted living center. I was in charge of setting up the displays and helping the residents get to the show. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the different talents that were shared, and some of them were not your typical talents. There were button collections, needlework, storytelling, and many other interesting things. It was a cool experience to see each resident share their talent. It gave them a chance to talk about their interests, and do what they enjoy doing. They were so proud of their work and it was cool to see their faces light up when they received compliments and praise from their friends. Some of the quieter residents even came out of their shells and really enjoyed themselves that evening.
This experience taught me many things. One; that there are so many different kinds of talents and everyone has something unique to share. And two; having the opportunity to share your talents and be recognized for your hard work is an uplifting experience. To know that your efforts have brought joy to others brings joy to you too. I think these lessons apply particularly well to art and how it can be beneficial in an assisted living center environment.
When people find out that I am an art major, they always say something like, “wow, I can’t even draw a good stick figure,” or “I wish I knew how to paint.” A lot of people think that they don’t have any artistic talent because they can’t paint like Leonardo Da Vinci. And although painting realistically can be one form of art, there are so many ways people can be artists. Art isn’t just about technical skills; a lot of it is creative thinking.
I think people sometimes don’t realize how creative they are. I would love to help people see or discover that in themselves. All they need is an environment where they can explore and develop their creativity and share it with others. I think creating a program that helps people think, explore, and create would be especially beneficial in an assisted living center where the residents might feel like they can’t do much anymore, or feel like they don’t have a lot to give. I think it would be amazing to work with assisted living centers and provide workshops, classes, and projects that encourage creativity. There could be a wide variety of activities that would be suited to each resident’s needs and capabilities. For some people, coloring is relaxing and enjoyable. It is one of the easiest ways to be creative because there are endless possibilities to how you color in each shape, and no 2 people’s colorings will be alike. The senior artist has complete control of how their picture will look. And helping someone in an assisted living center feel like they still have control of their life would be empowering. For others, they might enjoy trying new forms of art. The experience of learning something new could break the seeming monotony of where they are at in life. Doing something creative would help residents keep their brains active in a fun and easy way. And there are so many other ways people can be positively influenced by a creative environment.
Maybe this is my museum studies background coming through, but to further enhance the whole experience, I think it would be great to create an exhibit with each resident’s work from the program on display for all the other residents to see. They could even have a gallery opening reception where family and friends of the residents can come and celebrate the achievements of the residents and help them feel appreciated and important. Everyone no matter what stage they are in life likes to feel unique and special, and having a gallery devoted to their efforts would be the cherry on top to the whole experience.

Response by Marcie Spencer, Lakeshore Technical College

The responsibilities of licensed nursing staff that provide nursing care in assisted living facilities are many and varied. They often include admission assessment and periodic review, evaluation of residents who show significant physical, mental or behavioral changes, review medication regiment, supervise staff and provide education to residents and staff. On-site nursing care at assisted living facilities is a significant part of the health and wellness equation for residents. To maximize quality of life in consideration of pre-existing, medical complications, it is important for a licensed nurse to properly manage residents’ care.
Nurses help educate residents about what they can expect to experience with a disease or condition, so when things go awry the resident can report strange symptoms. Nurses also help residents take responsibility, for example, by helping the residents learn how to enhance their mobility and strength to avoid falls.
One of the most common scenarios with nursing care in assisted living facilities, evolves like this. A loving daughter states that her mom is usually alert, but all of a sudden is getting really confused. A trained, licensed nurse will be able to pick up on this sort of unusual behavior or symptoms in a timely manner and request immediate physician involvement. The problem could be as simple as a urinary tract infection.
As a result of astute nursing observation, the assisted living facility resident is back to normal in a few days. If it hadn’t been picked up on, the infection could have exacerbated or if medications were inappropriately prescribed, a wrong move could cause lots of problems for a fragile senior.
Utilizing licensed nurses, along with other professional and licensed care staff, is key to our mission as well as that of many other assisted living facilities as they strive to help residents enjoy a life of dignity and independence. Families really appreciate that we assist, educate and respect our residents. Families, staff and residents work together in collaboration to help them live longer and enjoy a high quality of life. I will continue to work diligently as a LPN to continue to help my residents enjoy the life and independence that they expect to have.
As I finish my major of study as a Practical Nurse, I will be able to become licensed so that I can assist the RN with the resident admission process, medication reviews, evaluation of residents who show a decline in abilities at either my current employer or another local assisted living facility as well as with providing the excellent care and dignity that residents deserve and should be provided with. The value of a trained and skilled nurse is to observe changes and communicate this information to the doctor or family so it can considered for further evaluation. In other words, the main job of assisted living facility nursing staff is to assist. As an LPN this is exactly what I will be doing.
Field of Dreams Assisted Living offers a safe, secure environment where individuals are encouraged to function at their maximum level of independence, knowing that professionally trained staff are there to offer assistance when needed. I am proud to say that I am part of the staff (“family”) at Field of Dreams Assisted Living and would like to continue being a part of our team after I become an LPN.

Response by Margaret Merogi, Oakland University

A young boy dreamed of coming to America. Like millions of other immigrants, he labored to reach the shores of our great nation, walking through the doors of Ellis Island and into the arms of freedom and liberty. He bravely defended his new country as a WWII combat veteran; serving in France, Austria and Germany. He diligently worked for sixty plus years to support and raise a family. He was always there to help, neighbors, relatives friends, community. “He” is my ninety-two year old grandfather. He sounds a lot like most grandfathers, like most seniors we know. But advanced age has stolen his independence, his freedom and hope. He wants it back, as much as possible. An in-home care giver comes out to my grandfather’s home four days a week. His caregiver is a lifeline of assistance, giving back self-confidence and independence. Now, he wants to go out more, see people and places.
As his granddaughter, I’ve seen how pain of arthritis, severely limits his mobility and activities. Seniors need physical therapy and effective treatments to curb the debilitating effects of age related chronic conditions such as arthritis, stroke, parkinson’s and injury can cause.
A Web MD article entitled, “Physical Therapy a Boon for Seniors,” explains the growth in the physical therapy field due to the aging population. The aging population now is living life fuller thanks to modern medicine- including physical therapists! According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), “physical therapy can restore or increase strength, range of motion, flexibility, coordination, and endurance — as well as reduce pain.” Physical Therapists are movement and pain specialists, and can help seniors live life to the fullest. Unfortunately, many seniors are unable to attend regular physical therapy sessions at a hospital- this is where in home-care can inspire countless seniors- like my grandfather. With increased mobility and effective pain management, seniors can feel better about themselves, more hope emotionally and greater independence.
The goal of physical therapists is not to simply “fix” a person. This is normally in the job description of a doctor. Physical therapists focus more on the rehabilitation of patients than the actual correction of the problem. In my studies, I frequently remember this common quote that describes the physical therapy profession: “doctors add life- physical therapists improve it.”
My grandfather has been blessed to have many prestigious and excellent doctors that not only saved his life, but cared for him greatly. This alone was not enough for him. His in-home care brought him back to the joyful, excited person he was before he fell ill.
My grandfather, like many arthritis afflicted advanced seniors, is sedentary with limited exercise opportunities. As a physical therapist, I would be able to identify local, community-based physical activity programs and organizations that can help seniors get the exercise vital to maintaining . and increase . The APTA website lists a variety of organizations and programs that physical therapists can utilize to support senior physical therapy. My grandfather’s in-home caregiver even uses this list!
In-home care has improved my grandfather’s life to a point I cannot even recognize. I am so grateful to those who care for him in his old age, and aspire to be that inspirational.

Response by Maria Alappat, University of Texas at Austin

Oftentimes, seniors receiving in-home care suffer from chronic ailments that hinder their health and quality of life. Medication for their treatment is critical to help them recover and manage their symptoms in order to stay well and maintain their independence, but many of these treatments may be out of reach because of their low supply or high cost. Although seemingly unrelated, chemical engineering can have a multitude of applications, many of which apply to bioengineering and pharmaceutics to help meet the high demand for expensive and difficult to produce medication that can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care.
While there are many discoveries in medicine every year, most of these are made in a small scale with methods that may be inefficient once scaled up. As a result, many advancements in medicine may be withheld because of their impracticality to produce for a mass market. For example, a newly developed products may require expensive materials that make it too costly to put into production. Additionally, production could consume too much time to cater to large demand, or the product may be too hazardous to create. In order to solve these issues, chemical engineers work to create process systems to effectively produce high quality products in a cost-effective, safe, and timely manner. As a result of these efforts, newly created medical products can be efficiently produced in a scale that benefits the wellbeing of a large group of patients. Furthermore, these developments can help in-home care patients by making more effective products and medicine available to them. Resultantly, these advancements in medicine can help in-home care patients heal quicker or manage their symptoms more effectively. In return, patients benefit by their more improved well-being and quality of life.
One field of chemical engineering includes bioengineering that combines engineering practices and biological principles to solve ongoing medical problems of patients. With extensive research going into this interdisciplinary field of engineering, advances in this field can offer new solutions to biomedical problems. For example, current research into the chemical mechanisms within a cell provide insight how a cell is stimulated to make certain substances. These chemical pathways that cause the cell to produce very specific and complex biological chemicals can be studied and then manipulated to create different chemicals that suit our needs. Chemicals that are either too hazardous to make or too difficult to produce through current methods could be well handled by the internal complex chemistry of the cell. Resultantly, bioengineers may create more cost effective and less hazardous methods to make complex chemicals to be used. Consequently, advances in these technologies would allow for us to create new types of drugs to be used in medical treatment that may be better suited to benefiting the wellbeing of patients. In turn, in-home care patients would be provided better treatment for their health and well-being.
With the multitude advances in chemical engineering, many of these advances can be applied to improving the methods of producing substances that may be beneficial to patients. By making medication easier, cheaper, and safer to produce, chemical engineering can help make better treatment more accessible to meet a high demand. Resultantly, seniors receiving in-home care will be able to benefit by receiving superior care at a lower cost.

Response by Maria West, Concordia College

My major of study is biology, and I intend to pursue a career in occupational therapy. I am also studying for a major in Spanish and a minor in psychology. I will graduate with degrees in biology and Spanish from Concordia in three and a half years, then continue onto graduate school in order to obtain a masters degree in occupational therapy. I believe I will be able to help the seniors in my town as an occupational therapist by improving their lives through helping them relearn daily skills, increase their level of activity, and by giving them a more positive outlook on life. In my community, I have spent the most time in the Good Samaritan assisted living. I volunteered there for 2 years, playing games with residents and helping to bring them to activities and mealtimes. Then I obtained my Certified Nursing Assistant certification from the facility. The Good Samaritan Society’s motto is, “In Christ’s love, everyone is someone.” I am a religious person, and I wholeheartedly believe in this message. Today’s society tends to ignore the elderly, and they can be forgotten or even mistreated in assisted living facilities. As an occupational therapist, I will be able to positively impact the lives of senior in my community, and help to give them the quality of life they deserve in their final years.
I have shadowed occupational therapists in many different settings, including schools, pediatric clinics, home visits, rehab clinics, and in assisted living facilities. I have found that I enjoy the assisted living facilities most. As an occupational therapist, I will be able to give the advice and tools that can help seniors live as normal of a life as possible. Some seniors only unbalanced, and just need a tool to help them put their socks and shoes on. Others have had a stroke, and need to relearn how to walk, put clothes on, and even brush their teeth with only one functional side of their body. By helping all seniors maintain their independence in daily tasks by adjusting and using tools or other tricks, I know that I could improve their lives greatly.
Being an occupational therapist isn’t just about teaching daily tasks. It also involves exercising and increasing the amount of activities that seniors are able to do. Activity is very important in a senior’s life, especially in an assisted living facility. Activities allow residents to socialize with their peers, and also with nurses and volunteers. By helping seniors walk and maintain their independence, they may be happier and enjoy a higher quality of life. “Everyone is someone,” even when you are a senior. Going to baseball games, bowling, or even just playing Yahtzee or attending a sing-along can go a long way for a senior’s mental health. I believe as an occupational therapist, I can give them the confidence to get to activities and be able to accomplish anything they put their mind to, even with disabilities or other health issues.
Finally, my degrees in biology and Spanish, and a minor in psychology will help improve the lives of seniors in my community by allowing me to give them a more positive outlook on life. As an occupational therapist, I will have the privilege of interacting with many different types of people, and hopefully impact their lives positively. I have already taken courses in psychology, and am learning a lot about different personalities and how the brain works. I think that as an occupational therapist in an assisted living facility, I can give seniors more independence in their lives, while also improving their mental health. My Spanish major will also be helpful, as I would be able to communicate with patients proficiently in Spanish or English. This will allow me to treat more seniors, and give advice that will help them to a higher quality of life in assisted living facilities.
In conclusion, I believe my degrees in biology and Spanish, and my minor in psychology will be the perfect combination to help me become an occupational therapist. As an occupational therapist, I would love to work with seniors in my community assisted living, and improve their lives by interacting with them. Through occupational therapy I believe I will be able to help seniors by improving their lives through helping them accomplish daily skills, increase their amount of activity, and by giving them a more positive outlook on life. Every senior is valuable to our community, and should be treated as such. I intend to impact as many seniors as I can through my work as an occupational therapist in assisted living centers, because I truly believe that “In Christ’s love, everyone is someone.”

Response by Maricar Conson, University of North Texas

As we age, our health more than likely deteriorates. As a result, most “seniors” are on at least one prescribed medication. A study done by the ASCP has concluded that at least 92% of older adults are managing one chronic condition and therefore these patients will be on medications for the rest of their lives. The field of pharmacy continues to be ever evolving due to laws and new medications being brought to market and can help to improve the lives of seniors in living facilities. With more schools of pharmacies becoming more patient driven and working on health care teamwork it can only benefit senior assisted living facilities in my town in a positive way.
Pharmacist can help by managing medications that the seniors may be on to, which will make sure they are on medications that are the most effective and have the least chance of interacting with other medications they may be on. This will promote safer treatment for the patients and will also help the patients be more active in their health. A pharmacist could be on duty to answer patient questions pertaining to their health, that may not be related to medications, and help them find appropriate help.
The field of pharmaceutical research will also have a great impact on the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. The field is constantly looking for alternative treatment options that will be more affordable, have higher efficacy rates, and lower interaction rates between drugs on the market. These are all positive things for those who will be prescribed medications. This may result in needing only one medication to combat an illness compared to multiple medications, or it may result in a patient being able to not be as stressed about being able to afford their medications which can improve their quality of life.
The field of pharmacy is an integral part of most seniors lives and they will build a relationship with their pharmacist, the pharmacist will need to be knowledgeable but most of all empathetic to their patients. By building a positive relationship with their patients pharmacists will become more trusted and that type of relationship can help reduce medication dispensing errors. The reason I chose this field as my career path was due to an experience I had a pharmacist specializing in oncology. Due to that pharmacists’ caring attitude with my loved one bout of cancer, I realized that you don’t have to be a physician to make a difference in the treatment of patients. The pharmacist made time to come and explain what could be expected due to this new treatment course. This type of interaction made the prospect of facing this illness a little easier because I knew there would be someone there that cared for my loved one and I wanted to provide this type of comfort for another’s family.
With continued education, research, and empathy for our patients those in the field of pharmacy are hoping to improve the lives of all patients and the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities.

Response by Marissa Allen, Carroll University

My major is Exercise Science with an emphasis on Pre-Physical Therapy. Exercise Science is a very broad major that can encompass many different careers. An example of this is that an exercise scientist can work as a personal fitness trainer. As a personal trainer, they would be able to help strengthen seniors to help them gain strength in order to perform different activities to stay healthy or to be able to help themselves. Another career that can branch off of exercise science is a dietician. A dietician would be able to give healthy food options, so that these seniors could eat the things that they love, but still eat well. Through healthy foods, seniors would be able to lose weight or grow in their overall body strength. My main goal is to become a physical therapist. Physical therapy is an area of study that works with a variety of people, ranging from high intensity athletes to the elderly. Many people go into this field to work with athletes, but for me, it was more about helping any person who needs my assistance. There are many ways in which physical therapists help seniors in assisted living facilities. Common problems among seniors that physical therapists oversee are recovering from injuries, osteoarthritis, pain in the body, such as in the back, and prescribe exercises. Helping seniors with these problems can improve their quality of life and their day-to-day living.
Seniors in assisted living facilities could be improved through physical therapy by improving the strength that they need to carry out any physical activity that they might want to do or even just help them do every day things. My grandma is always talking about how once I get my degree that I will be able to help her with the things that bother her now and in the future. This proves that physical therapists have a great impact on the lives of older people. I hope to be able to assist my grandparents when they are older and when I am certified to assist them. Some seniors may feel limited already and physical therapists can help them expand the things that they are capable of to live normal, healthy lives. It is not so much helping them go throughout their day as much as it is assisting them and making the things that they do less painful. For example, if a patient has a back problem, a physical therapist would guide them towards strengthening their back to help improve the state of the back in general. This could have a positive effect on other things throughout the rest of the body as well or even encourage them to work out the body more and improve their lifestyle.
Encouraging seniors to engage in some sort of physical activity, no matter what it might be, could be a result of helping them with the problems that they have. By helping them recover from the injuries that they have or assisting in the treatment of other problems, they are more likely to engage in physical activity now that they are capable of doing it. Sometimes others just need the motivation to do the work and once they get the motivation, they find the drive to continue. I think that that applies nicely here and in helping seniors recover from different things, encourages them to take care of their bodies. It is proven that exercise can improve many different aspects of any person’s life. By encouraging patients to exercise more, physical therapists are able to help them, not only recover from injuries, but improve things like their mental health as well. Also, pushing them to exercise can help prevent them from further injury.
Overall, majoring in exercise science, and hopefully becoming a physical therapist through that, would have a great impact on seniors in assisted living facilities. I would be able to help them recover from injuries they have sustained, encourage them to exercise more, and assist in preventing injuries that may come in the future. I believe that my major will have a great impact on this group of people and will help seniors in these facilities to live long, healthy, happy lives.

Response by Marissa Donovan, Tufts University

Proper nutrition is essential for anyone, but especially for seniors in assisted living facilities, with the elderly population being the largest demographic group with elevated nutritional risk. Protein energy malnutrition (PEM), a form of malnutrition with inadequate calorie or protein intake, is specifically higher in the elderly — at 5% to 30% in elderly persons living at home, 16% to 70% in those in institutional care, and 20% to 60% in hospitalized elderly patients.
It is common for older individuals to be deficient in a variety of nutrients including vitamin B12, calcium, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids (to name a few). There are many contributors to malnutrition in older adults including changes in the gastrointestinal tract, medications affecting eating, oral health problems (including chewing troubles), altered thirst or taste sensation, and eating trouble as a result of chronic diseases such as cancer. Undernourishment can exacerbate current medical conditions in the elderly and can also lead to decreased function and higher demands on caretakers. Because of this, my major of study — nutrition communications — can significantly improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town and towns everywhere.
Although I have done volunteering and an internship rotation at long -­‐ term care facilities, specifically with food service, the most impactful insights come through my personal experience. Both of my grandparents are in assisted living facilities in my town. I have seen through their experiences that food and nutrition are an integral part of the assisted living experience. For my grandfather, food is almost exclusively what we talk about. He has macular degeneration and has lost his hearing so his meals are really the excitement in his day and the thing that keeps him going. More literally, proper nutrition is essential for individuals that are older and usually experiencing various aliments that can be alleviated with proper nutrition care.
I am currently studying nutrition communications, which I feel has the potential to directly improve the lives of seniors. Ensuring that the food prepared for seniors in assisted living facilities, is both appealing and nutritionally sound is vital. Many people, myself before studying this field included, are unaware of the differences in nutrition needs for the elderly population. One example is the need for many seniors to have diets with increased protein, calcium and vitamin D. Knowing about the nutritional needs of the elderly is necessary to preparing meals that fill these needs. As a nutrition communicator, I can help close the gap and allow caregivers (and elderly people themselves) to prepare meals and snacks that are optimal to ensure they are getting the proper fuel and nutrients.
Eating isn’t only about getting proper nutrition, eating is emotional and a sense of joy for seniors, as I learned first hand through my grandfather. Through my education, I hope to help people understand that health and taste are not indirectly related. Healthy food can taste wonderful and your favorite comfort foods can be nutritious with small tweaks. Nutrition isn’t about following a rigorous diet and being unhappy, it is about making your taste and preferences work with your health. Just as growing older isn’t about giving up all the things you love, it is about making small changes to allow you to still enjoy life.
Through my personal experience with my own grandparents, I have seen how growing old comes with many unfortunate consequences. But, more importantly, I have seen the positive effect that assisted living facilities have on the quality of life for both of my grandparents and many others. The food prepared on site is a huge part of this. Having caregivers that take the time to make food personalized to resident’s taste as well as appropriate for their health conditions is huge. Allowing for gathering and conversations surrounding food a few times a day gives my grandparents, and all members of assisted living facilities, something to look forward t o each day. Professionally, I have seen how important providing proper nutrition is throughout the aging process and specifically in older age. This includes everything from modified texture foods to prevent aspiration, to properly measured out carbohydrates for diabetic residents. Giving members of assisted care a way to keep their dignity while still allowing them to get the nutrition they need and the taste they want — that is what effective nutrition communicators can make happen.

Response by Marissa Fisher, Arizona State University

I have been accepted and am enrolling in Arizona State University’s Masters of Health Care Innovation program starting fall 2015. The online master of healthcare innovation degree at ASU offers a multidisciplinary, educational approach to prepare students for an innovative and transformative role in healthcare. Throughout the program I will take courses in theory, leadership, entrepreneurship, application technology, and system design programs. I plan to use these skills to conceptualize, implement, and execute high-quality, effective and innovative programs.
I firmly believe this degree can help to improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in Jersey City, New Jersey. Many seniors have chronic disease conditions which result in frequent hospital admissions. On many occasions, these admissions do not result in a discharge to home. Due to poor management of chronic disease states seniors do not ever return back to home after a hospital admission. Home care along with proper management of these chronic diseases is crucial to the overall wellness of seniors in my community.
Throughout my course work, my goal is to create and execute programs to assist in the proper at home management of chronic diseases within the senior citizen population in my community. A multi-technique, multi-disciplinary approach would be needed to achieve this. Many times, seniors do not have a clear understanding of their chronic disease state and what is required to maintain healthy living. Because of this, seniors with diagnosed chronic diseases would require education covering all aspects in their care. These topics include medication, nutrition, and exercise to name a few. Historically these topics are covered in the physician’s office or in a hospital setting. This environment is less than ideal for seniors to learn due to anxiety, memory/hearing issues, and information overload. Ideally, seniors should learn at their pace where they are most comfortable, in their homes.
Many seniors are unfamiliar with their medications. They lack education regarding why they are taking certain pills, how and when to take them, and consequences of not taking them. Cost is also a factor. Many seniors leave the doctor’s office or hospital with a new prescription but find that the cost is too high once they reach the pharmacy. Often, they do not follow up with their practitioners to obtain a comparable lower cost medication. As a result, they end up forgoing the medication. In-home education focusing on medication management can control chronic disease states and increase wellness.
Dietary education and compliance is crucial to overall wellness. Many seniors know they are on certain dietary restrictions, but they do not know what that means when it comes to making food choices. Foods that are convenient and easy to prepare are often very high in sodium or cholesterol. Proper nutrition and healthy meal preparation can easily be demonstrated in the home setting.
My goal is to create a program for seniors to have chronic disease specific comprehensive education at home. Health and wellness education at home is not a new concept; however, the creation chronic disease specific education plans is. Focusing on the in-home care of specific disease states can improve wellness. The ultimate goal is a reduction of hospital admissions and emergency department visits. Specialized in-home educational programs can help achieve these goals. This would result in a reduction of costs and emergency department overcrowding. Ultimately the goal of my study would be to improve the health and lives of seniors through proper and effective education at home.

Response by Mary Litt, College of Saint Mary

An assisted living facility is a senior living option for those with minimal needs for assistance with daily living and care. Its purpose is to help adults live independently in a safe environment. Most facilities offer meals, security, medication management, and assistance with activities of daily living. While many residents in assisted living receive as much assistance as necessary to function throughout the day, the help of an occupational therapist would provide the residents with more independence. Providing residents with as much independence as possible would instill confidence and bring about autonomy. There are numerous ways occupational therapists can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities.
The first thing an occupational therapist would do is evaluate the resident and determine what goals to set. Some residents may need help with dressing and feeding. There are many interventions to help seniors with dressing such as not having shirts with buttons if they have arthritis or adding a larger hook to help them with zipping. Many residents would also benefit from dressing sticks and long shoe horns to help with the dressing process. Sometimes the caregivers just need someone such as an occupational therapist to be creative in adapting these activities of daily living. Other residents may need assistance with mobility. Not only would some residents need walkers, but some may also benefit from raised toilet seats as well was reachers. Many residents could be “independent”, they just need the equipment and tools provided to them.
Occupational therapists can also develop group exercise classes for the residents to participate in together to create social interaction. Although the residents might suffer from different diseases and be at different cognitive levels this is a great tool to get them moving physically, but to also stimulate their brains to engage in social interaction. Lastly occupational therapists can serve as consultants to the assisted living facility for facility environmental modifications to enhance client access, participation, and safety. Some examples would include recommendations on bathroom modifications, accessible furniture, lighting to reduce glare, and color schemes to enhance visual contrast. They can also support facilities with the development of information and media intended for residents to ensure that content and style are sensitive to age-related sensory changes and supportive of cognitive processes associated with older adult learning.
All of the therapy options mentioned above would benefit the residents in assisted living facilities tremendously. The only problem is getting occupational therapists interested and passionate about working with the elderly. Many young occupational therapists are interested in working with children. I believe it is just as important to work with the elderly and help improve their quality of life as much as possible. They are humans no less than anyone else. It would be great if these facilities budgeted for having a full-time occupational therapists on staff. Many of the facilities in my town have occupational therapists who are contracted through the hospitals and go maybe once a week to the assisted living facilities. If a full-time occupational therapist was on staff the resident’s confidence and independence would sky rocket, therefore reaching the end goal.

Response by Meagan Alburger, Johnston Community College

Becoming a physician’s assistant has been a goal of mine for a very long time. I have a passion for helping others, and building a career as a medical professional will ensure that I will always have the opportunity to improve someone’s life. It is important to me that whatever I do, it is done compassionately. I have also had a lifelong appreciation for those who have served in the armed forces. As the child of a retired member of the Airforce, my respect and gratitude has always been tremendous for veterans. This admiration for the military affects my career choices; it is important to me that I can help veterans as much as possible.
My focus as a physician’s assistant will be psychology. I plan to work with the Army to help those currently enlisted with re-entering civilian life after deployment and to work with those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by witnessing or experiencing traumatic events and the disorder can cause feelings of panic, fear, and helplessness. Because of what our military is often exposed to at war, soldiers are especially prone to developing PTSD symptoms. You may be wondering, how will this help seniors? There are so many veterans in assisted living facilities across the country who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. These disorders may have haunted them for years, or may present themselves as late-onset stress symptomatology. PTSD can present itself right after combat, become manageable, and then reappear in later years. In cases of late-onset stress symptomatology (LOSS), veterans who had previously shown no symptoms of PTSD begin to suffer from the disorder as they age. Those who suffer from LOSS may have less obvious or fewer symptoms, however stressors in their lives can exacerbate the disorder causing it to severely impact the veteran’s quality of life. Stressors can include the loss of a loved one, health issues, or even being placed in an assisted living facility. Sometimes in a facility, the symptoms of PTSD or LOSS can go unnoticed, whether it be because the veteran is hiding the disorder or because there are few family members that can identify a change in the senior’s behavior.
As a physician’s assistant, I will be qualified to recognize the symptoms of PTSD and LOSS in seniors and will be able to assist and treat those who suffer from these disorders. Throughout the Raleigh area, there is an abundance of care facilities. What we also have no shortage of are local military bases, where current and previous service members reside. I feel lucky that there are so many opportunities for me to reach out to and help veterans as a medical professional and I plan to work with assisted care facilities in my community and surrounding communities to do just that. My schooling and studies will prepare me for a career in which I can give back to those who have given so much for our country. If I were awarded this scholarship, I can assure you that it would be assisting a cause that is dear to my heart.

Response by Meagan Jurica, Texas State University

There are many areas of employment for a speech-language pathologist (SLP), and one setting is the growing area of home health care. In the home health care setting, there are many benefits that can help a patient (especially the elderly). One of these benefits is the ability to receive care at home rather than in a hospital or nursing facility. This also helps the SLP working on the case better assess the patients’ needs. As an SLP, I would aim to improve a person’s quality of life by helping the patient improve cognitive skills for increased independence, regain communication skills, and regain the ability to eat and swallow.
Cognitive communication disorders effect cognitive processes and systems. They include areas of attention, perception, memory, organization, and executive function. When these areas are effected, behavioral self-regulation, social interaction, activities of daily life, learning, and vocational performance are altered. This often leaves the patient dependent on others to care for them. In my small hometown, where there are many poorer people, working with cognitively disordered patients as an SLP would greatly increase the independence of the elderly. By doing so in a home health care system, they avoid financial instability caused by hospital or nursing home bills. As an SLP in home health care, I would be able to help identify individuals at risk for cognitive disorders, assess the best treatment options for the patient, and counsel the patient and their families about the effects of cognitive disorders all in their own home.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of being human. As a species, we are social animals and like to be around others. While this is easy for some, others have problems. In the elderly population, there are many reasons as to why communication would be more difficult. As one ages, normal changes occur in speech and language. In addition, seniors have a higher chance of having a stroke or developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease. These along with other diseases increase the likelihood of someone acquiring communication disorders. As an SLP in the home health care program, one of the many things I would be able to do is help seniors regain their communication skills in the comfort of their own home. If an elderly individual had a stroke and suddenly was unable to speak, they may feel subconscious about their newly developed disorder. By being treated in their own home, they can work on regaining their communication skills without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.
Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia, are also treated by an SLP. These disorders can occur from several diseases, conditions, or certain surgical procedures. Swallowing issues not only lead to less enjoyment of eating or drinking, but they can lead to many more dangerous problems including poor nutrition, dehydration, or the risk of food or liquid entering the air way which can cause pneumonia or chronic lung disease. In the elderly, this is specifically important because their immune systems are not as strong. When one problem occurs, such as poor nutrition, other problems usually follow. By giving patients care for swallowing in their own homes, they can practice the treatment plans as frequently as they want. Whether it is a specific swallowing exercise, positions or strategies to help the individual swallow more effectively, or specific foods and liquids that are easier and safer to swallow, being in your own home makes practicing more efficient.
Being an SLP in home health care can greatly improve the lives of many seniors. At home, the elderly feel most comfortable and familiar with the environment. It allows for more independence and is more affordable than nursing home or hospital facilities. It also limits embarrassing situations that one may feel about their communication disorder. Overall, it will be my job to increase the patient’s quality of life, and in the home health care system, this is more easily done.

Response by Megan Boszko, Western University of Health Sciences

If you have ever held a kitten or pet a dog, you know the calming effects that animals have on people. This can prove especially useful for those senior citizens that are in assisted living facilities. Seniors experience depression. Missing family, the loss of friends, the change in their life experiences along with any medical conditions they have are often the causes. This is where the healing power of animals comes into play. Placing cats or dogs in assisted living facilities is becoming more popular due to all the positive experiences that pets bring into people’s lives. Aside from combating depression and loneliness, pets helps seniors stay active. Whether it is playing with a puppy and their toys or going on daily walks it offers seniors a fun way to exercise while feeling needed again. Animals are great companions. They offer the love and friendship that seniors may be missing in their lives.
Up until now, I have discussed how animals can benefit seniors, but what role do veterinarians play in this cycle? Veterinarians are trying to find homes for animals every day, and may be able to work with local assisted living facilities and shelters in order t o place more animals in homes. Having multiple animals within a shelter is beneficial because it benefits more people. Veterinarians can also help take care of the pets by making frequent house calls to both assisted living facilities and homes. For individuals that are receiving in home care, making house calls can be beneficial because they do not have to worry about getting the animal to the vet if it were to become ill. For assisted living facilities, house calls can become a way to involve everyone with the care of the pet, adding to the positive experience that pets bring into people’s lives. Cost can be another major concern of having a pet within the assisted living facility, however; veterinarians also help in this aspect. Many veterinarians have familiarity with the various programs that offer financial assistance to elderly individuals with pets. Whether the pet is part of a larger facility or belongs to the individual, these programs allow loving pets to find homes with great people.
From a glance, people may think that veterinarians only concern themselves with the health of animals, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Veterinarians dedicate their lives to help both animals and their owners. I personally could not think of a more rewarding experience than matching pets with people who will not only love them, but will benefit greatly from their calming effects. As a future veterinarian I have the resources to help match dogs and cats in need of homes with facilities and people that are looking for them. Speaking as a future veterinarian, I would be honored to take care of the pets that belong to a group of people who like my own grandparents, have helped me become the person I am today.

Response by Megan Diekhoff, Indiana University

Speech-Language Pathology is an extremely diverse field. Clients range from newborns to senior citizens, and each person must be cared for with a unique approach. Speech therapists have the opportunity to work in schools, hospitals, and private clinics. Perhaps one of the lesser known locations for speech therapists, however, is the nursing home.
In an assisted living facility, a speech therapist might serve seniors who have suffered from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other health condition that would prevent easy communication with others. It is important that these seniors have a way to communicate their wants and needs so that they can be properly helped by all health care providers present. Since each individual is different, speech therapists must keep an open mind and be willing to try various approaches in order to find out what kind of communication methods might work best for a particular patient. For one person, speaking verbally may be an option, but, for others, making gestures to indicate desires might be more practical.
When I first became interested in this field, I imagined a therapist helping a young child pronounce the “r” sound over and over again, but now I am starting to see how much more there is to speech therapy. I have learned that this profession is not only concerned with making sounds, but with cognition, communication as a whole, and, most importantly, helping patients feel loved. Although children can greatly benefit from speech therapy, it is clear to me now that seniors can, too.
For example, my grandmother recently had a stroke, and I was able to be with her when a speech therapist came to help her with cognition skills. At first I did not understand why a speech therapist was coming to aid my grandma because she did not show any signs of having speech difficulties. I later learned that this professional was trying to help my grandma regain some of her memory skills by working on exercises that targeted various portions of the brain.
Another moment that gave me more insight into how my field of study can help seniors came while I was sitting in class. One day, when my Intro to Communication Disorders class was learning about aphasia, I was saw a heartbreaking video of a man that was unable to tell his family members that he loved them due to his condition. After extensive therapy, the man was able to say a few words and to use other communication techniques that allowed him to demonstrate what he wanted or needed.
Speech therapists working in assisted living facilities have a tremendous capacity to improve the lives of seniors in my town because these professionals have the capability to support the communication skills of their clients. Communication, after all, is what allows human beings to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas with the world. The seniors in my town have so many stories filled with wisdom that I am sure they would love to share. The field of Speech and Hearing Sciences brings opportunities to these seniors that might otherwise feel cut off from others. It is my earnest hope that someday I will be able to help my clients feel empowered in their communication skills because I believe that everyone, no matter how young or old, deserves to have their voice heard.

Response by Megan Eng, St. John’s University

The elderly population is most commonly associated with continuity of care, which is consistent with the ideals of interdisciplinary care. Each individual patient may receive care from doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants. As individuals age, they are more likely to move from one place to another, increasing the chance of medication errors. Assisted living facilities exist because they provide individualized support with ADLs in a residential setting, and promote independent and privacy choices that are ideal for many elderly patients.
My grandparents suffer from many chronic diseases and often have trouble performing ADLs. Initially, my dad moved them to a nursing home because they loved their home in Hong Kong too much to come to the US permanently. However, they were upset and unhappy with the lack of privacy and comfort in the nursing home. I suggested to my father to move them to an assisted living facility, which would give them all the individualized support they need, but in a residential setting. My grandparents were much more receptive to an assisted living facility because they were receiving overly extensive care in the nursing home setting. They liked that they could have help with meals, housekeeping, and personal care in the comfort of their own individualized space.
The initial reason I entered the pharmaceutical field was because I was interested in medicine and wanted to help people like my grandma who needed guidance and help with her plethora of daily medications. Now that they are older and cannot make the trip to the US anymore, assisted living facilities provide comfort and relief to not only themselves, but their children and grandchildren as well who worry for their health and well-being.
The opportunities for pharmacists within assisted living facilities are rapidly growing since approximately 85% of assisted living residents need assistance with their medications. Recently, some assisted living facilities started contracting with consultant pharmacists and long term care pharmacies to provide medication management services such as medication reviews, medication education for patients, families, and assisted living staff, and special packaging of medications. Interdisciplinary care is focused on the patient, but requires all health care providers to work together for the benefit of the patient. Doctors diagnose and prescribe medication for patients, and it is the pharmacist’s job to perform drug-utilization reviews. One of the most fatal medication errors stems from the transfer or medication records from one facility to another. The use of electronic health records has largely reduced medical errors, but also raises a concern with health professionals of blindly accepting diagnoses. However, the knowledge and efforts of a pharmacist consultant can reduce the chance of such an error. It is crucial that each member of the interdisciplinary health care team works together to provide patient-centered care in assisted living facilities, and the pharmacist provides the foundation. Without knowledge of proper administration, drug interactions and contraindications, or a functional medication regime that the patient can follow, medication stops being useful and can even become fatal. Assisted living facilities can also benefit from consultant pharmacists educating family members, doctors, nurses, and patients themselves about proper drug administration and the best medication selection to maximize drug therapy and the patient’s quality of life.
I want to use the growing opportunities for pharmacists in assisted living facilities to help the geriatric population in my community. My parents are trying to move my grandparents over to an assisted living facility near us to minimize traveling costs. Over this past summer, I went with my parents to visit the three assisted living facilities in my community. I was surprised to see that one didn’t have a contract with consultant pharmacists, and instead let their residents obtain medications from the pharmacies of their choice. Community and independent pharmacies still have a lot to offer patients, but consultant pharmacists and long-term care pharmacies are able to develop a more personal relationship with individual patients. Fostering a personal relationship with each patient is the key to providing medication management services that will improve the lives of the geriatric population in assisted living facilities.

Response by Megan Roe, Michigan State University

Horses are a valuable asset to seniors residing in assisted living facilities. They can improve the livelihood of residents and provide numerous health benefits, both mental and physical. A degree in Animal Science will not only improve the existing animal industry, but can also make improvements in the lives of other members of my community.
Horses have shown that they can benefit people therapeutically. A recent study conducted by Ohio State University showed that Alzheimer’s patients from a day care facility in Columbus, Ohio resisted treatment less and were happier overall after they were allowed to care for horses at a therapeutic horse farm in Blacklick, Ohio. The study found that patients who visited the farm had improved memory, mood and behavior, and even physical activity. It was also suggested that traveling to the farm – as opposed to bringing horses to the day care facility – played a role in the positive improvements seen in the patients.
The Willows at East Lansing has already utilized this method of therapy. The Willows, part of Trilogy Health Services LLC, provides many services including assisted living, short and long-term rehabilitation, and day care. On September 30, 2015, The Willows at East Lansing brought several of its residents to the Michigan State University Horse Teaching and Research Center. The residents were able to take a tour of the 100 acre farm and visit with some of its horses. I was working the day they visited. I was in the feed room, measuring Safe Choice brand pellets into buckets that would be used that afternoon and the following morning to feed the horses that live outside. While I was doing this, I heard the residents of The Willows walking through the barn. They had varying degrees of disabilities – some were in wheelchairs, while others could move completely independently. Although I wasn’t able to see them directly interacting with the horses, I could hear the happiness and excitement in their voices when they talked about what they had already seen, and what they still had yet to experience.
Even A Place for Mom, the creator of, provides an article under its Resources section titled “How Pet Therapy Has Changed Assisted Living.” In short, the article says that most senior living facilities not only allow, but welcome pets because they boost residents’ mood, self-esteem, and make for an easier transition into assisted living. According to the article, “animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language” (Park Byrne, 2015).
In my degree program, I will learn about the chemistry and biology of animals, the best methods of managing them, and how to continue to produce high quality offspring through selective breeding. Additionally, I will learn about subjects that apply to life outside of the animal industry, including economics, statistics, and integrative studies: arts and humanities, social sciences, and biological or physical sciences. These courses, combined with the knowledge and experience I will gain through working at the MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center, will help me someday manage an equine facility that not only benefits the horsemen of my community, but also helps those in need who do not have any involvement with horses.
After I graduate, I would like to own and/or operate a facility that consistently produces high quality animals through effective breeding and training practices. I plan to make this facility open to the public. Ideally, I would offer informational classes for people of all ages and backgrounds. I would attempt to become involved with local businesses such as assisted living centers, schools, and hospitals. I believe that with my education, I will be able to help provide a proven therapeutic resource to all members of my future community.

Response by Megan Venables, North Carolina State University

A Master’s degree in landscape architecture can help to improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town. With a job in landscape architecture, I will be working to create outdoor urban spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sustainable. These sites include city areas, parks, resorts, and even areas like assisted living facilities. If given the opportunity to help design or improve an assisted living home, I would make it an incredibly beautiful and comfortable place for seniors to live. I believe that if older people are happy, they will live longer lives. This happiness can be affected by their surroundings. To please the seniors in an assisted living facility and to insure that they have a beautiful place to live in, I would work specifically on the outdoor areas of the facility. Fresh air is essential and irreplaceable, and a beautiful outdoor area would encourage the seniors to make their ways outside. I would design lovely, handicap accessible walkways leading to individual public areas outdoors. The walkways would be surrounded by gardens and trees to provide shade, beauty, and the fragrance of growing flowers. One path would lead to a larger paved area with benches and tables for the seniors to sit and socialize, play a card game, or simply enjoy the outdoors with friends. Another path would lead to a beautiful fountain area with benches to relax and appreciate the luxurious sights and sounds. A third path would lead to tennis courts for those seniors who are still active and able to enjoy a friendly game of tennis. All of these outdoor areas would encourage socialization among the seniors, and would be easy for seniors to access and manage. Interaction with others is helpful for seniors to feel happy and to keep their minds sharp and engaged. My design would allow both interaction among friends and areas for individual thought and relaxation. Both of which are necessary to live a happy and healthy life. It is essential to design these areas to include trees and flowers to enhance the beauty of the outdoors and make it a place that is full of life and energy.
I would hope that through my abilities as a landscape architect, I will be able to make a difference in the lives of people in all areas of the country, whether they live in urban areas, apartment homes, resorts, or assisted living facilities. It will be my duty to design areas that are useful, eye-catching, and environmentally friendly. My grandmother absolutely loves gardens and outdoor areas. For holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day, my family will buy her a hanging basket overflowing with flowers, or a pot of plants for her porch step. Small gifts of nature bring her happiness on these special occasions. The plants are both an image of beauty, but also a token of our love for her and a reminder to her that we are always here. When my Grandmother decides to move to an assisted living facility, these outside areas that are full of nature will lift her spirits on somber days and will remind her of her family. For seniors, the outdoors is a place to get away from the monotony of their rooms. It is a place where they feel a sort of freedom. I truly believe that with my degree in landscape architecture, I will be capable of making a difference in the lives of seniors by making these assisted living facilities places of beauty.

Response by Meghan Henry, Eastern Washington University

Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. Surprisingly, 87% of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls. Furthermore, 25% of all hospital admissions are due to falls in the elderly population. These statistics are staggering. Sometimes, when the patient initially falls, caregivers do not even recognize that the patient has fallen, with the patient unable to use their call button. During this crucial time, muscle cell breakdown begins within 30 minutes. Additionally, dehydration, pressure sores, hypothermia, or even pneumonia can occur. These diagnoses can all lead to death. But on the other hand, these diagnoses can even be prevented at a small cost. A large proportion of these falls can be prevented by a simple addition in supplementation.
During my studies in graduate school, I decided to complete my thesis on vitamin D and the effects the vitamin has on overall human health. I was absolutely fascinated that this vitamin is often overlooked in its rule in human health. Vitamin D has a variety of roles, such as preventing cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Much of the literature that I came across involved vitamin D and the elderly population. Vitamin D is directly correlated with muscle and bone strength. As people become older, bone mineralization decreases. When bone mineralization decreases, there is a higher probability of falls. However, if the elderly are supplementing with the proper dosage of vitamin D, research has found that falls drastically decrease. One study from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center showed that monthly vitamin D supplementation of 100,000 international units increased the serum concentrations of vitamin D. Subsequently, the experimental group that received the 100,000 IUs of vitamin D reported approximately half the number of falls compared to the control group. If seniors had vitamin D supplementation, daily or monthly, then studies have shown that the rate of falls would decrease.
As a scribe in the emergency department, seniors are brought in via ambulance seeking evaluation of injuries secondary to a fall on a daily basis.Consistently, all patients have experienced a fracture, whether the fracture is a hip fracture, femur fracture, arm fracture, or even intracranial hemorrhage. Once the patients are either discharged or admitted, there is a long road to recovery. Twenty five percent of elderly patients who suffer a hip fracture do not recover, and end up passing away within six months. This is because the recovery process is difficult at such a fragile age, with much needed time to repair the bone. If seniors were supplemented with vitamin D, with concurrent vitamin D testing, visits to the emergency department would subsequently reduce.
From my personal research from my thesis during graduate school as well as a plethora amount of literature discussing vitamin D and bone strength, I believe that the quality of life for seniors can be greatly improved. Ambulation will progress and seniors can maintain more independence within the assisted living facilities. Independence is crucial for a happy, healthy life. But if the patient is involved in a mechanical fall, then all freedoms suddenly evaporate, and the patient is consequently bed ridden, or placed in a nursing home facility. Previously independent older adults often enter into long term care facilities due to repeated falls, with seniors experiencing at least a single fall annually in assisted living facilities. Education on the effects of vitamin D needs to be implemented within the nursing home facilities. Lives can ultimately be saved if falls can be prevented within the assisted living home institution.

Response by Melody Sparks, Azusa Pacific University

Music touches the soul, a fact that I have witnessed on many occasions when I have performed. As “The Sparks Sisters”, my sister and I have been performing vocal and piano music for many different age groups at churches, weddings, festivals, events, and assisted living facilities, but it is the elderly audience members that have been the most memorable to me. During performances, I notice that my music has the power to move people to smiles or tears. Due to the fact that music can affect the spirits and minds of the elderly in a positive way, I feel that my major in music can bring mental, emotional, and spiritual healing to those receiving in-home care in my town.
Music has a certain nostalgic quality about it that can bring back the fondest memories and happiest times of our life to mind. Whenever my sister and I perform for seniors, we choose songs that we know they will recognize or remember from when they were young, such as “Sentimental Journey” or “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. These songs always bring smiles to their faces, and after the performance the seniors often tell us how much they enjoyed those songs that they used to know and love long ago. The chance to relive pleasant feelings they once had by hearing their favorite songs seems to rejuvenate their minds and souls. We often hear seniors singing along or see them mouthing the words of these songs, even if they are the same people who might frequently forget many other things in their daily lives. That is the power of music; it can often be used to reach people and the elderly whose minds have deteriorated, even if through Alzheimer’s or some other disease. I have done some research on music therapy, a clinical approach that patients might use, and am always amazed to hear about stories of patients who were unable to talk being able to sing entire songs, or patients with Parkinson’s disease who were unable to walk but somehow able to dance to music.
We also sing and play spiritual and inspirational songs that are recognizable to many elderly people. My grandfather, who is a recipient of in-home care, loves hearing my sister and I sing the beautiful hymn “In the Garden” because it reminds him of when he used to sing the song with his sister at church when they were very young. Sometimes even the simplest songs seem to touch people’s hearts, for I remember when “America the Beautiful” moved an older man in the back of the room to tears during one of our performances at a Veteran’s home. It is clear that music can stir one’s emotions, and I feel that bringing music into the lives of those receiving in-home care is important to their emotional and spiritual health. Not only can I imagine how discouraging it must be for the elderly to deal with declining physical and mental health as they get older, but I have seen it in the people I perform for as well as my own grandparents. It seems the spiritual wellness of the elderly becomes important as they near the end of their lives, and I am blessed to be able to use my musical gifts to bring them comfort through melody and song.
As I am writing this essay, I am reminded of the fact that many people do not view music as a substantial source of healing, but instead as a frivolous art form with no real benefits. Through my experiences with music, I hope I am able to bring to light the undeniable influence music has on all people, but especially the elderly. Seniors who utilize in-home care may be receiving physical care and help with things such as medication, housekeeping, and transportation, but it is important to not overlook the well-being of their spirits and minds. As a performer who loves to share the gift of music with other and wants to learn more about how it can positively impact the world, I contend that music is the next step in improving the lives of seniors receiving in-home care.

Response by Micaela Sandoval, Texas A&M University

I am a current Master’s in Public Health student within the Epidemiology department at the Texas A&M School of Public Health. As an epidemiologist, I hope to examine the intersections between culture, demographic, and disease within underserved populations. Public health officials have the skills and drive to transform the assisted living industry through data analysis, specialized preparedness procedures, and individualized, economical care plans for every patient.
One of the major concerns within the assisted living community is the tracking and management of disease profiles. The elderly and the immune-compromised are at special risk for infectious disease, and many assisted living patients also suffer from chronic illness. Epidemiologists across the country are devoted to identifying patterns in disease transmission within vulnerable populations; we are able to reconcile hundreds of variables to create specialized public health tools. By processing data from thousands of patients, we can build health education tools for both patients and caregivers to minimize the risk of infection, falls, and adverse drug interactions. Epidemiologists are able to survey members of the community as well as analyze medical records to help assisted living facilities find sustainable, effective best practices to eliminate excess pain and suffering.
The greatest challenge in assisted living care is finding a balance between resident and provider satisfaction. Every case is unique, but thoughtful inquiries into the administration of palliative care can reveal trends among reviews of various procedures. Facility administrators can then confidently use survey data to craft treatment options instead of basing practical decisions on limited experience. Through biostatistical analysis, we can provide patients and caregivers realistic expectations for alternative or rarely used practices, and impart the comfort of knowing decisions are adequately informed.
Public health researchers can also provide detailed systems analysis, to help the infrastructure of assisted care facilities remain modern and effective. In areas with limited resources or high volume, investigators can optimize healthcare administration to ensure continued quality of care. Computational analysis teams within public health offices are able to effectively model the ramifications of specific policy changes, and can illustrate the financial impact of any given plan. By incorporating informed financial data, administrators can then generate sustainable, affordable patient care plans, while remaining commercially stable.
In addition to purely economic input, public health researchers can contribute critical evaluations of innovative medical technology. Radical new advances in medical imaging, treatment, and palliative care have transformed medicine, but technology is costly and procedures can be invasive. Epidemiologists can supply detailed information on when and how certain procedures are helpful and efficient. We can calculate the sensitivity and specificity of various tests, to reduce the incidence of false reporting, and we can create cost-benefit analyses to demonstrate the advantage of a given technology. Assisted living facilities are often small businesses owned and operated by caring, dedicated people, and public health researchers can allow them to make smart, business-savvy choices while maintaining the highest level of care.
Finally, public health research can help caregivers and administrators plan for the future. Together, we can fashion comprehensive, sustainable treatment plans that nurture both the mind and the body. We can also include these vulnerable populations in essential public health programs; residents in assisted living need special accommodations in evacuation and disaster preparedness, and require advocacy and education that is tailored to their needs. Epidemiologists and other public health officials can work with local authorities to make sure our most susceptible loved ones are safe and protected in the event of an emergency.
As an epidemiologist, I am committed to serving both my local health systems and the global community through innovative, ethical research. I am proud to help those in assisted living maintain their quality of life free from preventable disease and injury. I am also excited to use my statistical analysis skills to aid the institutions themselves in balancing patient care and fiscal responsibility. Above all, I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside researchers who are protecting the right to safe, effective, affordable healthcare for all people.

Response by Michael Andrews, UNKNOWN

The cardiovascular system is one of the most important systems in the human body. Currently, I am a cardiovascular technologist (CVT) at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Braselton, Georgia, working full time while attending school. Every day I have many opportunities to offer assistance and provide quality patient care on a daily basis. I am able to assess the function of their heart and evaluate the degree of disease the patient might be suffering from. Seniors in assisted living facilities frequently come to the clinic for treatment and non-invasive imaging tests. This gives me the opportunity to show patient’s valuable care and aid in their cardiovascular health. My goal is to return to school and eventually become a physician’s assistant in cardiology. I believe that if I become a physician’s assistant, I would provide seniors in assisted living facilities in my local community with accurate cardiac prescriptions, properly assessing the patients with congestive heart failure symptoms and focusing on quality professional relationships.
First, I would be able to provide seniors in assisted living facilities the ability to acquire renewed cardiac prescriptions from my clinic. In the tri-county area, there are very few clinics available for patients to receive their monthly medications. The clinic I would provide would be in a centrally located area for easy access to the assisted living facilities located within city limits. Not only would I be able to provide them local service, but also correct medication administration. Many physicians order medications that are unnecessary or aren’t regulated on a monthly schedule. I would properly monitor the patient’s symptoms and alter the medication in response to the patient’s needs.
Secondly, I would closely assess the seniors in assisted living facilities for congestive heart failure (CHF). These patients commonly have CHF and require more attention than regular cardiac patients. Blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, pulmonary hypertension all play a major role in diagnosing this condition. Thorough lab work would be ordered to confirm that the patient’s magnesium, calcium and glucose levels are at adequate levels. It is critical that seniors have frequent follow ups with a medical professional to prevent further damage to their cardiovascular system.
Lastly, I would develop strong relationships with my all patients. There are many doctors, cardiologists, and physician assistants who are fantastic in the realm of cardiology. Sadly though, many of these medical professionals lack the skill to create quality connections in between themselves and their patients. I often hear patients complain of feeling left out of the loop and not knowing the purpose of the tests their physicians order. However, in my clinic, this would not be the case. I would be careful to ensure patient satisfaction and fully inform them of their cardiovascular health. My goal is to spend extra time with each patient to provide a professional relationship built on trust.
In conclusion, I believe that if I become a physician’s assistant, I would provide seniors in assisted living facilities in my local community with accurate cardiac prescriptions, properly assessing the patients with congestive heart failure symptoms and focusing on quality professional relationships. There is a need in the health care field for quality physicians who care about their patients and I have a desire to be that physician.

Response by Michelle Madrid, California State University Sacramento

Think of a Disneyland commercial. Think of a baseball or football commercial. Think of a state’s tourism commercial showcasing the state’s landmarks. Think hard about the type of people seen enjoying a vacation to Disneyland, a day at the yard, and a trip to a new state. There is not a big representation of our senior citizens in these commercials. Everyone loves to have fun, so why do we not see everyone represented in commercials for recreational experiences? With my major in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration (RPTA) , I can help seniors in my area remember that they still matter and that they still deserve to have fun.
Everyone has the right to play. Play, leisure, recreation, fun, however one choses to describe it, it is so integral to human nature that it is included in Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations). Despite this being the case, seniors are often left out of the fun to be had. There are few programs aimed at them, and when there are, they are unoriginal. As fun as the game of Bingo is, does every senior really want to play it every Thursday night?
This is where my field of study comes into play (pun intended). I want to be an event planner one day. Having fun, being around people, and making friends and memories is what I am most passionate about, and I want to help bring that joy I feel to others. We often forget to take a step back from our crazy, stressful lives and simply enjoy ourselves. With my events, I will help bring people together for a tim e to have fun and socialize. An assisted living facility is the perfect place for me to bring my work. As stated earlier, seniors are at a disadvantage when it comes to recreational experiences, but with my work that can be changed at one of my local assisted living facilities. By planning creative, exciting, safe, inclusive, fun events for the seniors in my community, I will help bring the enjoyment that is lacking in many seniors’ lives. No matter how old or young we are, everyone wants to have fun. Seniors, who are in their golden years of life, deserve fun as much as I as a young adult in my prime do. This is often forgotten and the recreational needs of the senior community are left ignored. My RPTA and event planning work can help draw attention to this serious issue, and help bring about the change that is needed.
Think about the last time you went to a theme park, or a sporting event, or traveled somewhere new. Think about how much you enjoyed yourself, and how far away your everyday worries felt. Everyone has the right to feel that way, especially seniors who have worked hard their entire lives. Even though they are not often targeted for recreational activities, I know that at least in my local area, RPTA and event planning can help make it so there are opportunities for everyone to play. One change in my community can encourage change in another community and then another, and so on, until eventually, a world of difference has come to the people who call an assisted living facility home.

Response by Michelle Raber, Indiana Wesleyan University

This scholarship caught my eye because it, too, addresses the betterment of a specific group of members of our society. I have witnessed first hand a specific couple in our church family who struggled to take care of all of the household duties and the care for their property due to age. This couple was far from needing nursing home care, so they explored an assisted living arrangement in a nearby town and are living happy, active lives there. Assisted living not only allowed them to maintain some independence, but it also provided a much needed social network for the couple. I am learning in my nursing classes how a person’s health encompasses not only the physical being, but also the mental, spiritual and social being as well. As a nurse, I will be able to assess, recommend, and facilitate such arrangements. I cannot wait to become a registered nurse and contribute to the well-being of all individuals around me.
My study of nursing has allowed me a variety of nursing exposures and experiences. I am able to work alongside nurses who work hard to provide care to their patients in order to bring about restoration. I also realize that sometimes the medical profession is unable to fix everything that is wrong with a person. Sometimes it becomes necessary to make a referral and suggest to the person that additional help is needed. A person may not be physically able to mow the lawn, trim the bushes, or perform general maintenance. He or she may not be able to safely fix meals, clean the house, or carry loads of laundry. I also have had the privilege of observing nurses in skilled nursing homes, as well as volunteering in a VA hospital. In these facilities, patients typically need more constant care, administration of medicines, assistance with bathing, oxygen, and other medical assistance. There obviously is a huge gap between the first group and the second group that I have described. Where do these people go to find the help they need? I am so excited that assisted living as we know it today has become an option just in the past 15 years or so.
As an upcoming nurse, I will have the role of caring for a variety of patients. My daily goal will be to provide excellent care for my patients, as well as assess their future needs. Nurses are a liaison between the patient and the doctor. As I get to know the patient and his or her family, I will be able to recommend what I think will best help the patient to remain healthy in the future. Sometimes I may recommend an exercise or diet plan. Sometimes it may be certain lifestyle restrictions, or the proposal may be for an assisted living facility if I feel he or she can no longer live in complete independence in a successful and safe manner. Assisted living will allow the patient to obtain only the services that he or she needs and pay for only those. Having this option makes my job exciting knowing that I am able to suggest something that will meet physical needs by offering help in the needed areas, mental needs by allowing the patient to remain as independent as he or she wants, and social needs by introducing him or her into a community of comrades. What a great alternative to having to suggest a nursing home facility, which truly no one welcomes easily.
Having shared my excitement about being a nurse and having the option of suggesting assisted living, I must say that I am also looking forward to becoming an advocate for these types of facilities. There are limited options for assisted living in my immediate community. I believe raising awareness about these types of facilities is the key not only to the success of these facilities, but also to the success of the elderly population in need of such services. All of the elderly people I know so enjoy their independence and will fight to keep it at almost any cost, even when they endanger themselves or their loved ones. We must recognize the importance of this generation to our society … their intelligence, their contributions, their experiences … and give them the respect they deserve. The best way to do this is by providing them with an independent alternative to nursing home care. I will do my best to propose, support, and assist in the evolution of assisted living facilities.

Response by Migel Santos, Illinois Institute of Technology

Architecture is so much more than designing buildings to make them look good; it has everything to do with the people who will be living in what the architect will design. The architect needs to think about who the design is for and how it will interact with the everyday lives of its inhabitants; this concept is especially important when the design must be as inclusive and general as possible. Among many factors to consider while designing a home, age and disabilities are some of the most important hurdles to solve and overcome in the design process. People are living longer and senior citizens have more independence than previous generations; many are living independently in their own homes, receiving care through visiting nurses, home health therapy and caregivers. The problem occurring now is that many homes designed to attract young families are not suitable for people as they age and become seniors; the usual walk up the stairs turns into climbing a mountain and the way to the bathroom becomes a marathon. The situation is further complicated when the house is far from commercial establishments, emergency services and hospitals.
Location! Location! Location! As an architect, the first problem to solve is the location of the site .All roads lead to Rome; this is true in that access to roads leads to civilization and important establishments. It also makes it easier for emergency services to reach the emergency. I would set the site close to medical and emergency services as well as government and commercial establishments. A long drive to the store or doctor is dangerous, as seniors do not have the same five senses and reaction time as their younger selves. Rome also wasn’t built in a day; I would use existing roads to make the project cost – effective and affordable; if that isn’t possible I would connect the site with direct roads to these establishments. My grandparents have regular visits at doctors’ offices, so we made sure when we were moving houses that we weren’t too far from our doctors; thankfully we found a home that was close to the hospital. This gave us peace of mind knowing that medical services were a five – minute drive away. Having road access is also extremely important so that medical providers such as home health therapists and visiting nurses will have easy access to their patients. My grandparents receive physical therapy, and a nurse visits regularly to administer medicine. The nurse is only a phone call and thirty minutes away when we need her for medical incidents or to change my grandma’s IV insertion.
Quality of life is very important and is the least we can give the previous generations. There are laws and provisions that require homes and buildings to have easy access for the elderly and disabled. As an architect I will make sure to abide and follow statutes such as the American s with Disabilities Act which requires government and commercial establishments to have access for disabled and senior citizens. The International Building Code also mandates safety and accessibility in homes such as the width of hallways and open space for wheelchairs to maneuver through, and heights of power outlets and fixture switches to accommodate all heights and disabilities. But it is also the small details that matter. For instance, a one-floor home such as a ranch style house is convenient for seniors and the disabled since they do not have stairs and all amenities are on the same floor. Having all the rooms close to each other promotes safety; a long walk from the bedroom to the bathroom in the middle of the night is dangerous. When we were looking for a home, we chose houses with one floor and rooms that we re close because my grandma is wheelchair – bound and so we could also hear my grandparents if they need our assistance.
By planning the location and the details of a home, I give convenience and safety as well as peace of mind to seniors, the disabled, and their families. I may not be able to help patients through medical treatment or knowledge of medicine, but I know I am the person they count on to design them a place they could call home; a home they can rest in after a long day of chemo or radiation therapy, or hours of testing at the hospital, a home where they can receive care and treatment, a home they can feel safe in and have quality of life.

Response by Mitch Mehringer, Indiana University, Bloomington

In my town, there is everything from independent living facilities, to at home care, to nursing homes. After visiting family in nursing homes and walking through nursing homes to pick up patients for work, I have noticed the different types of illnesses and diseases that affect the residents. There are residents with physical disabilities that prevent them from living on their own simply because they cannot do every day activities, and there are residents who have mental disabilities that prevent them from living on their own. Things like Alzheimer’s, or someone who suffers the effects of a stroke. Illnesses, infections, and diseases can lead to someone having to live in an assisted living facility.
The great thing about my major and interest in biology and problem solving is that I will be able to develop cures and preventions to these medical disorders that affect people to the point of not being able to take care of themselves. Myself along with the other scientists in my field may be able to use our knowledge after obtaining our degrees in Biotechnology and to develop vaccines to prevent the residents from ever having to leave their homes and enter into assisted living. If we cannot prevent it though, we may be able to use our knowledge to cure what prevents them from living on their own and get them back in their own homes.
The Senior Living website claims that the universal answer when it comes to asking the geriatric population what is most important to them, is maintaining as much independence as possible. Living on his or her own at home is the most independence anyone can be given. If a medical or physical reason prevents residents of assisted living from living on their own though, hopefully myself and others will be able to develop a medicine or treatment that will at least make them as independent as possible as they reside in an assisted living facility.
A more independent resident of an assisted living facility can also affect the lives of those residents around them. If a medicine or treatment makes a resident more independent, they can perform more every day activities on their own, without the help of the staff of the facility in which they are staying. If some residents can help themselves more than usual, then that leaves the staff to spend more one on one time with the residents who are not as independent as they would wish and in need of help while doing activities of daily living.
As someone who has had family in an assisted living facility and who talks to patients from facilities, I have seen first hand how sometimes they have little to no independence because of a physical or mental disability. I look at family members who have taken care of myself, my parents, and my aunt and uncles, not being able to care for themselves now because of a medical issue.
I chose my major because of the limitless possibilities that come along with it. Myself along with my colleagues could find cures for diabetes and Alzheimer’s and cancer and much more. There are no limitations. I believe the cure to anything is out there, it just takes passionate and dedicated people to unlock it.
I hope that with my education, along with communication with other scientists, that together we can find cures for the many diseases and illnesses that have taken the independence from strong willed people. I hope to eventually be able to use the cures that biotechnologists have created to treat my patients that come through the hospital where I hope to work as well. Biotechnology is a growing field, one with a lot of potential, and one that I hope can better the lives of many people.

Response by Natasha Krempges, South Dakota State University

To grow old is feared by many, but with education growing old can be cherished by many. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about assisted living in healthcare today. This misconception leads many older people within communities to be afraid of the transition into their older years. “I do not want to go to a nursing home.” “I am afraid to get old.” “I hope I die before I have to leave to my home.” These are statements that I have heard from family members, family friends, and individuals in my community. I realize that these statements are usually directed more towards nursing homes, but I have unfortunately heard similar statements from individuals avoiding life in an assisted living facility.
As a nurse I would have the opportunity to educate individuals and families about what assisted living really means. Education is continual throughout life. Education is also a major responsibility of nurses. As people age they are still able to learn and they are still important members in our society. Another major responsibility of a nurse is to advocate for those they are working with or working for. As a nurse I would be able to advocate for assisted living. I would be able to advocate for individuals that are afraid of the transition into their older years. Advocating for their health, safety, and wellbeing is my main goal as a future nurse.
Through education I would be able to teach accurate information about assisted living facilities. Accurate information for individuals and their families would instill safety and ease. The safety and ease that would be ensured through education promotes a healthier way of life for the individuals. Healthier living then leads to a more prosperous end of life, which is my main goal for residents within the assisted living facility. A positive experience to go along with the introduction to assisted living would grant older individuals the opportunity to cherish what the assisted living community has to offer.
So, what would I educate them about? I would educate older individuals that growing old is important. I would help educate them to understand that even though they are growing old they still deserve to be comfortable and prosperous in their remaining years. In the process of helping them learn I would also take time to notice and learn from them. The things I would learn from them would help me personalize their care to transform their needs and wants. Noticing the little things can make all the difference. Through education individuals can realize that they can still accomplish things, learn, and make a difference.
Assisted living facilities vary from community to community and from state to state. Although they can be different, I believe they all focus on one thing—independence and personal wellbeing. As a nurse I would have the ability to promote this focus throughout the facility in my community. I would also be able to branch out and promote this focus of independence and personal wellbeing to older individuals looking for answers about assisted living. To grow old is feared by many, but with education growing old can be cherished by many. As a nurse I would make a difference in assisted living by educating older individuals so growing old can be cherished.

Response by Nathalia Luna, Old Dominion University

When I graduate with a double major in Business Analytics and Finance, I plan to help as many people as I can and positively affect the world. One way that I can do that is by helping others who have already worked hard throughout their lives and now need assistance themselves. These people deserve the special love and care that in-home care providers can offer without the stress of financial concerns. I come from a culture where children take care of their prior generation. We want to have our parents with us to provide them with the same love and care that they did for us when we were children. Unfortunately, everyone does not have the medical background necessary to fully care for the elderly. This is where in-home care services become essential. I would never want to deny someone of being able to stay within the comfort of his or her own home due to medical needs. With my degrees, I would be able to help more senior citizens afford these services by assisting in financial management for both individuals and in-home care businesses.
When it comes to helping individuals, seniors can have difficulty with managing income and expenses, especially with social security, pensions, and retirement accounts. A financial advisor can help them understand their financial situation so they will know what they can afford. I want to be able to help people with their personal finances and income streams so they can afford services, such as receiving in-home care. Being able to stay in their homes provides comfort and security in their later years. Products such as long term care insurance can be instrumental in making in-home care services more affordable for senior citizens, if purchased at an appropriate age. Another way I could help individuals manage their money is by making them aware of available financial options which allow them to stay in their own homes as long as possible. With my studies, I will be able to assist more people in planning for their futures and managing their current financial situations. People deserve an equal chance in making the best of their final years on Earth and I want to do anything that I can to help them be able to afford the best treatment available.
On a business level, I would like to be able to help improve the efficiency of home health care services in order to reduce expenses and hopefully lower the cost to seniors as a result. With my degrees, I would be able to help businesses manage their expenses and pass on their savings to senior citizens so that they can improve their quality of life. I would like to help as many seniors as possible be able to afford in-home care services because I have seen on a personal level how much it can help the comfort level of the elderly. By helping the companies reduce expenses, they can afford expansions, hire qualified employees, and allow more senior citizens to receive the care that they deserve.

Response by Nicholas LaJoie, University of Maine

As a Computer Engineering student, my studies thus far have covered topics such as “Phasor Circuits,” “Shift Registers,” and “Radix Sorting”–just some of the many different topics that embody modern technology. Computers exist in nearly every aspect of our lives today, and their complexities can be daunting. It’s up to innovative Computer Engineers to take a complex solution to a problem and present it in an intuitive way–away that the masses can use easily and confidently. This opens up an entire world of possibilities, from sending astronauts to Mars, to even improving the quality of life for senior citizens. Let’s take a look at two advances in tech that can make these goals a reality: the “Internet of Things” and Artificial Intelligence.
A quick Google search will define the Internet of Things as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.” The ability to connect everyday objects and devices to the Internet can be an incredibly powerful tool. For example: one challenge seniors face is maintaining and monitoring health. This is important for seniors, family members, and even medical professionals. Monitoring health can be a difficult and time­ consuming endeavor, but if done properly, it can make maintaining a healthy lifestyle very easy, and in some cases, can save lives. A simple network of sensors throughout the home and worn by the senior can provide a wide variety of data; heart rate, diet patterns, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and much more. This data will then be analyzed by specially designed software that provides alerts, makes recommendations, and even stores a history of data–all of which can be distributed to family members and medical professions through a simple, user ­friendly smart phone app. In the event of an emergency, the phone app can provide alerts, contact emergency services, and provide a source of useful data for everyone involved.
Another way technology can benefit seniors in assisted living homes is the advent of Artificial Intelligence. Today, developments in computer science have allowed technology to “think” on its own and make decisions in a human­like fashion. Pop culture tends to paint a picture of fear (i.e. “Robots taking over the world”) when it comes to AI, when in reality, there are many benefits to utilizing this type of tech. For instance, suppose a senior has difficulty with verbal communication, and sometimes struggles to find the words to say during conversation. AI­ based technology could track the facial expressions of the speaker, as well as the conversation taking place, and make suggestions of what words the senior might be trying to communicate–much like how we as humans try to assist someone that gets stuck during conversation. This is not only useful for everyday conversations, but also for seniors having difficulty explaining how or why they might be feeling unwell. AI could provide suggestions based on facial expressions and data collected by Internet of Things sensors. Additionally, in my own personal experience, there can sometimes be language barriers between seniors and visitors. When I visit my Grandmother, there are times when she will spout French phrases, and I have a hard time understanding her. Artificial Intelligence can pick up on these changes in language and translate for me in real ­time, as a means of enhancing the conversation for both of us. Additionally, Artificial Intelligence may someday be able to mimic human conversation, and thus provide “virtual company” to those in assisted living homes, should actual social interaction be unavailable.
Of course, I could go on and on about all the different ways Computer Engineering could improve the lives of seniors in assisted living homes–the possibilities truly are endless. However, I would like to conclude with this: the purpose of bringing technology into the daily lives of seniors is not to replace human interactions and activities, but rather, to benefit and enhance the human experience. In this day and age, we tend to view technology as something that can distract and consume us. My goal as a Computer Engineer is to create more subtle, intuitive, and human­esque technology that can benefit the world and bring us closer to the ones we love–especially loved ones in assisted living homes.

Response by Nicole Habib, University of the Incarnate Word

While starting the nursing program I had no idea how much of an impact nurses could have on patients and their families. As I continued through the classes I realized quickly a lot of the patients that I had were the elderly. Many of them did not have family members to go home with after their hospital stay. Their only option left was to transfer to an assisted living facility. I ended up taking a community health course where we had to attend a nursing home for the elderly for our clinical rounds. We attended the nursing home every Thursday for that entire semester. I would take the patient’s blood pressures; blood glucose if they had diabetes mellitus, get their weight and would perform foot care. It was the small acts that seemed to mean the most to them at that nursing home. I offered to attend their daily workout session with them and would sit and talk with different patients throughout the day. I would answer health questions for them and would direct them to people at the facility that could help them out more if they needed it.
My major in nursing improves the lives of the seniors in assisted living facilities because we become their advocates. We advocate not only for their physical health but also for their mental health, which is entirely more important for an elderly person. In my experiences visiting the elderly at the assisted living nursing home there were visitors only seldom for them. Most patients would go on to tell me that their spouse had passed away and that their children live in a different state or were very busy people who wouldn’t visit on a daily basis. I have learned also through my psychology class that human contact helps prevent further issues and helps to prevent depression and anxiety. The job of a nurse is not only to take care of the person physically and in part, but also to take care of them wholly along with caring for their mental health.
The goal for the major in nursing for the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities is to provide emotional support to improve their lives. Nurses provide a care and compassion that is required to live a substantial and fulfilling life. Nursing can improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities because we can care for them in a way no other people could. In assisted living facilities nurses become almost like a part of that senior’s family, we see them almost every day, we know their likes and dislikes, we know their schedule, when they like to eat and when they like to watch television and what shows their prefer over others. These seniors deserve care and compassion that nurses can provide, especially if they do not get visits from family and friends. Any emotional support can drastically improve the quality of life for this population. Nursing is such a beautiful art and science that improves quality of life that I am so blessed and happy to be a part of. I am eager for the day that I am a registered nurse to be able to provide daily care and compassion to those in need of improvement in life.

Response by Noorulain Momin, University of Houston

The population is growing faster than ever and living longer than ever expected. According to the Administration for Community living, older population which is classified as persons 65 years or older, represent 14.1% of the U.S population in 2013 and is expected to double by the year 2040. The seniors make up a significant amount of the population and are continuously growing and living longer. However, with a longer life comes many medical issues within seniors. There are very few individual seniors that are perfectly healthy and pertain no medical or health issues. On the other hand, majority of the seniors are usually diagnosed with some sort of chronic health issue that they need to take care of for the rest of their lives. No matter what the individual is diagnosed with, they are usually prescribed some sort of medicine to cure the disease or help prevent it from growing. That is where my major and education in Pharmacy will help improve the lives of seniors.
Pharmacist are usually seen as people who read prescription and deliver them to the patients. However, a Pharmacist has a much more of an active role in providing the patients with the best medical care possible. Pharmacists have the most detailed knowledge about a drug and how it interacts with other drugs. Growing age usually means more medicine that is needed by the elderly. However, many senior lack complete knowledge about every medicine that they are prescribed for their symptoms. A Pharmacist can provide a complete and clear understanding of the medicine in terms of side effects, dosage required and the true purpose of the medicine.
Just like doctors, pharmacist can also specialize in various field, such as diabetes care or oncology, which is something I plan on doing in order to broaden my ability to help people. These specialties allow the patient to ask more complicated questions to the Pharmacist and get an answer. A patient can need anything at anytime, however a physician is not always available at his/her office 24/7, but there are pharmacies that are 24/7. The patient can attain the same help from a pharmacist and help resolve their problem. The seniors do not have to solely depend on their physicians to answer their medical questions. The pharmacist can provide a great explanation about the drugs that the seniors are prescribed to.
With the growing demand for pharmacist, I wish to become one of these pharmacist and help the elderly in the population who are not so knowledgeable. My education in pharmacy can help educate the seniors, which can allow them to better question their doctors as to what exactly they are being prescribed to; instead of just blindly trusting the doctor’s judgment alone. With my education, the seniors will become more informed about their medicines and their health problems, which can better prepare them for all the various side effects a drug can cause. I believe that the seniors who are most prone to taking the most medicine should be educated about what they are taking everyday and what it is doing to their body. My major will allow me to give this knowledge to the seniors of the community and allow them to live a healthier and knowledgeable life.

Response by Olga Quevedo, University of Texas

First of all, I believe anyone is capable of improving another person’s life in one way or another. However, I will specifically focus on how an Early Childhood Education major can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in my town.
As a prospective teacher I believe early childhood education encompass academic and social-emotional areas which are a fundamental part in a person’s life. The first elementary years of children’s lives are a formative period that can lay the foundation for their growth into adulthood, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Quality education during early childhood shapes students’ lives leading them throughout the years to a vast variety of professions. Professors of different fields educate and guide students pursuing specific careers and therefore contribute to the professionals’ pool from which seniors receiving in-home care benefit from such as caregivers, nurses, therapists, and doctors. However, education should not be all about academics if we want to improve the society in which we live. I believe teachers should also focus on helping students gain social-emotional skills since these will improve all areas of their life. These skills provide the foundation for how we feel about ourselves and how we experience others around us. As children acquire these skills they effectively apply the knowledge and attitudes, gain the ability to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Therefore, acquiring these skills at an early age is extremely important. As teachers, it is our duty to instill in students character traits such as care and respect for all people regardless of their condition. When a child experiences a situation of having an elder family member receiving in-home care services for example, it gives him or her an opportunity to apply their social-emotional skills with their family member making them feel loved and accepted. Even though children might not directly help in the personal care of their family member, they might contribute to their well-being by having meaningful conversations and activities that engage and enrich the lives of seniors physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally, thus enhancing their quality of life.
I am very fortunate to work as a Pre-K teacher assistant for the Round Rock Head Start program, which provides early childhood education and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families, among other benefits. What I like most about this program is that it is designed to foster stable family relationships and establish an environment to develop strong social-emotional, cognitive, communication, and physical skills.
I believe it is important to strengthen the communities in which we reside, these are where our children develop and grow up, these are where we might become seniors too, and these are the communities where we might need in-home care as well. One of my roles as teacher is to create awareness of others’ needs in our society. When children have this in mind they are more likely to be compassionate toward people around them, in this case toward people who might need in-home care.

Response by Olivia Thompson, Indiana Wesleyan University

As I entered the memory ward, I heard nothing but the sobs of the woman huddled in an isolated chair. I watched her rocking herself back and forth, wringing her hands in confusion. Why did no one offer comfort in her distress? Forgetting my impending performance, I knelt beside her, taking her fragile hands in mine. “It’s going to be okay,” I promised. Her tears ceased. She clung to me. “Don’t leave me.” For a few minutes we connected, lost in memory and longsuffering. I held her until someone brought her a baby doll, which she cradled like a real child. Forgotten, I slipped away to get out my violin and resume the original purpose of my visit. In preparation for a concerto competition, I was performing at The Willows, a local assisted living facility. The residents who listen to my music don’t mind if I make mistakes. Some of them fall asleep; others applaud at inappropriate times. A bystander peering into this scene in the memory ward may question its purpose. The audience seems aloof and inattentive, each person estranged in a world of Alzheimer’s. What is the point? How does my music make any difference in the lives of these people?
I argue that music is one of the best medicines anyone can offer seniors because it brings healing to body, mind, and soul. Sometimes we forget the importance of the latter two as we care for the physical ailments inflicted by age. When Grandma “loses her marbles,” it can become too easy to consider interactions with her a lost cause. We still love her and try to make her comfortable, but we don’t always think about connecting with her as an individual in need of interaction. Because intelligent conversation has become impossible and she fails to remember her son’s name, we stop considering her an equal. Dementia may debilitate, but it does not erase her singularity as a person. In truth, we are the forgetful ones if we allow such obstacles to cloud our concern for the person as a whole.
How can music benefit seniors from a physical standpoint? Recent studies show that listening to music significantly impacts mental and physical health. In a review of 400 neurochemical research papers, scholars concluded that music increases immunoglobulin A (an antibody vital to the mucus system’s immunity) and natural killer cells, thus helping the body to cope against sickness. Listening to music also proved to lower the stress hormone cortisol, decreasing pre-surgical anxiety with greater success than prescription drugs. By bringing music to assisted living facilities, I can help seniors combat depression, anxiety, and stress. (Glyyn)
Moreover, music benefits the mind by activating both imagination and memory. Transported into the world of sound and creativity, seniors find respite from the cares and discomforts of daily life. Concentration camp survivor Alice Herz Sommer recalled her father’s advice to “put as much as you can into your heads because it’s something nobody can take away from you” and applied it to her love of music: “You can actually have music in your head without anybody knowing it is happening. You can actually go into another world, which is a lot nicer than the world we’re actually living in” (The Lady in Number 6). Music is sometimes the best solace for the suffering. Sometimes it is also the only window connecting the mind to the real world. I have heard a woman unable to converse sing every verse to Amazing Grace. The gift of music preserves crucial connections between mind and world, sustaining and fortifying the humanity every person deserves.
Concern for humanity also requires care for the soul. When I bring my music to assisted living facilities, I show the residents both love and respect, a necessity for the souls of all people. By taking the time to visit, converse, and remember names, I demonstrate that I truly care. They feel respected because I treat them as a worthy audience, investing thought, preparation, enthusiasm—and love—into my concerts.
That November morning two years ago, I played Vivaldi’s Spring the best I could, not for an impersonal audience, but for Elizabeth. On that day, I realized she was the purpose of my visit, for the purpose of music is love.

Response by Paige Moody, Wayne State University

With increased life spans and the improved life spans, the elderly are a rapidly growing community. As this community continues to grow, more social workers will be needed to provide services to the elderly. Social workers include the social, physical, and mental aspects in their practices to help provide services that are critical to older adults. Gerontological social workers function to provide independent and dignity to the elderly. Their job is meant to stand up for those in need, advocate for any needs, and to take the time to listen. Assisted living can provide the elderly the independent lives they still wish for while helping keep the individual in a safe and caring environment. Social workers provide an important element in assisted living homes as they link the elderly to what they may need out of their assisted living and how their families can help their aging family member.
Before a senior citizen enters assisted living, a social worker will meet and interview them. The goal is to see what the individual needs and has trouble with. Social workers may also interview family and care givers such as doctors and nurses. Periodic visits are also required to ensure the individual is in a safe environment and is receiving all care they may require. It can be difficult for families to place their loved ones in assisted living, but social workers can provide the respect needed to help all those involved be taken care of and well informed.
Social workers wish to provide the best care for aging adults. MSW’s gather information for the families of the elderly and coordinate care within health care systems. As individuals become older, more health issues arise. Social workers can ensure senior citizens are going to the correct doctors and receiving the medications they may need. Senior citizens become quite lonely as they age with the loss of friends and family. Social workers also can lead the elderly through therapy if they are feeling lonely or suffering from mental illnesses including depression and anxiety. Social workers also encourage group activities within the home and outings to other places. Social workers also protect those they may suspect of elder abuse. This abuse includes legal issues pertaining to money. The elderly are at a higher risk for falling prey to computer scams and fake telemarketing. Social workers can help guide individuals through protecting themselves and their money.
All workers in an assisted living home provide a necessary service to allow the elderly to continue living a safe and independent life. Through obtaining my social work degree, I can help the elderly with all these tasks I previously discussed. To me, social workers have a rewarding job of helping these individual’s continue to receive all their needs including social, medical, and mental. I will be able to provide families with all the information to give them peace of mind. I will be able to give the elderly the respect they deserve. Psychology and social work is incredibly important to me and to the world. I hope to see this rewarding career grow to help the baby boomers live as comfortably as possible.

Response by Patricia Ludwig, San Jose State University

Libraries are often seen as large imposing buildings with tons of heavy books or a place where people spend endless hours studying. Not anymore, libraries are quickly becoming hubs where people of all types can gather to play games, read magazines, go on the Internet and learn new skills. If a person at home has a computer, smart phone or tablet, Internet access and a library card they can accomplish great things without ever leaving their home. Using a local public library as an example, the St. Charles City County Library District, at, has many features the home user can easily use with little no need of actually visiting the physical library. One can borrow books and audio books digitally, and download them to an app that allows one to read or listen until the due date is up. There are a magazine app, and a music app that also allows one to borrow the magazine digitally and to borrow music. One can also print remotely and reserve books in the library, but both of those services someone would have to visit the library to retrieve and return the materials. There is access to the Gale Virtual Reference Library and electronic references like databases and services like They are currently working on streaming movies, either by making up their own service or by using a current service like Netflix. Another library, the New York Public Library has an interactive app, Biblion, that allows Apple users to visit their exhibits Frankenstein and the New York World’s Fair virtually at,
These things are wonderful by themselves, but for a person that is homebound or is currently receiving in-home care, they can mean everything. The ability to educate oneself, entertain oneself and read for themselves is uplifting and transformative. Unfortunately, one must have the equipment to access the sites, but other than that, it is a free service that has unlimited benefits. With this type of access, a person could research their condition and research methods of coping or healing or even with dealing with their issues and problems. Before it would have been hard to attend school online, without access to a library, but now they can take classes in a college and earn a degree, or learn more about the world outside. There are also many options. Audio books instead of just print. Print on EBooks can be manipulated, larger or smaller, different colors and fonts. Magazines can be for people who have trouble with reading, since there are lots of pictures and smaller articles. This makes it possible with the varying conditions that may have befallen a person to make them housebound to participate regardless of ability or situation.
A librarian can be a great help. One can evaluate if the library district is helping or providing service to those who are homebound and look into providing programs and materials to those who cannot come to the library with any regularity. YouTube videos can be made, teaching those who are homebound how to access library web pages, communicate through Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, access the Ebooks and other apps, and how to use other forms of technology. Librarians can communicate through email and phone to those that need extra help or advertising these services so that even though they are not coming to the library they are made aware of the service. Bookmobiles might even be able to stop in certain neighborhoods or a delivery service could be set up for the homebound. Librarians can also help with teaching seniors how to access certain sites on their computers, like Medicare, Medicaid, Disability, Healthcare, Social Security, Taxes and other things that might be hard for a senior to navigate on their own. A YouTube video or someone walking them step by step through screenshots sent by email or step by step on the phone can be helpful.
In conclusion, thanks to technology, using a library when being homebound can be a fulfilling experience and lead to endless possibilities despite situation or disability. A librarian can be instrumental in this role in providing services and in making sure that people who are homebound are not overlooked as resident taxpayers who are just as entitled to using their library as any other person who can walk through the doors. Whether the person is temporarily receiving in-home care or is permanently homebound, the library and librarians can provide many services to help, inform and entertain without stigma, inconvenience, or prejudice.

Response by Peyton Kava, Concordia College

As a psychology major, I have learned about how the brain can function (or malfunction) in ways that create mental disorders or skewed mental statuses among everyday people. The brain is a very complex structure and there are several ways that mental status can be altered such as hormone imbalances, damage to specific areas, and improper firing of neurons (to name a few). As humans age, the brain’s processing slows down and people are more likely to face physical and mental health problems such as memory loss, total loss or depletion of senses, increased anxiety or depression, and paranoia. Individuals age and develop in various ways and no two humans are alike, which creates the diversity we see in the senior citizen population and within assisted living facilities. For example, one individual may be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 65 and another individual may be alert and oriented until the age of 100. These two seniors would need to be cared for and interacted with in different ways based on their mental health. Basic knowledge in the field of psychology would be important to have in order to understand how to meet the specific needs of these individual residents within assisted living.
As an employee of a retirement home, I worked with seniors that were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and many other illnesses that both affect physical and mental health. It was important for me to meet the resident’s individual needs while taking into consideration their abilities and their disabilities. At the time I was first hired into a retirement home, I had only basic knowledge of mental health problems from my CNA class and acquired the rest of my skills and knowledge of the topic through hands-on experience. This proved to be very helpful as I began studying psychology and could then connect the academic material I had studied and learned with the experience I collected as a nursing assistant. Looking back, it would have been even more helpful to know what I know now about mental disorders and the functions of the brain before becoming a nursing assistant. I would’ve had a clearer understanding of why residents may behave a certain way or can be limited in performing ADLs and other activities due to their disabilities. Mental health is a pertinent aspect within the assisted living environment and having a clear understanding of it allows one to engage with residents in ways that fit their individual wants and needs and also allows one to provide the best quality of care possible.
The study of psychology benefits assisted living homes in very significant ways. The two main objectives of these facilities is to allow the resident to maintain their independence but also provide enough help and care for them so they are not subject to injury; it is necessary to find a respectable balance between these. The mental health of the patient can influence their ability to be able to perform tasks such as brushing their teeth, combing their hair, or dressing themselves. If there is any altered sense of reality or other various mental health issues it can also prevent them from adequately caring for themselves and increase their need for assistance. It is important to evaluate the resident’s physical health as well as their mental health before they move into an assisted living facility to ensure they can be self-sufficient and don’t need higher-level supervision. A person with a degree in psychology benefits the assisted living community because they have a deep understanding of the human mind and why it functions differently in each individual. This would allow them to connect with the residents and shape their care to fit the individual’s wants and needs. Providing adequate care and allowing the resident to perform activities that they enjoy and are able to do safely is how you keep the resident satisfied and cater to their mental health needs. A psychology degree provides these necessary tools to give the best experience possible to the resident within assisted living.

Response by Rachel Hanson, Green River College

Aging: a process that can be viewed optimistically or pessimistically by the eyes of the beholder. Regardless of one’s point of view, however, this fact of life is unavoidable. The choice to embrace and truly enjoy the senior years of life is a choice filled with great benefits. With aging comes a new realm of difficulties that were not present in previous life stages, however, these obstacles can be overcome with the assistance of occupational therapists and the resources provided by these professionals, supplying opportunity that ensures that the senior years are filled with pleasure.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for occupational therapists within the next several years is 27 percent. This significant amount of growth is due to the fact that the Baby Boomer generation has entered and continues to navigate through the senior years of life. The connection between these senior citizens and their use of occupational therapy services is remarkable.
The study of occupational therapy is the major I have chosen to pursue, mainly due to the fact that it has effectively improved the lives of countless senior citizens over the course of time, especially the lives of those who are diagnosed with specific illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or who are rapidly declining in their overall state of health. While these improvements have been witnessed mainly in assisted living facilities nationwide, they have also been observed in a variety of other similar long-term care facilities and within the general public.
Various scholarly sources have described the benefits of therapeutic interventions offered through the field of occupational therapy. A degree in the study of occupational therapy prepares one to effectively evaluate and problem-solve the environmental conditions in which elderly people live, for example. Senior citizens’ dwellings are made safer with the use of tools and other resources that provide modifications for these citizens to continue pursuing the full potential of their independence. An instance of such a device used would be a walker provided to an elderly individual for the ability to continue walking with stability, rather than moving to a wheelchair-bound lifestyle due to the fear of the senior falling from lack of balance. Other modifications made by occupational therapists that resolve potential conflicts are rearrangement of furniture to prevent the potential for one to trip and fall over objects in the way of a senior’s walking path, as well as the installation of bars and other sturdy fixtures in frequently used areas of seniors’ dwellings such as bathrooms, to give the elderly individual a constant source of stability when lack of balance occurs during the process of personal hygiene practices.
Animal assisted therapy is a resource used for occupational therapy with senior citizens as well. The interactions between humans and animals create a beneficial bond like none other. A plethora of sources have provided evidence that such interactions within this bond reduce the blood pressure and stress levels of humans of all ages, and the bond has even been found to decrease the levels of agitation within those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The joy one experiences through interacting with a therapy animal motivates the patient to progress towards improved health. An example of such a circumstance would be an elderly patient who suffered a severe stroke and is recovering from paralysis. To provide the opportunity for regaining strength in extremities such as the arms of the senior patient to occur, an occupational therapist could prescribe that the patient proceeds to play fetch with a therapy dog. The elderly patient would be instructed to throw a ball for the canine during the treatment plan, requiring that the patient move their weakened arm. Over time, this repetitious yet enticing action will eventually provide the senior with regained strength in their arm. The use of occupational therapy treatment has then been disguised to the patient as a game of fetch with a furry friend.
With the creativity and versatility offered to those who major in occupational therapy, the opportunities to assist seniors with this educational training is endless. It would be a privilege and a blessing to serve elderly people in this capacity who live in assisted living facilities in my community. As a result, numerous lives have the potential to be positively impacted. While some may proceed to fear the process of aging, there is continual hope for advancement in achieving high levels of quality of life in the future regarding the senior stage of living.

Response by Rachel Hartman, Indiana Wesleyan University

From my observations, the ability of a person to remain in their home, move to assisted living facilities, or move to a nursing home is mainly determined by his or her physical health. Although the elderly may need to move into assisted living simply because of the normal decline of aging, proper medical care can help them remain in these facilities rather than having to move to a nursing home. Additionally, staying in good health can help them remain active and be able to participate in social activities and hobbies, affording a higher quality of life.
Medical technologists play a crucial behind-the-scenes role in medical care for the aging. They perform all diagnostic and therapeutic laboratory tests that a doctor orders for a patient. When a senior citizen visits the doctor with an infection, the doctor may give an order for a sample to be cultured to identify the bacteria and test its response to various antibiotics. By doing these tests, a medical technologist can provide information to help the doctor prescribe medicine that will help the patient recover as quickly as possible.
Accordingly, early detection of many health problems can be crucial for effective treatment. Analysis of blood samples can give a good indication of the functions of the body. For example, an excess of bilirubin in the blood can indicate liver problems. Medical technologists also screen biopsy samples for cancer. If cancer can be detected early, there are less drastic treatment options and a better chance for survival. In addition to detecting new diseases, many seniors have ongoing health problems which need to be monitored periodically, such as high cholesterol. Medical technologists analyze blood samples from these patients and report data to the doctors, which can then form treatment plans to help prevent the development of serious disease.
There are several maladies which are more commonly seen in seniors and require extensive treatment. Many times seniors will need a knee or hip replacement in order to maintain mobility and retain their independence. Ideally, every surgery would go smoothly, but in the event that a blood transfusion is needed, a medical technologists can do blood typing and cross matching to ensure that a safe transfusion is administered. Additionally, heart attacks are a concern among senior citizens. When a heart attack is suspected, a blood sample can be taken and certain heart attack indicators measured. If a heart attack is confirmed, the doctor can quickly proceed with life-saving treatment.
With the many health problems that arise in the elderly, it is likely that a senior will be on multiple medications. Some of these medications have the potential to cause damage to the body, especially in seniors who may not be as strong and healthy as they once were. Medical technologists can do prescribed testing for early signs of these ill-effects, so that the medicine can be ceased before causing serious damage.
To remain in an assisted living facility, a senior citizen must not only be physically healthy but also have a sound mind and decent memory. Sometimes a urinary tract infection will cause confusion and symptoms of dementia in the elderly. A medical technologist can do a urinalysis to determine if a patient has a urinary tract infection. This diagnosis can allow the patient to get medicine that will clear the infection quickly, restoring his or her mental function.
A medical technologist may never have direct contact with a senior in an assisted living facility, as a doctor or the facility staff may. However, by correctly and efficiently performing many laboratory tests, they play a crucial role in helping seniors maintain a state of health and physical function that allows them to live fulfilling lives in these communities, with as much independence as possible.

Response by Rachel Posey, University of North Texas Health Science Center

As a student of an osteopathic medical school, a large part of our philosophy is to treat the patient as a whole. This approach includes treating the patients physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. While this is applicable to every patient, it is especially important to those in assisted living facilities. Most people in assisted living facilities are elderly, often widowed, some with mental decline, and most with a degree of physical decline. This being said, depression from losing a spouse, being lonely, losing their independence, etc. is not uncommon. Going back to the osteopathic philosophy, I would want to pay special attention to my patients who are in assisted living facilities and check on them from more than just a physical standpoint. I would want to see that their emotional needs are being met and spend time with them, discussing possible solutions instead of shoving a prescription in their face without working through the heart of the problem first.
Of course, being a doctor, my number one priority would be to make sure that my patients are in good physical health. However, emotions and stress can take a significant toll on your body. If my patient were a resident of an assisted living facility, I would sit down with them and ask if they are having significant social interaction, if they are still interested in their hobbies, and other questions that could lead toward signs of depression. I know most assisted living facilities work toward creating great social opportunities for their residents to interact and if my patient were not going to the social events I would do my best to motivate them to make use of these opportunities.
In medical school they teach us how to effectively interview patients. One of these interviews is called a motivational interview. It isn’t about forcing your agenda on the patient, but rather working with the patient to plan baby steps to achieve a healthier lifestyle. For an assisted living home resident, this may be encouraging them to get out of the house more, attend social events, or go on a vacation. Even if they are too embarrassed to sing karaoke themselves, getting them to go and enjoy the show is a good first step!
A unique program that is built into my medical school curriculum is called Seniors Assisting in Geriatric Education (SAGE). Medical students are paired with a senior citizen in Fort Worth and we make visits to them multiple times throughout our school years. My senior is an eighty four year old woman who lives in a house with her husband. Her husband has dementia, all of her friends are deceased, and she suffers from depression due to her loneliness and fading independence. If I were her doctor, I would suggest an assisted living facility as an option for her and her husband. It would take pressure off of her as the sole caretaker of her declining husband, while giving her social opportunities to help combat the depression and isolation that she feels on a daily basis.
As a future physician, the best thing I could do for my patients who are in assisted living is making sure that their minds, bodies, and souls are in good health, paying particular attention to any signs of depression or meaninglessness. Assisted living can be a great resource if the residents are taking advantage of all of the opportunities that it provides. It recreates a community that seniors have often lost throughout their lives. Staying involved, making friends, and staying active are key in fostering the emotional needs of these patients. I will never be able to offer my patients a drink from the fountain of youth, but I hope to be able to encourage and care for all of my patients on deep level.

Response by Rachel Tracy, Miami University of Ohio

As a journalism major, I hope to someday become a reporter or anchor for a major network. I wanted to study journalism and the art of broadcast television because a journalist’s number one goal is to bring the latest news to the people. It is a journalist’s job to be truthful, to package together a story in a way the public understands, to cover topics others are scared to touch, to let the public know what is going on around them both nationally and locally. I am going into my third year of study, and I believe I am on my way to achieving the art of living in people’s living rooms through their television.
As a senior needing in-home care and assistances, it is hard to get out of the house and understand what is going on outside of the neighborhood. As a senior, you are concerned about your family, health developments and the economy. Which candidate is going to support Social Security? Are their riots taking place close to your house? Is crime on the rise? These are things seniors need to know since they spend the majority of their time indoors.
Upon graduation, I will become a local reporter and slowly make my way up the latter until I become a reporter or anchor for a major network. I will spend my time embedding myself in local issues and controversies and will then report my findings out to the public. Through my chosen profession, seniors in need of in-home assistance will have a better understanding of what is happening outside their home. For example, I live in Cincinnati and I hope to land a job in this city upon graduation. Cincinnati is currently suffering from race and gun violence. This would be something seniors in need of in-home assistance would not know about unless there were journalists reporting on events and getting the facts from officials. Journalists’ first obligation is to the public. It is our job to keep the public aware and “in the know.”
If seniors that spend the majority of their time indoors did not have the news or decent journalists, they would not know whom to vote for, how to stay safe, what the latest technologies are, and how they can better spend and protect their money. The great thing about the news is you don’t need to have cable to access information. More senior citizens do not own a computer or don’t watch television often. However, seniors can still access channels that broadcast the news, which means it is of easy access for in-home assistance seniors.
In-home assistance is important for the health and social skills of seniors, but a journalists job is to keep their mind sharp and aware of the issues around them. As a future journalist myself, I want to keep the public informed in all ways possible, because that is what creates that best community for everyone. The more people are aware of issues and controversies in their community, the more they can participate. The more people that participate, the better the living space is inside the community. That is why my profession of choice is essential for seniors that need in-home assistance.

Response by Radhika Narsinghani, Boise State University

Most seniors residing in assisted living care facilities do not need the intensive care provided by nursing homes. They may need a variety of help but many are of an age where they need assistance with understanding their medications and how to maintain or regain health.
Much of the time health care providers don’t have sufficient time to spend with the patients to explain in detail health care approaches or appropriate use of prescribed medications. Many seniors become easily anxious due to hearing problems or unfamiliarity with situations. This may be especially true with health care and medications. They find it difficult to cope with the amount or kind of information included in the written materials and may not remember the oral instructions they receive.
Pharmacists play a main role in educating a physician’s patients and the general public on the dosage, side effects, frequency, and importance of taking the medications in the prescribed manner. While this service is available to all customers, it is especially important to cover the potential gap of communication between the physician and the senior because many of them are more reluctant to try to interrupt a busy physician or nurse than to chat with the pharmacist. This may be because the setting is generally a grocery store or pharmacy rather than an office. Seniors can easily approach pharmacists without making an appointment, the location may be more conveniently located and the hours of operation may more easily accommodate their schedules.
I interviewed several local pharmacists about how their company allows interaction with assisted living care facilities and their resident seniors. In some cases, the pharmacists only provide vaccinations and medications. Others only have medications delivered but may speak with the patients by telephone. In one case, the pharmacy provides a monthly event focusing on a particular illness and its prevention, provides vaccinations and interacts more extensively with seniors. In addition, seniors may bring their medication containers or a list of the medications and or supplements they are taking and obtain the pharmacists’ advice on side effects, interactions and dosages and restrictions or recommendations on dietary regimes.
Pharmacists do not generally have direct interactions with seniors in the assisted facility itself unless their office is located within the facility or very close by. In these cases, the contact would be by telephone rather than face-to-face. This is still important because the pharmacists still generally have more time to talk to the seniors by telephone than a physician who would normally rely on an also busy nurse to answer inquiries.
I am hoping to be able to work in a pharmacy setting that would allow a great deal of interaction with customers, especially seniors. As I indicated in my short autobiography, I am a health science major which would allow me to speak about dietary supplements, diet, exercise and other health regimes. This combined with the pharmacy education would provide the necessary background to advise seniors with basic information on health and disease and prevention. The combination of health science and pharmacy would be a broader platform to help seniors. I have a strong wish to be of service, especially to older people. I want to be able to give good advice on healthy living and be able to participate in their regaining health whether recovering from illness, injury or medical procedures that would involve medications and other lifestyle options.

Response by Refugio Martinez, Our Lady of the Lake University

My mother’s health and quality of life are of the upmost importance to me. Even though I do not have a medical background, I do understand how troublesome the cost of affordable healthcare, medications, and health services can be for her. I have always told her that those are things she should worry about the least.
As a student of leadership theories and research, I would use my expertise to identify and connect with specific in-home care programs and providers. I am knowledgeable in identifying trends in the local San Antonio market and can easily tell when price exceeds investment. Because of her age (55) my mother does not yet qualify for Medicare so I have taken responsibility in ensuring that her limited income can sustain her prolonged need for medications and doctor’s visits.
If I can help my mother with these issues I know I can help others that find themselves in this unique situation. As an experienced speaker and presenter, I would take opportunities to speak for and be an advocate of our older generation in order for their voices to be heard. Sadly, there are too many stories being told of our older people that go neglected and ignored. Using my studies and practice in oral communication I would seek out and speak with in-home care administrators and officials and encourage them to work to find a way to make their services to everyone regardless of income and age.
I especially am interested in working for and with our local veterans who are having trouble with their Veteran’s Administrations health benefits. These benefits are sometimes the difference between life and death, and if any of our American heroes are ever denied proper and swift medical care, it will and continue to be an tragedy. As a veteran myself, I too have had to wait much longer than expected for benefits to be awarded. I have seen firsthand the type of red tape that a veteran has to go through to even be able to speak to a medical professional. With my knowledge of military terms and chain of command structure, I am willing to organize support groups for veterans here in San Antonio that will focus on finding ways to circumnavigate the lengthy VA process of getting and keeping important medical and health care benefits.
Finally, one of my long term goals is to establish a Veteran’s Center at Our Lady of the Lake University here in San Antonio, TX. When applying for the doctorate program, I realized that there was no established services center focused on taking care of veterans that were ready to transition from military life to student life. I have reached out to the Student Veterans Organization and have already begun taking the steps necessary to establish and maintain a Veteran’s Center at the university. Additionally, I want to connect with the local Wounded Warriors chapter to add additional publicity to the project and to put faces to the work that is to be done. As part of the partnership, I also want help in partnering with local health care providers that would be willing to provide free or low-cost health services to student veterans attending Our Lady of the Lake.
I have many dreams and aspirations but none is greater than my desire to give back to my family and community. I am eternally grateful to those who have been an inspiration in my life and who have helped guide me on this path of servant leadership.

Response by Rochelle Allison, George Washington University

Early in my career as a registered nurse I realized the true meaning of the circle of life. We come into this world as infants striving to obtain independence and needing assistance for basic functions. As we advance in age, our minds and bodies change yet those same goals are a priority. In my nursing career within the ICU and ER, I have had the pleasure of working with the elderly population. I have witnessed full functioning elderly patients who maintain a high quality of life within the assisted living community and others who have had their rights taken from them for safety or financial reasons. Seniors are a vital part of our community and as health care improves, the longevity of these patients increases as well. It is our responsibility as health care providers to maximize the quality of life and safety of these individuals.
Some believe that when you reach retirement age life is over. I believe we need to get back to the idea of “the golden years” and allowing seniors to continue to live their lives to the fullest. Assisted living allows seniors to transition from their homes where they may no longer be safe to live yet does not rob them of their rights and independence. I have often repeated the phrase “if it is not broken then don’t fix it”. If a senior is able to perform ADL’s and other tasks for themselves then they should be supported and allowed to continue those things. Too often as a nurse we try and help patients by doing everything for them, but the reality is we need to continue to allow seniors to do as much for themselves as long as possible. Any health care provider can manage the care of seniors, however, we as nurses look beyond the problem and look at the patient as a whole and consider all aspects of their lives. We have an ability to connect to patients and they trust us. Because of that, it is our duty to provide the level of care these patients deserve.
I am in the process of obtaining my doctorate of nursing practice. I believe as a nurse practitioner I will have the ability to work very closely with seniors of assisted living. As health care continues to evolve so will the role and responsibilities of the nurse practitioner. My prior experience and what I will learn through my education will aid me in providing exceptional patient-centered care to seniors in assisted living facilities. As nurse practitioners obtain full practice authority and the patient-centered medical home gains momentum, NP’s will hold a strategic position within the health care delivery system. Nurse Practitioners will be these seniors’ primary care providers. My knowledge and expertise will allow me to provide a valuable service to the seniors of my community by managing their medical care, aiding them in maintaining their independence while prioritizing safety, and bringing them to the optimum level of wellness possible. I believe nurse practitioners can be a valuable asset to the assisted living community by making rounds and catching medical concerns early before they become a problem and threaten the life and independence of seniors.
The seniors of our community deserve respect and to be taken care of properly. It is time we as a nation start investing in the people who worked hard to provide the benefits and stable foundation that we all enjoy each day. It will be my honor and pleasure to provide care to the seniors in assisted living as a nurse practitioner. I hope that my education will allow me to influence positive change in the political sector for the rights and benefits of seniors as well.

Response by Roman Chavez, Columbia Basin College

I was born and raised in the Benton County, Washington area. It is also known as the Tri- Cities and consists of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, WA. These three cities make for a great diverse community and a great place to raise a family and enjoy retirement. There are many resources and assistance available to senior citizens in the area. They include medical providers who specialize in senior care to assisted living homes, retirement communities and senior recreation areas.
My major area of study is in the medical field and my future goal is to apply to the Nursing program and eventually continue on as a Nurse Practitioner or as a Physician’s Assistant. As a Registered Nurse I will be able to focus my attention on different parts of the medical field. One that I find very interesting is Geriatrics, which pertains to the focus on health among older adults. I will be able to work with the elderly, their families and the community to support and improve healthy aging and a strong quality of life. The elderly have a higher risk of injuries and diseases like Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Osteoporosis. As a Geriatric Nurse I will be able to focus on preventative care and help patients and their families to better understand certain medical conditions that come later in life.
One of the main skills that I would like to focus on is mental health to better help older adults and seniors in assisted living. While volunteering at an assisted living community I noticed that many of individuals were alone and depressed. Taking them outside for a brisk walk and a good conversation for a few minutes would brighten up their day. It is very important for them to participate in daily physical activities and socialize with other people. It lets them feel like they aren’t forgotten and that someone still cares for them.
Continuing my education as a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant will allow me to expand my knowledge on how to better care for the elderly in assisted living facilities. I will have a better understanding on treatment planning and rehabilitation services that will better the lives of these seniors. In today’s world there are a lot of seniors who need specialized care and attention. I would love to work in a nursing home and help patients transition to life in an assisted living community, which can be difficult and life changing. They come from living with family or friends to being around strangers in an unknown place. This is why I feel it is important to focus on the mental health of seniors in assisted living as much as we can. There are many options I can take as a Nurse and beyond, but no matter what I choose I make sure to provide great healthcare to my community and help people live long, happy and healthy lives.

Response by Romesh Nalliah, Harvard University

The United States (US) is an aging population.1 As people live longer they acquire more chronic disease, take more medications and become increasingly complex to manage in the healthcare system. Older individuals are an asset to society –they have wisdom, knowledge, experience and a resilience built through perseverance. In healthcare, older adults deserve to be treated with equity and deserve the highest quality of healthcare. I’m in my second year of a Masters in Healthcare Management program and my focus is Aging. While studying, I completed a research project on older adults who present to hospitals with dental problems.2 Dental disease is completely preventable –brush and floss regularly and see your dentist regularly and you will prevent dental disease! Yet, Government insurances do little to support preventive dental among the adults, leave alone the elderly. Our study found that the hospital charges associated with Geriatric patients was double that of the general population. Moreover, when older adults present to the emergency room with a dental problem about 30% of them end up being admitted to a long term care facility, short term care facility or have to be enrolled in home healthcare. These are all additional costs to the individual, their family and society that may have been prevented if the original dental related visit had been prevented!
We have to focus more on prevention among Geriatric patients but healthcare in the United States is back-to-front. Government spending focuses on problems rather than prevention. Nowhere is this more obvious than in dental disease. Dental coverage accounts for only 1% of Government spending in Medicaid and Medicare provides negligible dental coverage.3,4 Yet, when adults end up in hospital emergency rooms because of a dental problem, close to 40% are Medicaid or Medicare patients.3 This is associated with hospital charges of about $560 million per year! The Government refuses to pay for dental prevention, yet, it pays to provide care in the Emergency Room –a place where dental care is inefficient and often inappropriate!5
Once I graduate I want to lead a multidisciplinary prevention approach for older adults. I have observed innovative organizations like Participants of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) programs 6 in Massachusetts and learned that these systems must be expanded and replicated nationwide. But the approach to improve circumstances and health outcomes for the elderly in assisted care facilities cannot depend on clinical innovation only. Innovative funding mechanisms are necessary to support these patients and, ultimately, reduce healthcare costs. Our Policymakers need to understand the value of prevention, our healthcare professionals need to focus their care on prevention and the general population needs to understand, value and practice prevention. This is certainly an ambitious goal, yet, it is critical to the survival and success of the United States. Healthcare costs are rising at a faster rate than Gross Domestic Product and at a faster rate than any other developed nations yet lags behind all of them in health outcomes.5 As the nation ages, the issue of controlling healthcare costs for the elderly will become more and more critical.

Response by Ron Ullrich, Spring Arbor University

In the past I have heard well-meaning pastors say they go to nursing homes to prepare people for heaven (or in blunter terms, for death). This mentality is wrong, heartless, and drains hope from residents.
I have been learning not just that every life is valuable, but how to respect each life as valuable and share life worth with people who feel worthless. Sad to say while assisted living facilities are incredible places of healing, I have found that some residents suffer great physical, emotional, and spiritual pains which lead to depression, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Physical pain, family problems, loneliness, and humiliation at a lack of independence can all take a toll on a person’s well-being and this is why I am so thankful for what my master’s degree and mentor have been teaching me. I have been learning how to share myself with others and hope with those who are hopeless by receiving hope myself in understanding God’s love for me.
Physical therapists enabling those who cannot walk to walk again shine light and hope. Musicians and artists sharing their talents bring hope and joy! The grounds and janitorial staff who keep the place looking beautiful and clean bring hope! The nursing staff working directly with residents can bring hope! The kitchen staff offer hope and joy served on a plate! Being a volunteer chaplain I am but one of many individuals bringing hope and joy to residents even if it is just through bearing a caring smile, compassionate ear, and a heartfelt prayer. Simple things matter to the residents. One resident who would sit in the courtyard daily was telling me how she found a young and weak sparrow in a bush and she crumbled up a cracker for it. Before long the staff and other residents got in on feeding the sparrow too! It is incredible how many people were impacted by one resident finding joy in feeding what many of us in our busy lives would not even take the time to see, a hungry sparrow barely able to hop in a bush. But now the sparrow can fly!
When I preach on Wednesdays or Sundays I try to bring a message that encourages the residents where they are at now. “You have gifts you can share with others! You make a difference because you are here! God loves you!” The crazy thing is that the residents give me as much as I give them. I love listening to what their lives were like when they were younger, hearing about their families, and even listening to their life wisdom! Listening is one of the most valuable things I have been learning how to do. Being a volunteer chaplain isn’t about me and my beliefs (though it gives me an opportunity to practice what I believe by loving others). I have been learning how to be present with God and with others in the moment and it has been changing how I interact with people. I have found myself even being approached by staff who needed someone to talk to. I no longer see people in assisted living facilities as different from myself. I see them as just as human as I am.
Henri Nouwen taught in his book Reaching Out that true hospitality is not the host and guest relationship as we commonly understand it in that the host offers something to a purely passive receptive guest. True hospitality rather is a relationship where the lines between who is offering what to whom is blurred to the point that “guest” and “host” are indistinguishable so that the relationship is not based upon a hierarchy but upon the mutual respect found in both giving and receiving from each other. In other words: As much as I have to offer you, you have something to offer me. I have found this principle proven true again and again at Bethany. I can get done preaching a message only to immediately be taught something by one of my listeners! Amazing! It is this spirit of hospitality I have been learning to carry into the assisted living home through my master’s degree program. What I have been learning is that offering residents who may not often be asked to give at all to anyone an opportunity to pour into someone is one way I can give people a sense of life worth.

Response by Ruthann Longcor, Indiana Wesleyan University

Wait! Did she just say that? She wants to die? There we stood, staring at one another, contemplating the reality of her words. What were we supposed to do next? Our once vibrant, schoolteacher aunt, who mentored us through our tough spots, now feels hopeless following a stroke and the death of her husband. Her sons live in Arizona and Georgia. And we stand in disbelief, in Indiana, feeling helpless!
This is not a rare family predicament. Our economy requires double income households. Jobs require relocations across the country. Adult children are separated from parents. Parents age, health fails, and spouses die. Our seniors, living in assisted living, can face their toughest season of life—feeling alone and depression sets in. This is a family issue, but it is not an isolated incident. It is, therefore, a problem of our society. It has tiers of concerns—all without easy solutions. Who better to address these concerns than marriage and family therapists? They are trained to view problems from a systems perspective, capable of not only sitting with families as they navigate difficult scenarios, but with physicians, assisted living homes, churches, and the community. Families need help navigating this inevitable season of life, but our communities need help as well.
Is reversing this trend too ambitious a goal? Is reducing depression possible? How can we maintain quality of life as we age? How can seniors hang on to hope in their final chapter of life? Perhaps our society needs our seniors as much as they need us. Too many people are cutting, self-medicating, and suffering due to lack of purpose, while our seniors are dying with a lack community support. Linking these needs is not a simple fix, but one that can be addressed by MFTs on multiple fronts.
An MFT can be a powerful force in assisting families to incorporate forgotten seniors in multiple ways. A therapist participates with families during intimate family discussions, which in all likelihood includes how to handle life development stages. Incorporating the older generation into the family may get forgotten—yet the very act of coming together to nurture the aging may prove to be a goal that heals and strengthens families. Therapy may include developing a strategy for coping with the senior years, equipping parents in the sandwich generation to brainstorm ways of caring for aging parents and children in the same season of life, and helping children and teenagers grow in confidence through altruistic concern for grandparents. Finally, an MFT has the unique opportunity to help people think through assisted living: encouraging positive attitudes and behaviors, which lend themselves to staying in contact with the younger generation. Counseling can help with understanding loss and depression, ways to be resilient, and methods of staying positive. MFTs can assist through individual counseling or in group therapy.
Next, MFT’s are vital in the multi-disciplinary care team for a depressed senior. The team is often focused on medications, diet, and physical therapy. How easy for the staff to see just another old man or woman—instead of addressing individuals as the professors, the CEOs, the teachers, or the mothers that they really are. MFTs can give insight into assessing and strengthening a senior’s mental health, which impacts every other area of their well being. Depression affects appetite, motivation, and chronic pain.
Finally, depression in our senior population is not just an individual problem or even a family problem. Our culture, as a whole, has contributed to the marginalizing of the aging—therefore, attacking the problem must have a community component. An MFT can serve on boards, participate in task forces, or simply be a voice for the forgotten in every day conversations. Our seniors are not the only ones who are suffering from loneliness and lack of purpose—serving our seniors may be vital to the mental health of our entire society. Marriage and Family Therapists can play a crucial role in the well being of seniors in assisted living.

Response by Ryan Mitchell, Saint Joseph’s University

Lititz Pennsylvania, my town, has over 21 assisted living facilities all within a couple miles of each other. All off these facilities and their members, rely on foodservices and large food companies to source nutritional meals for their residents. Unfortunately, many seniors don’t get enough of the nutrients they need from their current diets. Food marketing majors, like myself, have the opportunity to help these families and individuals by creating and bringing to market products that can benefit them and improve their daily lives. May senior citizens today rely on vitamin and dietary supplements just to get the nutrition their body needs. These individuals in many cases can’t absorb enough of the foods’ natural nutrition. As a food marketer, I understand that these supplements can play an important role in filling the gaps in seniors diets but know that choosing the right foods can play just as big of a role. Seniors in assisted living facilities and those that care for them have enough medications and pills to worry about why add unnecessary supplements to the list.
Food marketers can help by marketing products high in vitamin D, calcium, iron, and other nutrients that seniors require directly to seniors and those that care for them. A lot of people think of marketing as a way of deceiving customers into buying products that they don’t really need, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Marketers want to gain trust and try to build relationships to create loyal repeat customers. What better way to build relationships than by helping someone feel better and be healthier? By targeting seniors and their specific needs, these companies can provide nutritious foods that fit seniors unique dietary needs. Educating seniors about foods that meet their nutritional needs is a mutually beneficial venture that would not only help food companies but would greatly help the ever-growing senior population.
Having grown up in a town filled with senior living facilities and having grandparents going through many of the same problems that other seniors face, I see the need for more food products intend to help senior citizens get the nutrients that their bodies need. As a food marketing major, I have the responsibility as well as the resources to help make this a reality. Senior citizens have enough to worry about and deserve to live without unnecessary vitamin or dietary supplements. They deserve to enjoy the food they eat and know that what they are eating is helping improve their health. Helping senior citizens not only helps them but helps those around them and those that love and care for them. If food marketers do their part to help senior citizens with senior-specific marketing, Lititz Pennsylvania and the entire United States would greatly benefit.

Response by Sabrina Bogle, University of Oklahoma

As a lifelong athlete, my personal career goals are to be a leader in helping people live a healthy and fit life whether they are an athlete, an individual who has been injured, or an aging person who needs more flexibility in order to carry out day-to-day activities. To achieve this dream, I am attending The University of Oklahoma where I will obtain a health sciences undergraduate degree and a doctorate in physical therapy.
A successful physical therapist needs to know their subject matter thoroughly but also needs to be part cheerleader to spur the patient to exceed his own expectations. She needs to be empathetic to understand the patient’s situation and fears. A good physical therapist needs to be able to engage with other health professionals to fully serve the patient and have the leadership courage to advocate for the patient when the need arises. These are the qualities that I have developed throughout my life and will continue to improve during my studies.
I have personally witnessed how physical therapy is an important health service to a wide range of people. I first became acquainted with physical therapy as an elite gymnast when I sustained a back injury. I have also seen how physical therapy can help medical patients recover from surgeries such as the hip replacement my father underwent. Finally, I have seen how physical therapy can bring a better quality of life to older people who are suffering from a limited range of motion caused by disease such as with my grandmother who eventually became wheelchair bound.
My father experienced physical therapy when he underwent hip replacement surgery both in the hospital and at home. His therapy started at the most basic level of getting out of bed and walking just a few hours after surgery. The therapy continued in our home as he recuperated. Because he was a compliant patient and completed all his exercises both with and without the physical therapist, he quickly recovered and was able to return to work quicker than normal and has no hip issues at all today. His therapists stressed that his recovery success was dependent on his fully participating and embracing his exercises. People of all ages and health status have surgery and are in need of physical therapy in order to return to their normal lifestyle. Many times, this physical therapy must take place at the patient’s home as the person is unable to travel to the therapy clinic.
I witness a very different type of physical therapy when my grandmother became suddenly ill with a very fast moving Alzheimers Disease, Congestive Heart Failure and Osteoporosis that caused fractures in her back. She was perfectly normal appearing Christmas of 2012 living in her own home. In February, I was shocked at the change in my Nanna. She could barely stand up or walk. She was confused and angry. We knew something was very wrong. She underwent physical therapy at her home and gradually began to straighten up and walk with a walker. She also underwent physical therapy to try to help relieve the extreme swelling in her ankles. Her therapy continued as we moved her into an assisted living facility. As it was difficult to get her out, she was totally dependent on the therapists to visit her regularly. While her quality of life was quickly diminishing, the physical therapist were very helpful in giving relief from the pain but almost more important was the emotional benefit. It was a bright spot in her day when the therapist would come visit with her as they would spend the hour talking and laughing with her while they helped her with therapy.
The health care industry needs good physical therapists but we also need leaders in the field who work to develop new techniques to treat patients so that seniors can continue to live independently and to have the best quality of life possible as they continue to age. I am passionate about how physical therapy can help bring a better quality of life to seniors whether the care is provided in their home or in other environments such as assisted living facilities. It is my personal goal to be not only an outstanding therapist, but also a leader in the field.

Response by Samantha Ramirez, Wayne State University

While visiting a family member in an assisted living, a nurse learned that I was studying audiology and told me about one of the residents. She expressed the resident may not be hearing her and this was causing frustration. This was very worrisome because the nurse could not ask the resident important health questions. She was concerned about his behavior as he never attended community activities and his family visits they were very short. I agreed to help and I found out that he owns hearing aids, but has not worn them in almost a year. As I looked at the hearing aids and the solution was simple, one of the hearing aid batteries was inserted backwards and they both had manual volume controls. I showed the patient how to change the volume and correctly insert batteries, then placed them on his ears. Before he said anything, I could see a sense of relief in his face. He could finally hear again. I believe if the resident or nurse had knowledge on hearing aid care, the communication conflict could have been resolved sooner. I realized that he did not know how to use his hearing aids. His wife was the one who was caring for the devices. She was the supporter encouraging him to wear his aids everyday, and once she had passed about a year ago, he stopped wearing them.
The aging population not only loses their hearing, but also their vision and dexterity which poses problems for hearing aid users because of the advanced technology and size of hearing aids. Audiologists provide counseling on hearing aids to their patients, but this training needs to be given to other medical professionals and family caregivers so they have to tools to manage the devices also. My major of study has the training and knowledge to resolve the dilemmas surrounding hearing aids. Providing training seminars at assisted living facilities is one of the solutions. At these sessions the residents, medical staff, and families can come and learn how to correctly clean, store, and change hearing aid batteries. Caregivers will learn the signs and symptoms that indicate when a loved one may need to see an audiologist for a hearing aid check-up. The sessions will supply quick guides with a checklist of troubleshooting steps if hearing aids are not working. These sessions will also create a medium for group support which in turn, will promote residents to actively wear their hearing aids and improve their daily living.
Along with the hearing aid training, audiology seminars can also provide factual information on hearing loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, many people live with hearing loss for more than ten years before seeking a amplification and by then, their impairment has progressed to moderate-to-severe levels. Research at Harvard (2013) and Johns-Hopkins (2011) have proven that memory and other cognitive deficits in the geriatric population is linked to untreated hearing loss. Many individuals who live in assisted living suffer from deficits like strokes, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative diseases. Being assessed and treated for a hearing impairment could increase their quality of life and ultimately slow down the decline if hearing loss is addressed.
Audiology is a small field, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession will need to increase 29% between now and 2024 in order to serve the growing aging population. My decision and purpose to become and audiologist was always to fulfill this specific need. I understand that persons in assisted living may not be able to go see an audiologist for check-ups and hearing aid counseling. This can be addressed if the audiology community makes efforts to visit assisted living facilities and provide the necessary education for residents, families, and other medical professionals. As I continue my education as an audiology student, I can advocate for the importance of hearing health. I believe all hearing aid users should have access to all the benefits their devices can offer. I want to be a pioneer in creating a solution and protocol to better serve the residents in assisted living.

Response by Sara Sparks, Texas Woman’s University

Occupational Therapy is one major that works hand in hand with seniors living in assisted living facilities. As an Occupational Therapist, my main goal is to help individuals of a variety of settings and ailments engage in meaningful and necessary activities as successfully and independently as possible.
Among the improvements Occupational Therapists can make to the lives of seniors in assisted living are; proper fit of wheelchairs, canes, and walkers, developing daily routines, searching for and educating on meaningful activities that can be done within the facility, memory care activities, and safety education for residents and staff.
Ensuring that a wheelchair, cane, or walker is a proper fit is vital to ensuring safety in the lives of seniors. Making sure a wheelchair has the proper specs for the individual, the proper height, and appropriate seating to minimize decubitus ulcers will certainly improve quality of life for the senior. Making certain that a senior’s cane and walker are a proper height and fit to them will not only make mobility easier, but also safer, and thus, minimize falls.
Visiting assisted living facilities and the seniors who reside in them is a frequent activity of an Occupational Therapy student. Through these visits and conversations with residents, I have found that having a lack of routine is often an issue that leads to boredom and a sense of pointlessness to life. As an Occupational Therapist, we can introduce daily routines and even routine planning and management with the seniors to provide them with a sense of purpose and comfort.
One important factor that sets Occupational Therapy apart is our purpose to work with individuals on activities that are meaningful to them. For each individual, this will likely be different, but working with each senior to determine what activity is most meaningful to them, then working towards a plan to incorporate that activity into daily life is one thing Occupational Therapists can do to ensure an enjoyable life in an assisted living facility.
A very unfortunate reason for why many individuals live in assisted living is degenerative memory disease, such as Alzheimer’s. While Occupational Therapist cannot help in remediating the effects of these diseases, they can ensure that happiness is added to the time the individual does have. Utilizing music therapeutically, working on memory related games as a group, and developing a memory picture book are just some of the activities Occupational Therapists can bring into assisted living facilities. While many of these individuals may not remember the exact activities they engaged in that day, their bodies are able to tell their minds that the day they had was a happy one, thanks to brain chemistry. Happiness and smiles lead to euphoric feelings, which can last throughout the day.
Educating residents and staff of assisted living facilities on how to minimize falls and how to increase safety in the facility is another item that Occupational Therapy brings to the table. With falls and seniors often comes broken hips and decreased quality of life, something that should be avoided if at all possible. Ensuring that seniors in the assisted living facilities can navigate the facility safely, get into and out of bed safely, and accomplish grooming and toileting activities safely is pertinent to not only the seniors themselves, but also to the facility staff. Occupational Therapists are expertly trained to recognize these possible hazardous areas and fix and educate upon them, leading to happier, longer, and better quality of life for seniors.
While there is so much more that Occupational Therapy can do for seniors in assisted living, this was just a small peek into the vast window of offerings Occupational Therapists provide.

Response by Sarah Bonkowski, Duke University

The DNP-prepared Family Nurse Practitioner is in a position to provide excellent care for seniors in assisted living facilities. The MSN and DNP provide further education not only in patient care, but in evidence-based practice, educational techniques, and approaches to care of the older adult. In my clinical experiences, I have seen the special needs of senior patients and, particularly, of senior patients who live in assisted living facilities. For one, these patients need more time to talk with the provider and more patience from the provider. The provider who was educated under the nursing model is in a position to provide patient-centered care that views the patient in a holistic sense. With my background as a nurse and my understanding of the needs of the community, I will be able to provide services in the clinic setting, in the assisted living facility, and, if I have hospital privileges, I can visit these patients when they are hospitalized. I think a key factor is the provider’s knowledge of resources available in the community and, even as a student, I am working to become more aware of services available for seniors and their families as well as resources that I can use to further my knowledge and understanding. My goal is to provide the best care possible for these patients and remembering this goal will remind me of my purpose as a provider.
I am currently in the planning stages for my DNP capstone project. My area of interest lies in patient education and empowerment, particularly with seniors. I feel it is vital that patients do not blindly agree to follow what the provider wants but to instead be educated about the concern at hand, ask questions, and feel that they can have input in their care. Understandably, many seniors in the assisted living setting are unable to care for themselves and may not be able to comprehend what we are discussing. This is where I hope to include family members and, if family members are not involved or unable to be present, I would include the assisted living facility staff in education. Along with this, taking the time to listen to the patient, observe mannerisms, and moving through the visit slowly will help to ensure that I provide quality care that improves the lives of my assisted living facility patients.
It is important to approach senior patients appropriately. Talking at a volume at which they can hear me, sitting face to face, and looking directly at the senior when speaking to them will improve communication. All care with seniors needs to be adjusted ever so slightly to ensure they are receiving quality care and that they are at ease while in the office or while I am visiting them at the facility.
Ultimately, advanced practice nurses, such as Family Nurse Practitioners, are positioned to have a tremendous impact on the senior population, including those in assisted living facilities. It is my goal as I continue my education, to provide high quality care that keeps the focus on the patient. When the focus is on what is best for the patient, the patient is more likely to benefit from the healthcare system, will have greater support, and will experience better outcomes.

Response by Sarah Erickson, Columbia University

I am a student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, where I am pursuing a Master of Science degree with an emphasis on investigative journalism and documentary film. As a teenager, I visited my grandmother in an assisted living home for years before she passed away on our shared birthday in 2004. Before she retired, she was a social worker and spent her life caring for and looking after others, so I was glad that when she moved into an assisted living home in her 80s, she experienced the excellent care and attention she deserved. Sadly, there are those who do not receive the same healthcare and assistance that she relied upon in her old age, and as an investigative journalist, one of the things I can do is help look out for those who cannot advocate for themselves, including the elderly.
Senior citizens are one of the populations least covered or represented in mainstream media, but they are also one of the most vulnerable populations. In July of 2015, The New York World, an investigative publication run through Columbia’s Journalism School, published an exposé on the overload of cases being managed and under-attended to by the NYC service Adult Protective Services (APS). APS functions as a last-resort safeguard and caregiver to adults who are elderly and disabled and lack another option for care. The investigation conducted by The New York World focused on the number of cases handled by each APS caseworker, a figure found to be well above the state-recommended number. Additionally, it identified the city-run service’s systematic failure to protect its clients. By exposing the mismanagement of care for the city’s neediest and most vulnerable citizens, this investigation shed light on an important social issue and opened APS up to reform. Ultimately, the published report may save lives for seniors in the future who can by then rely on an improved APS for care.
Journalism plays a vital role in protecting the democratic interests of the people it serves, of this the framers of the United States Constitution agreed. A free press is one that can work independently of government institutions and thereby serve as a watchdog. Fair reporting can unearth wrongdoing and pave the way for needed change. By the same token, it can also highlight those who are doing things right and spotlight them for others to emulate. It is my commitment to doing something for the greater good and my love for storytelling that drew me to journalism. Now, with tools to tell stories in a variety of mediums—as a documentary filmmaker and investigative writer and reporter—I can use my voice to address issues seldom or never covered in the mainstream media, and I can give vulnerable populations like elderly adults a platform.
New York City, one of the most vibrant and populous cities in the world, is a veritable Mecca for storytelling. As a journalist in the Big Apple, not only do I have the opportunity to seek out stories that could help improve care and access to needed services for those in assisted living, I have the opportunity to report for publications that inform and entertain these same populations. My grandmother’s apartment in her assisted living home always had the latest newspaper on the kitchen table and the news running in the background on her television. My grandfather, who is still alive, regularly sends me links to articles from the New Yorker and other publications that he swears by. Having access to in-depth journalism on a regular basis keeps his brain stimulated and in I credit that as one of the factors that has allowed him to thrive at age 90.
Quality journalism plays an important role in society at large, and when it comes to senior citizens, its role is essential. I feel privileged to be attending one of the best journalism graduate schools in the world, and I hope that my reporting can inspire and protect folks like my grandmother and grandfather for generations to come.

Response by Sarah Hammar, Michigan State University

I have never lived in an area where the local school had more than one hundred children in a given grade. Most schools had less than one hundred children in total. Where I am from, towns often consist of just a single general store, a church, and a bar. Most people don’t consider the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a vacation destination unless they are passionate about the outdoors and frequent bouts of gloomy weather. This small, secluded part of the world is rich in nature, as long stretches of wilderness, inland lakes, and marshes largely constitute this part of the state. The Upper Peninsula is certainly not known for its booming industries or thriving population. No, the UP, as this section of the state is affectionately termed, is mostly one large retirement community. Most of its occupants are the descendants of coal or copper miners, or immigrants that settled in the area in the 1800’s or early 1900’s. Those with families usually leave to find better employment opportunities elsewhere, but upon retirement are then drawn back to the unique beauty of the UP. This was the case with my grandparents and countless others.
My mother is a veterinarian in the Upper Peninsula and as such I worked at her clinic during the summer months of my high school and undergraduate years. Most of her clients are seniors. Some have just a single dog, cat, or bird, some have multiple animals, and others simply take in strays, bring them in for checkups, and then try to find them permanent homes. Though each of my mother’s senior clients are unique, they all have one trait in common: their animals keep them going and bring joy to their lives. Companion animals, such as dogs and cats, are often the only family some seniors have. I have lost both grandmothers recently, one in 2013 and the other just last week, and the loss of each has been absolutely heartbreaking. It has been even more heartbreaking for my grandfathers, but the unconditional love they receive from their pets is what has kept them from completely falling into despair. I thank their dogs every day for that, and shudder to think what state my grandfathers would be in had they not had their dogs to comfort them.
Unfortunately, some seniors eventually require assisted living and are no longer able to care for their animals. Often when this occurs seniors enter a state of depression and may fade faster than they would have if they still had the comfort of their pets. I plan to change this for the seniors requiring assisted living in my hometown. There are mountains of evidence that suggests owning or being with animals is beneficial to both mental and physical health, particularly in the case of seniors.
I want to give back to the people who brought so much to our small communities and helped create the unique culture of the UP. I have seen the profoundly positive effects of animals in the lives of seniors. My dream is to become a mobile veterinarian and service those who still live in their house but need assisted living conditions, such as those who aided by home health nurses, and offer veterinary care to their animals in the comfort of their home. I plan to hire a mobile kennel staff to go to the homes of seniors to walk or play with their pets, as well as provide food and water for their pets on personalized schedules. With these services people who are unable to fully care for their animals are able to enjoy the comfort of their pets while receiving the care they need for themselves as well, and in doing so bettering the welfare both of seniors and their pets.

Response by Sarah Kean, Ferris State University

Pharmacists have been equipped with many skills through schooling and clinical rotations that can help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities. The senior population is rapidly growing, which aligns with the profession of pharmacy growing exponentially. Most people think of the typical pharmacist as one who just dispenses, but the world of pharmacy actually consists of many different types of pharmacists with many different roles. For example, there are also pharmacists in hospitals, clinics, and some even specialize (eg. pediatric, psychiatric etc.). Moreover, many assisted living facilities have pharmacies within them. The pharmacist in this type of setting ensures the right patient is getting the right medication at the right dose via the right route at the right time. This is vital to keep patients safe and healthy. Additionally, the pharmacist can counsel patients to enable them to get the best use of their medications. Educating patients can help them manage chronic disease states (eg. diabetes, high blood pressure etc.) and cure illnesses. Pharmacists also play a role in vaccinating and even just helping suppress allergy or cold symptoms with over-the-counter medication recommendations.
In addition to pharmacies within facilities, there are other pharmacists in the community that have skills that can also help seniors. For example, as a soon-to-be pharmacist, I had the opportunity to go to an assisted living facility in Kalamazoo, MI and present a PowerPoint that a couple students and I created. The presentation was on over-the-counter medications, drug interactions (eg. Warfarin with other medications and food), storage, diet, exercise, and tips for remembering to take medications. It was well-received by the residents, as they all had additional questions to follow up with. Educating them on the medications they take every day was very helpful, as it consumes a large portion of their life. This is one of the reasons I chose to go into pharmacy—almost everyone is going to need a medication at some point in their life and I can ensure they are safe while guiding them in taking it appropriately!
There are other types of opportunities for pharmacists to help out in this patient population, depending on the type of assisted living facility, as well. There was a “Senior & Caregiver Expo Day” in Kalamazoo, MI in which seniors from assisted living communities came to learn about different health aspects at multiple showcase booths. Pharmacists or vaccination-certified pharmacy students, such as myself, volunteered to give flu vaccines at the expo. I personally gave around 40 vaccines to senior patients, but there were many other volunteers contributing as well. I was happy to hear the seniors were involved and interested in their own healthcare, as they even asked other questions before and after their shot.
All in all, pharmacists will always play an integral role in the senior population’s healthcare. They can have a life-changing impact, as people always have questions about their medications and it seems to be what consumes a lot of this population’s conversation. I love that I can help people stay healthy or get on the path to being healthy. I have such a passion for pharmacy and am eager and excited to continue my journey in the profession!

Response by Sarah Morgan, Gannon University

Rose turned 87 last week. She is strong, beautiful, and has a story worth telling. Many years before I met Rose, her husband Henry passed away and she was left with a 106 acre dairy farm to maintain on her own. She kept things up with the help of her three sons, particularly Dan, the oldest who moved back to the farm after his father passed. Rose had a beautiful life in the countryside of western Pennsylvania. As she aged, she was able to do most things that she had always done. Dan and her family helped with the rest. Although they no longer had cows on the dairy, Rose was able to make some income renting out the fields and kept a beautiful garden for herself. It was the envy of anyone who drove down the dirt road that they lived on. All in all, she was a very happy person.
Rose lived for several years in this euphoric state but in winter of 2012, something terrible happened. Dan was in an accident and never made it back to the farm. Rose was grief stricken. She could not carry on her life alone on the 106 acre farm. Her family came to help when they could but without someone living on the farm with her, she began to struggle. Rose slipped into a deep depression. On top of this, she began having extreme leg and back pain that doctors could not diagnose. For the first time in a long time, Rose felt hopeless. She never wanted to live anywhere but the family farm. This is where she built her life, raised a family, and kept her beautiful garden, although without the help of Dan, it became overgrown and no longer produced the beautiful vegetables and flowers that passers-by had come to expect.
I met Rose in 2012 at the memorial service held for Dan. I was a friend of her grandson to whom I am now engaged. We watched hopelessly as Rose’s health continued to deteriorate. It seemed there were no other options but to move her out of the farm and into a nursing home. Rose said that she would never be happy away from the farm. The family had some decisions to make. Rose’s middle son, Jack, suggested hiring a home care aid which helped greatly. Rose was able to see that she could still live on the farm which was a great relief. Her grandson and I began coming to work in the garden where Rose helped to teach us more and more about farming and gardening. She loved having someone to carry out her expertise, as she no longer had the dexterity to do so, and we loved learning from her. She would explain how and why we needed to do certain things and we would simply follow her instructions. We went on to keep honey bees at the farm and will be keeping animals this spring. Rose slowly but surely began to recover from the leg and back pain, as well as the depression. She is now living happily on her own, with help from her family and a home-care nurse. However, Rose has expressed that when the time comes, she will be more comfortable going to an assisted living facility, knowing that her life’s work will be passed down to the next generation.
My town is home to hundreds of aging farmers who are plagued with issues similar to Rose’s. This is where I know that I can make an impact through my education. I am enrolled in a Master’s of Business Administration Program. Upon graduation, I plan to create a non-profit farm-mentorship program where new farmers will have an opportunity to learn from elder farmers in the region. This will provide both seasoned and new farmers with the tools to improve their quality of life through intergenerational teaching. Seniors residing in assisted living facilities will have the opportunity to meet with apprentice farmers and gardeners to discuss techniques, successes, and failures that they have experienced. This will help the next generation to maximize their knowledge as they move into their own agricultural businesses while assuring the seniors that the agricultural community will not dissolve or be forgotten. In fact, their knowledge will continue to grow and feed the community for generations to come.

Response by Sarah Sutherlin, University of New Mexico

Adults over 65 years old are quickly becoming the largest age group in the United States. Because of advances in healthcare and technology, people in this age group are living longer than any other generation before them. Occupational therapists work to help people age in place with dignity and choices. Occupational Therapists are specially trained to help people achieve success despite physical and psychological barriers.
People who receive in-home care are usually experiencing difficulty managing instrumental activities of daily living such as meal preparation, driving, and money management. By the time they recognize the need for help, they may also experience difficulty in activities of daily living including bathing, feeding, toileting, work, and leisure. People experiencing difficulty with activities of daily living are at an enormous risk of social isolation. Social isolation is one of the most hazardous conditions a senior could encounter. It is a strong indicator of decreased quality of life, depression, and mortality. Social isolation can be affected by health, marital status, economic status, age, gender, and level of social activity. When seniors are not able to access their community they effectively disappear. Occupational therapists support and assist with community mobility. This includes mobility within the home, outside of the home, and while driving.
In the home, Occupational Therapists can do the most good. They suggest individualized environmental modifications to promote independence and safety such as increased lighting, grab bars in bath rooms and rails in hall ways, and arranging regularly used items to be within reach. They provide education about energy conservation methods and ergonomics to promote productivity and effectiveness. They provide suggestions of task modification such as taking a shower with a shower chair instead of taking a bath. They help clients manage medications. Education about fall prevention is a big focus and home safety assessments are done to optimize functioning within the home. Occupational Therapists promote productive aging with low-impact exercise routines, wellness activities, and lots of education about potential complications such as low vision, other sensory impairments, and dementia. As part of a hospice care team, Occupational Therapists work with clients to accomplish meaningful activities until the end of life.
Outside of the home, Occupational Therapists recommend the use of ambulation devices and provide training to promote independence and mobility. They easily recognize outdoor environmental hazards such as uneven pavement, subtle curbs and stairs, and abrupt changes in lighting while suggesting simple modifications for each condition. Occupational Therapists advocate for equal access to community programs and services while teaching clients to advocate for themselves. Occupational Therapists refer clients to community resources.
Occupational Therapists recognize that driving is a very important activity that allows access to the community. Occupational Therapists support and educate older drivers to keep them safe and driving for as long as possible. The CarFit program is a national educational program developed by the American Society on Aging, AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association ensuring that vehicles fit their drivers. Occupational Therapists can also be certified to offer prescribed behind-the-wheel driving rehabilitation specialist assessments that physicians use for driving cessation evaluations.
Occupational therapists work to improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care in Albuquerque by helping them age in place. Occupational Therapists are specially trained to help people access their community and avoid social isolation.

Response by Seda Babroudi, Tufts University

Through my major of study, the field of medicine, I believe the lives of seniors receiving in-home care may be improved in three ways. Firstly, on an individual scale, a paradigm shift must occur amongst practicing physicians. Secondly, on a more professional scale, home visits should be reinstituted. Lastly, one of the most frustrating parts of in-home care and aging in general is the inevitable loss of independence that occurs, somewhat suddenly or rather slowly, but is nonetheless poorly received amongst the elderly population. This loss of independence needs to be critically assessed and strategies must be developed to help ease the transition to dependence on a caregiver.
On an individual scale, through the course of my medical training, I will obtain the knowledge to intervene, treat, and manage a multitude of medical conditions. This alone, however, is not enough to improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care. There is a tendency in the field of medicine to provide the most care, which does not necessarily translate into the best care. Caring for a patient requires weighing known medical knowledge of their condition with the unique wishes and goals a patient has expressed regarding their health. In this way, alienating the patient and placing the patient’s family under unnecessary financial burden with no significant improvement in perceived quality of life may be avoided.
On a more professional scale, I believe that physicians can improve in-home care by reinstituting house calls. With a growing elderly population in the United States, and in-home care on an upward trend, providing the option to patients who do not require in-hospital procedures or monitoring to be seen at home would be more convenient and comfortable. Bypassing the need for transportation, which is often a major hassle or headache for the elderly patient in question and his or her family, scheduled home calls provide an alternative to office visits and would likely be preferred by most elderly patients.
Lastly, and arguably most important, is addressing the loss of independence that inevitably accompanies aging. There are tools such as the “Functional Independence Measure” scale that physicians and healthcare professionals use on a regular basis to assess the independence of an elderly patient. These tools, however, only provide insight into the patient’s ability to perform daily living activities, but do not address the psychological or emotional effects that accompany loss of independence. When my grandmother lost many of her independent functions almost overnight after radiation treatment began, her struggle with self-worth and feeling like a burden was comparable to her battle against esophageal cancer that had metastasized all over her body. Therefore, screening patients and checking boxes off a list are not enough to prepare patients and their caregivers for this inevitable loss of independence. I propose that with the independence measure tools, other resources be provided to patients and their caregivers to appropriately address the psychological and emotional burdens that accompany loss of independence. The extent to which patients are bothered by their new-found dependence, and the ability of their caregivers to deal with this discomfort, will, in part, dictate what extra resources need to be sought out to better ease their transition, whether that be mental health services, transportation assistance, or a support group where members may commiserate on the difficulties of relying on others. In this way, the amount of humiliation, anger, resistance, helplessness, and depression aged adults feel when loss of independence occurs may be lessened.
In conclusion, I believe a combination of knowledge of the best medical interventions available, the ability to relate to, understand, and respect a patient’s goals regarding their health, and easing a patient’s loss of independence, are three ways in which my major of study and continuing life experiences with the elderly population will help improve in-home care in my community and beyond.

Response by Sheridan Drew, Western Washington University

At Western Washington University, the college I am currently attending, a specified major of study is offered. It’s not offered in many other schools nationwide and not to the same degree of efficacy. The major is Communication Sciences and Disorders. On a general level, it teaches students the anatomy of speech, hearing, swallowing, and brain function along with ways these things can become disordered. The aim of this course of study is to create working members in the healthcare industry who are specialized to treat pathologies pertaining to these things.
Communication is important; there is no denying this fact. It allows members of each community and society as a whole to express, share, and experience. Communication and its many facets (beyond solely speech) are crucial in how humans can connect and grow with each other. It is a critical tool for adjusting to one’s life and environment. This being said, it is understandable the level of discomfort and pain that a person could experience being unable to do these things with the same level of ability or fluency as the general population. Particularly for those who live in assisted living facilities, the ability to communicate effectively is of great consequence; disability in one or more of these areas can be extremely detrimental to their health and psychosocial standing.
In fact, the prevalence of communication disorders among seniors is significantly greater than other populations. Seniors (age 65+) are at greater risk for hearing impairments, speech disorders such as acquired apraxia or dysarthria, dysphagia (pertaining to swallowing difficulties), and diseases such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s. Primarily, the care of a healthcare professional, specifically that of an audiologist or speech-language pathologist, is what can aid a senior in combating these conditions and bettering their quality of life. In fact, there are entire areas of studies, research, clinics, and professionals who dedicate their entire career to studying the effects of these pathologies upon seniors.
Here is where a change should occur for seniors: those who are currently in assisted living facilities. These members of society could be in Bellingham, my community, my hometown, or elsewhere. While seniors living on their own may have the ability to be readily diagnosed and treated by an audiologist or SLP, those who are dependent upon another’s care may not have the same access. All people, regardless of who they are and where they come from, should have the ability to communicate: to share, express, experience, and grow.
This is what I hope to offer for seniors in assisted living facilities: aid. Through my intended course of study, I can become a healthcare professional who could help seniors with these pathologies to be able to communicate in as many facets of life as they wish. I could diagnose and treat or improve quality of life for seniors that face disability in speech, swallowing, or hearing. By educating myself, I could grow to be an advocate and a helping hand for those who need it. As someone who has already dedicated themselves to helping others early on in life, I know that I have the ability and the clarity of mind to assist others in any way I can. My major of study is one based on helping people of all ages and has unlimited potential as a growing science. The hope is for the seniors whose lives I may be involved in come away from our interaction able to share themselves more readily with the community around them.

Response by Sheryl Rosenberg, Queens College

As the old adage goes, “Knowledge is power”. Gaining knowledge, specifically by way of a formal education is as crucial and important as it has ever been. The leaders of tomorrow are currently sitting in elementary school classes across the country. They are the ones who will be making the decisions that affect the lives of older generations. It is the job of an educator to help ensure that students are well rounded, in both comprehension of subject matter, as well as morality and empathy.
As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This holds true across all aspects of life and the human experience. Young children need to have a strong, solid educational foundation if they have any hope of leading successful lives. Instilling the importance of having knowledge and continuing their education paves the way for improvements in many aspects of our society, one area being the treatment of senior citizens who live in assisted living facilities. They will have the power to make changes and develop new, more effective ways to handle the problems faced by many seniors.
I think one of the most understated and heartbreaking examples are the lack of interaction between senior citizens and younger generations, often times their own family members. Many of the elderly who live in assisted living facilities are seldom visited by their grandchildren, and have little to no interaction with anyone outside of their living quarters. With the continuing growth and widespread use of technology, the disconnect between seniors and younger generations has become more and more apparent. As a future educator, it will be my responsibility to help shape and nurture the minds of young children. Not only will I be relaying textbook facts and information to students, but it will also be my job to help guide and teach empathy and understanding towards others. Being aware and conscious of other people’s feelings will have a direct effect on the way they treat their family, and consequently, their elderly grandparents.
My major in Childhood Education will help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in my town in several ways. In the short term, I will teach them respect and compassion towards others. I will encourage them to show the same empathy towards not only classmates, but family members as well. They will be kinder and more understanding with their elderly grandparents, and hopefully spend more time with them. In addition, younger elementary school aged children will likely be at the forefront of many scientific and technological advances. Providing them with a comprehensive, solid education will provide the basis for a meaningful life, full of endless possibilities for change and improvement. School not only teaches students what to think, but teaches them how to think as well. If they experience a nurturing environment in which they can be creative, freethinking individuals, they will carry that feeling throughout their lives. Hopefully as a result, they will go on to become intelligent, empathetic adults who change society for the better, starting with their elderly grandparents.

Response by Shiva Thompson, Texas A&M University

My father is a major source of inspiration to me. He is of retirement age but after over 30 years in the food industry, he still works tirelessly to provide for our family. He is a chef at an assisted living facility in our town and prepares nutritious meals from scratch for the residents, who absolutely adore him. Whenever he comes back to work after a much deserved vacation, the residents shower him with accolades on how much they appreciate and miss his cooking. They acknowledge the care he gives them through the time he commits to preparing delicious meals specific to their diets and health needs.
When considering food security, the first thought that might come to mind is famine or malnutrition. Although this is true, it is only one dimension of what food security encompasses. Many people may not think of food security in terms of utilization and whether the food available is nutritious and healthful. My area of study is concerned with all dimensions of food security, availability, access, and utilization. An abundance of food does not necessary mean food security. Utilization, or the act of preparing and ingesting food is crucial to our well-being. In the U.S., processed food makes up approximately 70% of the average American diet. This means that the majority of available and accessible food is full of preservatives, salt, sugar, and questionable ingredients that the Food and Drug Administration may be ignorant of and are not wholesome for the human body. For seniors, who may be experiencing deteriorating health (i.e. cancer, diabetes) or require special diets (i.e. high blood pressure or cholesterol), having access to healthful food is of utmost importance. The obvious precaution is for assisted living facilities to purchase fresh produce and train their staff to prepare nutritious meals, but what if this was taken one step further? What if senior assisted living facilities hosted a garden program on their grounds?
Studies show that farming therapy, or care farming, is an effective method for bringing a sense of fulfillment and meaning to people. According to the WorldWatch Institute, agriculture brings peace, purpose, and satisfaction to people that only cultivating produce can bring. A garden program at an assisted living facility can provide fresh produce, fruits and vegetables, for seniors to not only enjoy in their meals but also cultivate in a rewarding pass time.
During my graduate school experience, I have been blessed with an incredible variety of opportunities that nurture my creativity and have helped me grow into a purposeful individual. One unforgettable opportunity that brought my creativity into tangible form was the Thought For Food (TFF) Challenge Summit held in Lisbon, Portugal in Spring 2015, where my team was selected as one of the top 10 finalists out of 336 teams worldwide. This highly competitive challenge identifies and supports innovative solutions that address global food security issues. I combined my idea to bring agricultural innovations into the forefront of Ag-development, with my cohort’s idea to teach youth how to form Ag-cooperatives. This combined vision gave birth to an innovative solution, a social enterprise project called Yuco: Youth Cooperative, which focuses on implementing agricultural innovations through youth cooperatives to address food insecurity.
In the context of senior assisted living facilities, this concept can be modified to bring local youth from 4-H programs and seniors together for a team effort in growing a garden. This garden could be managed on a small plot on the senior assisted living grounds and be used to grow a variety of different greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, and other produce. The goal of this program is reciprocal, where seniors will gain enjoyment and satisfaction from stimulating gardening activities, while youth learn about garden management, develop a deeper respect towards seniors, and build their social skillset. The senior assisted living facility will also benefit in several ways, to include access to fresh, home grown, local, produce, from the garden of their very own senior residents. This project combines educational elements through the local 4-H program and practical hands-on agricultural experience to build relationships between youth and seniors, which benefit the entire community. This program can help a new generation of youth understand and connect with agriculture while enhancing the lives of seniors. I have always had a burning passion for making a difference, big or small, and believe that local gardens are one small way to make a big impact towards a more food secure world. After all, you are what you eat.

Response by Sophia Smith, Niagara University

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, there will be some 89 million people age 65 or older living in America. That number represents an explosion in the nation’s elderly, which in 2009 totaled 39 million.
Such a rise in the elderly population will also mean an increase in the number of seniors residing in assisted living facilities and, with that, a spike in the demand for workers in the field of gerontology.
Gerontologists specialize in working with, and meeting the needs of, elderly patients. The field is a far-reaching one, with an array of concentrations. Research gerontologists, for instance, study the aging process and the environments in which the elderly live so that seniors’ quality of life can be continually improved. Administrative gerontologists coordinate services and develop programs for the elderly in assisted living facilities. And applied gerontologists, meanwhile, work directly with seniors and their families.
The role of the gerontologist — especially in a society that is rapidly aging — is of critical importance. By helping assisted living facilities such as the Teresian House in Albany better understand the needs of the elderly, gerontologists can ensure the highest standards of living and care are being provided to facility residents.
I know that in New York’s Capital Region where I’m from, there is a widely held belief that individuals living in assisted living facilities are helpless, frail, and incapable people who have nothing to contribute to society. This perception is not only wrong, it is also unfortunate and sad. And, it is one in which gerontologists can play an important role in dispelling.
The need for assistance is not synonymous with weakness. Rather, by working to ensure the elderly are receiving the assistance they need, a gerontologist can help seniors remain engaged and continue contributing to society.
Gerontologists are vital to ensuring new assisted living facility residents experience the smoothest transition possible when moving into a new environment.
By speaking and working directly with seniors and their families, gerontologists can ensure that facilities are meeting the needs of residents and providing essential services and programs.
Gerontologists also can help facilities make the necessary modifications and safeguards so that residents are provided the most efficient amenities and safest living conditions, allowing them to function to the very best of their ability.
Gerontologists are health care providers, trained to spot a wide range of ailments and conditions in residents so that facility staff can properly identify what residents may need greater attention or specialized care and assistance.
Lastly, gerontologists offer hope. They help seniors in assisted living facilities recognize the value that remains of their lives and the possibilities that still exist.
Senior citizens are a vital part of any community. As a gerontologist, I hope to someday make a significant and positive impact in the lives of those who live in mine.
I’ve seen the impact of this work firsthand, as both a volunteer in an assisted living facility and with my own grandmother before she, ultimately, was relocated to a nursing home. And I can think of no work that is more important.

Response by Stacey Richister, Colorado Christian University

Assisted living facilities (ALFs) have a vital role in providing proper care and assistance for nurturing autonomous quality living for ageing adults. Mental health is an important component in fostering an independent and satisfying quality of life. Mental health professionals, therefore, play an important role in administering to the ageing population to improve their quality of life. Ageing adults in ALFs are often faced with a myriad of conditions that can greatly impact their mental health, such as the death of a spouse or friend, physical and cognitive changes, and life and role transitions. Depression and dementia are two leading neuropsychiatric issues that affect the quality of life of ageing adults (Singh & Upadhyay, 2014). The purpose of this essay is to discuss how the field of mental health can address these issues and improve the lives of seniors in ALFs.
Depression is a debilitating and often untreated mental health concern for seniors. Factors such as death of a loved one, physical degradation, and life transitions contribute to depression later in life. Untreated depression can lead to anxiety, cognitive decline, somatic symptoms, and even suicide (Solomon & Taylor, 2014). Mental health professionals offer empirically-sound, effective solutions that can eliminate symptoms of depression. Psychotherapy has been found to be effective for late-life depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, problem-solving therapy, and interpersonal therapy has been shown to be particularly effective in resolving late-onset depression in older adults (Solomon & Taylor, 2014). Providing counseling services to seniors who suffer from depression can greatly improve their mental well-being and quality of life.
Dementia is another issue that threatens the quality of life for seniors in ALFs. Dementia affects an alarming 40 – 67 % of seniors living in ALFs in the United States (Hyde, Perez, & Forest, 2007). Dementia places a huge burden not only on the patient who suffers but also the caregivers and assisted living staff. Neurofeedback is a non-invasive and effective form of therapy for treating patients with neurodegeneration. Recent studies confirm that neurofeedback improves attention, memory, and processing speed (Surmeli, Eralp, Mustafezade, Kos, Ozer, & Surmeli, 2015). Neurofeedback is particularly significant in the treatment of dementia as it reduces the need for medication. Medications for treating dementia are found to be only 50% effective and in some patients, can have detrimental or unwanted side effects (Surmeli et al., 2015).
The mental health of seniors in ALFs is a vital component to their quality of life. Ageing adults face unique physical, cognitive, and interpersonal issues that can weigh heavily on their mental condition. Depression and dementia, two conditions that are a result of these unique challenges, can be treated effectively by trained mental health professionals using empirically-sound techniques. Colorado Springs, located in El Paso County, Colorado, has many ALFs that cater to the large number of military retirees and seniors. The United States Census Bureau 2014 estimates that persons 65 years and over make up 11.5% of the population of El Paso County, Colorado (United States Department of Commerce, 2014). The Colorado State Demography Office further estimates that this population will increase 179% over the next 30 years (Senior tsunami, 2014). Given these growing statistics, mental health professionals have an important role in partnering with ALFs to improve the lives of seniors in El Paso County, Colorado and in the Unites States as a whole.

Response by Stpehanie Lem, Idaho State University

Speech-language pathology is primarily the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of speech and language disorders. Communication is an essential part of life from birth onwards and does not lose its importance as we age. Not only are speech-language pathologists (SLPs) responsible for the treatment of communication disorders, but a SLP may also play a significant role in the treatment of swallowing disorders. SLPs possess knowledge and expertise that can enhance the quality of life of seniors living in assisted living as well as improve the health and safety of these residents. A SLP working in an assisted living setting is responsible for the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of communication, cognition, and swallowing disorders.
When thinking of professionals that seniors might rely on as they age, we typically think of nurses, aides, and medical doctors. SLPs may play an important role in treating seniors in assisted living facilities by assisting residents with their communication needs. For example, a SLP may help a resident communicate his or her needs more effectively to their caregivers or teach techniques in making the patient’s speech more intelligible. People with progressive disorders such as Parkinson’s or dementia often experience significant communication declines that can be remediated through therapy with a SLP. A disorder of communication can greatly affect a person’s quality of life by inhibiting one’s ability to communicate their needs or engage in pleasurable, social activities. There are many ways that a person may benefit from SLP intervention including improvement of verbal and written communication, increasing intelligibility, improving comprehension, or developing strategies or alternate means of communication. By implementing these types of therapies into an assisted living setting, SLP’s can greatly improve the quality of life and communication skills of the patients residing there.
Although SLP’s are usually thought of as therapists of speech and language, an important part of the scope of practice of SLPs is the assessment and treatment of swallowing disorders. As reported by Sura et al. (2012), approximately 15% of the elderly population in the US suffers from swallowing disorders and that up to 6 million older adults could be considered at risk for dysphagia. SLPs are thought to be experts in the upper chest, neck, and mouth area, specializing in study of the structures, muscles, and function of these important body parts. The services that SLPs provide to treat a deviant swallow could help save someone’s life, as swallowing disorders can result in traumatic events such as choking or aspiration leading to pneumonia. Treatment of swallowing disorders includes the recommendation of altered food and liquid consistency and teaching strategies to improve swallowing function. This type of therapy can greatly improve a patient’s overall health by lowering the risk of malnutrition and infection due to aspiration. Additionally, after therapy, patients may experience a greater ease with swallowing making eating less of a difficult activity thus, patients may experience pleasure in meal times which can often serve as a social activity, consequently improving their quality of life.
Though it is important for a SLP working in an assisted living facility to demonstrate consistent presence in the facility for the benefit of his or her patients, the reality is that the SLP cannot be there for all patients at all times. Therefore, educating caregivers, nurses, rehabilitation aides, and family members is also an important part of a SLP working in this type of setting. By developing home exercise programs (HEP) for patients that can be carried out by other caregivers, the patient will avoid regression in skills after therapy has stopped. Additionally, in situations such as feeding and swallowing, the SLP may need to train caregivers on dietary restrictions, appropriate cues, and symptoms of dysphagia to ensure that the patient is engaged in a safe feeding environment at all meal times and any problems can be promptly addressed. By training others in a patient’s HEP, the patient’s caregivers can help provide opportunities for the patient to practice communication, cognition, or swallowing skills outside of therapy and in a variety of situations, which will then not only increase the chance of generalization of skills but also the maintenance of skills.
Assisted living facilities serve as a uniquely challenging setting for SLPs to work in. They provide an opportunity for SLPs to employ all relevant skills, such as assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of a variety of disorders including communication, cognition, and swallowing disorders. By providing their expertise, SLPs in an assisted living facility can help residents improve their health, safety, and quality of life.

Response by Sumter Gibson, Texas A&M University

A meal is both a daily activity as well as an exciting opportunity to explore a variety of textures, flavors, and vibrant colors. This daily exploration contributes to our overall health and offers pleasure to those who participate. However, a meal can often become complicated for seniors who reside in assisted living. Health issues and symptoms of aging aggravate the situation: food can be difficult to ingest, the body can no longer absorb nutrients properly, and the food packaging can be difficult to remove. But what if a product was created that addressed these complications and allowed food and meals to be nutritious, convenient, and pleasurable for those in assisted living? My major of Food Science and Technology provides the education to understand the needs of a consumer and the necessary steps to design food products that would increase the nutrition and autonomy of seniors in assisted living.
As we age, it is increasingly difficult to meet our nutritional needs. Food Science allows a Product Developer to utilize ingredients that feature rich sources of essential nutrients in their most absorbable forms. But what if we could not only design nutrient-rich products, but also tailor the products towards chronic diseases from which many seniors in assisted living suffer? Our products could include principles of the DASH diet to accommodate consumers that struggle with hypertension. These types of products could focus on achieving low sodium and high potassium levels. Other products could feature decreased amounts of sugar so that diabetic consumers could also enjoy our products. By creating products that specifically target health and nutrition concerns of those living in assisted care, a food scientist could improve the consumer’s quality of life through their diet. However, products themselves are not the only concerns of a food scientist.
Seniors in assisted living often have weak immune systems, and they cannot just assume that their food is safe. In the food industry, packaging not only markets a product, but it also serves a vital role in food safety. A food product can be protected from bacteria and pathogens by using tightly sealed plastics. However, these protective plastics are often difficult to remove – especially for the elderly. Since these products are specifically designed for seniors in assisted living, a food scientist could use aspects of food technology to develop a package that would protect the food while still being easy to open. This type of packaging could increase the autonomy of a senior in assisted living. Because the packaging would be easy to open, these products could allow a senior access to nourishment without assistance. These food products would promote nutrition and autonomy, but would they have a desirable taste?
A meal can offer pleasure through a variety of the flavors and textures. Food science can ensure that the products maintained beneficial nutrients without becoming just another powder or pill. Texture and flavor do not need to be sacrificed. Instead, the principles of food science can be incorporated to produce specific textures and enhance colors within food products. By retaining the characteristics of traditional food, the developed product could offer seniors enjoyment and pleasure that is an integral part of every meal.
By tailoring a food product to the specific challenges of a senior in assisted living, a food scientist can greatly increase a senior’s quality of life. Innovative food products can help to improve a person’s health by featuring essential nutrients that target chronic diseases and nutritional deficiencies commonly found among seniors. The packaging can protect the food while still being easily opened. This greatly increases a senior’s autonomy. By eating these products, meals can be transformed from complicated and bland experiences to enjoyable and exciting explorations of flavors, colors, and textures. By studying Food Science and Technology, I will one day be able to use the principles that I have learned to create such a beneficial food product that can greatly improve meals for those in assisted living.

Response by Susan Santos, Academy of Art University

Housing and care for the elderly has dramatically changed in the last 20 years. Moving away from traditional institutional facilities to a physical environment that promotes personalized care. In 1991, the opening of Presbyterian Senior Care’s Woodside Place located in Oakmont, PA designed by Perkins Eastman, sparked a new movement in nursing home design. Since then, designers around the country have re-evaluated design criteria for residential care environments. Therefore, the field of Architecture has a major influence in improving the quality of life of seniors who chose to live in assisted living facilities.
Since Woodside Place, a trend started in transforming assisted living facilities into more of a household environment. The increasingly common trend is a group of households with 10 to 16 private resident rooms, including full bathrooms; a residential-style kitchen; a small dining area for the residents of that household; and a living room space. Given the advances in technology and electronic record keeping, staff support spaces can now be incorporated directly into the resident’s’ household spaces, such as locked cabinetry in the kitchen or resident room.
Currently the idea of de-institutionalism is moving away from interior aesthetics and models of care which have already been addressed through advantages in home-like environments and person-centered care, and moving towards taking people out of campuses. By breaking down campus boundaries and making assisted living facilities part of neighborhoods allows older adults to integrate with existing communities by having easy access to neighborhood services, amenities and public transportation. These new approaches enhance resident’s lives and also permit assisted living providers to spend fewer resources on space and programs since they can rely on nearby senior-friendly non-providers.
Some of the ways new design in assisted living facilities are trying to improve the lives of its residents are: responding to the site, local conditions, culture and vernacular style; using green/sustainable design features; creating connection to nature and including profuse daylighting; connecting to the greater community including access to existing services and amenities; creating intergenerational developments; providing a hospitality environment; and promoting a sense of community between residents including clusters of residences and shared grounds.
Even though there have been such improvements to assisted living facilities in major cities, the majority of facilities in smaller towns remain in campuses, secluded in neighborhoods instead of being part of them. That seems to be the case here in Chattanooga, TN. Chattanooga is considered a city with a young population with the average age being 37 years old. According to a 2014 estimate from The U.S. Census Bureau about 15 percent of the population is 65 years or older. However, Chattanooga is a city who continues to grow and with many families moving here and planning to retire here. According to a report from U.S News Money, Chattanooga hanked 2 out of 10 best affordable places to retire considering low-cost of living and no state taxes.
Chattanooga has also experienced in the last 20 years a great redevelopment of its downtown area. Closed manufactures have been transformed in shopping places and restaurants. Parks and community places have been developed and more and more people are choosing to move from suburbs and closer to the downtown area. With easy access to dining and entertainment and all within walking distance, the downtown area would be a perfect place for an assisted living facility in which its residents could be more integrated with the surrounding community. As the population ages, and more people in retirement age move here, this would be one of the things they would wish to see.
The purpose of architecture is to design and create places that people will live/work, engage and experience while at the same time ensuring aesthetic value and comfort. The process of designing an assisted living facility involves anticipating needs and creating an environment one enjoys through time. My dream of becoming an architect is based on a dream of improving quality of life through experiencing space, and improving lives of seniors as they choose to continue being part of their community and receive the care they need through assisted living facilities is very much a part of putting this dream into practice.

Response by Sydney Farris, Texas A&M University

This past semester I engaged in a research project with three other students to study the needs of dementia patients and how their personal environments could slow the decline of their health and cognitive functions. We asked two questions: What are the needs of dementia patients? How can current facilities be enhanced to aid dementia patient stimulation? After determining that observing multiple medical facilities with dementia patients was our best course of action, we wrote surveys which asked caretakers to rate certain features of their facilities on a scale of one to four, four being the most effective. Our survey was divided into three categories: Accessibility, Cognitive Stimulation, and Relaxation, with optional comments for each section.
We began by researching the most common problems to impact aging patients, such as a decline in vision and hearing, increased difficulty in wayfinding, problem solving, and emotional outbursts. A high degree of home-likeness in their environment is associated with greater restlessness, a greater assertion of independence, and increased disorientation. We determined the benefits of a home-like environment outweighed the drawbacks, as cognitive stimulation is a crucial component of a dementia patient’s health.
From the surveys, we learned that once a patient’s mental capacity has declined to a certain level, they are not left unattended. During the night, caregivers check in on the patients every two hours and patients are not allowed to use the bathroom by themselves, despite having their own shower, sink, and toilet. Considering most patients wear diapers and are changed while standing up, the bathrooms all have multiple metal hand railings for additional support. In one facility, the patients’ families were responsible for providing additional furniture and décor besides the bed and dresser, meaning personal belongings and memories are understandably preferred to premeditated furniture layout. Patients often wander down the hallway into other patients’ rooms, so all the bedrooms are kept locked during the day.
Overall, most caretakers rated their facilities “very helpful” to patients (76.1%, 80.7%, and 79.3% for Cognitive Stimulation, Relaxation, and overall opinion, respectively). The exception was Accessibility, in which only 62.5% of staff rated their facility’s accessibility standards “very helpful” to patients and themselves while 35.9% said they were only “somewhat helpful.” We took note that one facility had very little circulation and instead several dead ends; therefore, many of the residents did not leave their rooms and those who did often wandered throughout the single hallway into areas in which they were not allowed.
Moving an elderly relative away from their home often disrupts their social circle and causes a decline in health, especially for dementia patients. Many external housing options exist for elderly loved ones who want to maintain their independence while being close to their family or caretaker. However, these designs do not consider the challenges of severe memory loss. Often, the afflicted only go to a nursing home once they have declined significantly, which only worsens their condition. What if their environment could adapt to their needs as their condition progresses?
Our final design was a wheelchair-accessible pod-like residential unit in which all the utilities (bathroom and kitchenette) are centrally located so that there are no dead ends, but rather a continuous loop (a living room and bedroom joined by two parallel hallways) around the bathroom and kitchen. This helps mitigate confusion, frustration, and emotional outbursts on the part of the resident while facilitating wayfinding and increased mobility. The shades of the walls, furniture, and floor are bright but contrasting, as aging eyes pick up bright, warm colors more effectively. Large amounts of glazing on the facade let in natural light and a mirror on the inside of the front door discourages the resident from exiting when not in a coherent state. Most importantly, the kitchenette can be enclosed for the patient’s safety after they have progressed to a certain point.
The topic was emotionally important to me, as many members of my family have struggled with dementia and diseases related to memory loss. It’s one of the most devastating conditions to watch a relative endure, even with the most amount of dignity achievable. Despite the fact that each one of us is only “temporarily abled,” we tend to marginalize the elderly and handicapped members of our society. There are facilities like the few we visited in the Bryan-College Station area (where I go to school), the Dallas-Fort Worth area (where I am from), and other communities around the country, which could benefit from simple design improvements an architect can make.

Response by Tara Hegg, Denver University

My major of study can improve the lives of seniors receiving in home care in my town by providing the education and skills necessary to work with not only the seniors receiving care, but the caretakers and family members as well. Studies have found that caretakers have some of the highest mortalities rates of any profession, particularly caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients, due to the psychological and physical toll the stress of the work takes on the caretaker. Having a graduate degree in psychology would allow me to professionally assist caretakers by educating them on the effects of burnout and how to manage their mental and physical health while continuing to do well in their profession. It is extremely important for caretakers to monitor symptoms of burnout as it can have a devastating impact on one’s health and career. Caretakers need to know the symptoms of stress and burnout, and know that it is okay to need breaks and okay to take breaks. Most importantly, caretakers need to know what they can do to take care of themselves physically and mentally in order to help reduce the damage that stress can cause.
A degree in psychology would also allow for me to work with the patients receiving care, as it is psychologically taxing for many to not only come to terms with aging, but to be living with a mental or physical disability. My profession would provide me the education and skills required to help the clients cope with and accept their situation in order to improve their overall physical and mental well being by decreasing issues such as depression and anxiety, while increasing positive affect. My objectives when working with this population would be to help each client continue to thrive in life regardless of their circumstances. Many therapeutic practices have been shown to increase longevity and many people coping with difficult life circumstances benefit from simply talking about their feelings.
I would also be valuable to the families of clients receiving in-home care. It can be very difficult to watch a loved one suffer through a mental or physical disability. Family members, regardless of if they live with the patient or live elsewhere, could benefit from both family therapy and individual therapy sessions. Often times because we are family or close to those in need of caretaking, individuals feel guilty for feeling stressed or frustrated with their loved ones due to the demands of their ailments. A degree in psychology would provide the education and skills needed to help family members cope with their feelings and hardships related to their loved one’s mental or physical disability. It would be important to let family members know that their frustrations and stress are valid and it’s okay and very necessary to give themselves a break. Like the caretaker, because most family members provide care as well, it would be important for them to know how to take care of themselves physical and mentally in order to reduce the effects the stress may take on them.
My major of study would be able to assist everyone who is involved in the caretaking of a patient in need of in-home care or assisted living by providing coping skills, life skills, and talk therapy. The field of psychology is undoubtedly a valuable component in the successful treatment of individual’s suffering from disease and those who treat such clients. It would be an honor to provide my psychological skillset to the field of in-home care.

Response by Taylor Haugen, St. Louis University

I am currently attending Saint Louis University and working on gaining a masters degree in occupational therapy. As a potential occupational therapist there are many ways that I will be able to help and improve the lives of seniors in their homes.
The first thing that we are required to do is an in-home evaluation to observe the individuals living situation. It is our job to do this because some people, especially elders, do not live in safe environments and it can lead to further risks, like falling and causing injuries. One of the main concerns that we look for when doing a home evaluation is the amount of space they have to move around their house and if the person is able to access the bathroom and important places within the house. This way if we see potential risks that don’t allow the clients to do their activities of daily living and their in-home care then we are responsible for adapting and modifying the home so that they are able to.
The next step that we are to take is to make goals for the client based on their needs and wants. There always has to be a goal and need for why the client is receiving occupational therapy treatments, which is obvious. We set these goals for the clients because our main priority is to improve the health of the individuals in their home in order for them to live in their house independently for as long as they can. It is a great opportunity that in-home care is available because many people want to live in their home and not have to live in nursing homes, but they still need extra help and attention with certain things. As occupational therapists it is our job to make this opportunity possible for these people so they are happy in their own living situation.
After we have adapted and made the changes necessary for the clients to live in their home and receive in-home care we also have to maintain what we have changed and what the client does. It is important that we follow up with the client frequently because if the changes are made and then the clients return back to their old habits and living situation that they had previously, the time and work would’ve been for nothing.
In particular, a way that I could help with this situation in my town is opening a new program that I am in charge of so that I teach others what to do and how to provide in-home care for others, based on my knowledge. If I were to be the “head of the program” in the town then I could make sure that everything is done and carried out correctly in order to improve in-home care for clients that need it. There are already many programs, companies, organizations, etc. that provide in-home health, but if I were to have my own that I am in charge of then I could make sure that people are getting the proper treatment, because some places don’t always do the right things and care about the well-being of the clients. However, if I were to be in charge I would only have people working for me that I knew would do a great job and that would improve the lives of the seniors receiving in-home care.

Response by Thomas Heffernan, Northeastern University

The field of Physical Therapy has an important role in the care of our seniors.
There must be no greater feeling for a senior than to know that after working with a physical therapist for an extended period of time, he or she can return to everyday life with optimal mobility and function to an injured or disabled body part. This is particularly important to senior citizens, who are experiencing all the normal, and occasionally unusual, symptoms of aging but who want to – and have the right to – live as healthily as possible, for as long as possible. For the physical therapist, there is a reward received on the other side, as the healer, to turn a person’s pain and frustration back into normalcy and comfort in everyday or pleasurable activities that are typically taken for granted.
Physical therapists develop interpersonal relationships with their patients and really get to know them through the rehabilitation process. There is a relationship of trust and care, where the physical therapist discovers the patient’s capabilities and works within those parameters. This is so important for senior citizens, who need the understanding of their caregivers, as well as patience and adaptability. The patient, in turn, can trust that the exercises they are being given are for their own good and improvement and that their physical therapist knows what will work for a particular injury or condition.
Physical therapists provide comfort where there is pain, and relaxation when a patient feels frustrated – whether the patient is a senior who suffers from Alzheimer’s and is having gross or fine motor skill problems, or a senior with multiple cases of arthritis in their joints, or any common injury from which a senior would need rehabilitation. My father’s mother is living with Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother is one of her regular care-takers, and I have seen firsthand the decline in her physical capabilities and how physical therapy can help. My mother’s father is 81 years old and is a cancer survivor. Over the last year, he was growing increasingly concerned about his own balance and began to have a fear of falling which impacted his ability to walk normally. He went to Physical Therapy and worked with a therapist on balance and gait, and was given exercises which helped him recognize his weakness and work to regain control for walking and climbing stairs. For any senior who has issues which prohibit their everyday activities, physical therapy can provide the necessary care and treatment to return the patient to their normal, pain-free life, or in the case of Alzheimer’s or dementia – physical therapy can help that person and their care-givers by understanding new limitations and working creatively to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible. In fact, physical therapy is an essential aspect of assisted living. Frequent sessions with a physical therapist can mean the difference of a senior citizen being physically capable of living in an assisted facility instead of requiring twenty four hour nursing care. Chronic, nagging injuries that can be such a “wear and tear” on us as we get older are eased and relieved by physical therapists, making day to day activities significantly less painful than they could be.

Response by Timothy Whittemore, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine

I live in Portland, Oregon a city known variously for its rain, roses, lively arts scene and ongoing gentrification. Approximately 1.8% of the city’s residents are age 85 or older, 1 the group most likely to utilize assisted living facilities. 2 By current estimates, the number of persons ages 85 and up will triple by the year 2050, while the number of Oregonians living with Alzheimer’s will nearly double by the year 2025. 2 Our state lacks a sufficient number of facilities and staff for the coming years, despite ranking highly in per capita supply of assisted living facilities in 2010. 3 We therefore have a growing need both for facilities and for services specifically focused on improving the lives of seniors in these settings. Acupuncture, which is the field I’m studying, has a vital role to play in improving the lives of seniors in Portland’s assisted living facilities.
Acupuncture is a time tested practice originating in China, with roots stretching back more than two thousand years. 4 Its popularity in the United States has increased rapidly over the past forty five years. By 2012, some 33.2% of surveyed Americans ages 65 and up had either tried acupuncture or were currently receiving acupuncture. 5 Acupuncture already boasts a strong presence in Portland, which is home to two schools with highly ranked Chinese medicine programs: National College of Natural Medicine and Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, both of which enjoy partnerships with Oregon Health Sciences University. Portland is therefore well positioned to provide seniors in assisted living with highly skilled, integrative care incorporating acupuncture.
The benefits of this kind of integrative care are numerous. To begin with, acupuncture is effective for a variety of chronic conditions that seniors experience, including chronic pain. Chronic pain is especially pervasive, affecting 25% to 50% of community dwelling seniors. 6 A systematic review published by JAMA in 2012 concluded that “acupuncture is effective for chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.” 7 Moreover, acupuncture is a safe therapy for geriatric chronic pain specifically. 8
Other chronic conditions prevalent among seniors include hypertension, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, depression, arthritis, and diabetes. 9 Acupuncture has an important role to play in these cases as well. For instance, a systematic review published this year has shown that acupuncture is a beneficial adjunct in the treatment of hypertension. 10 Meanwhile, a recent pilot study has demonstrated the potential usefulness of acupuncture as an adjunct for treating patients with cardiovascular disease. 11 Acupuncture is also a beneficial, cost effective therapy for patients with depression, 12,13 and its application in the treatment of cognitive impairment is an expanding area of research. Acupuncture also holds great promise for improving the lives of seniors in assisted living because it is both effective and minimally invasive. More than inserting fine needles, the practice encompasses the use of pressure, massage, and warming therapies. 4 Seniors benefit from these techniques even when on complicated pharmaceutical regimens, which has become common in recent years. Whereas a threshold of four or more simultaneous medications was considered high in 1980s, by 2013 one in six patients over the age of 65 received ten or more drugs. 14 On average, patients in this age group receive 5.1 medications. 15 A great advantage of acupuncture is that it addresses health concerns without increasing medication burdens or risks of drug interactions. There may even be opportunities to reduce the need for pain medications: starting in January, 2016, Oregon will begin expanding support for acupuncture back pain treatments in order to decrease opioid use and avoid dependence. 16
While these are all important examples of acupuncture’s strengths, one of its most important features is touch. At its heart, acupuncture is about human contact, which is absolutely essential for physical and emotional wellbeing. Touch brings us back to the moment. It reminds us that we matter. Healing touch eases pain and grief. Acupuncture’s touch also engages a person’s innate healing abilities in contrast to other experiences that too often leave senior patients feeling disempowered, it is fundamentally an empowering process. I’ve witnessed this in the clinic myself. Acupuncture is well suited for group settings as well as for people who experience limited mobility or who are wheelchair bound. For these reasons and many others, I believe we need more acupuncturists working with seniors in assisted living facilities. My goal is to help make this happen.

Response by Tina Nguyen, University of Washington

My experience at Aegis on Madison Assisted Living Facility as a certified nursing assistant was so profound and affirmative that I knew I entered the nursing profession by calling and not by mistake. Throughout my experiences, I learned that nurses are advocates for patients and the last line of defense to any possible error or adverse event. Nurses will improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities because they work one on one with the elderly to assist with their holistic care needs, help maintain and promote their independence, autonomy and social engagement, and educate them on proper and therapeutic techniques towards healing and recovery.
Entering the nursing major will help improve my community by providing the geriatric population with well-trained and professional nurses that can address each elderly as a human being instead of a statistic or a number count to fill capacity of a facility. Nurses are taught to assess patients holistically, acknowledging their health history, drug history, and any pertinent information that will assist them in giving care. For example, assessing the elderly for fall risk is important in order to keep them as safe as possible and establish measures to ensure their safety. These measures would consist of the use of gait belts, bed and chair alarms, and fall mats. This thorough assessment process will improve the care of our elders and prevent unwanted circumstances.
Nurses care about patients holistically, including their mental and emotional health and perceptions. That is the reason nurses do much more than give care, they are responsible for promoting independence because they understand that the lost of independence is a demeaning process of aging that seniors want to avoid. Nurses use convincing and encouraging words to promote community engagement and discourage isolation because we understand that isolation can lead to depression and other illness manifestations. Which is why assisted facilities have scheduled activities, therapeutic music, and art to enhance the emotional, mental, and social health of seniors.
In my first quarter of nursing school, we were taught to do patient education because it is inclusive of the patient and makes them feel informed and knowledgeable about their health. When seniors feel entitled to their health it leads to self-initiation and promotes better self care behaviors. For example, by educating seniors on how to keep their wounds clean and dressing intact, they will have a better understanding of what proper healing looks like and alert the healthcare provider when it looks questionable. By teaching seniors about their health condition and regimen, proper techniques to care for their wounds or injuries, and when and how to take their medications they will become more competent in their own health.
The nursing major will help improve the lives of seniors in assisted living facilities in many life-changing ways. Nurses provide care, encouragement, and comfort when times are at its roughest. With specialized and skilled nurses, our senior community will experience better quality health, less adverse events, and a happier aging ambiance.

Response by Torin Vanin, Drexel University

I personally think marketing would play a huge role in improving lives of seniors receiving care. While it would not directly improve them, I think it could improve the company, which in turn improves the lives of seniors. Through an effective marketing campaign, the awareness of the availability of services such as these would rise, reaching more and more seniors.
The first component of the successful campaign would target seniors themselves. The medium would have to be something that seniors actually use, rendering social media useless for this particular area. Money would be better spent on a print campaign, more specifically in newspapers, magazines, and letters in the mail. As seniors tend to have doctors appointments more often, placing those prints in the doctor’s office would increase exposure. Other places to consider advertising would be diners/restaurants, grocery stores, golf courses and senior centers. Any place that a senior goes to would be effective. Placing flyers in those locations would also be effective.
That being said, seniors are not always eager to admit that they can no longer take care of themselves and need extra help. That is why targeting the families of the seniors would also be effective campaign. This division of the campaign would be in the form of technology. Social media would be more effective, so an active social media presence of Twitter and Facebook would be ideal. Furthermore, placing ads throughout the Internet would be best. There are companies that specialize in online advertising, so an in-home care companies could work with them to optimize their online advertising. In addition to the online campaign, using TV ads would be effective. Strategically placing them on channels that adults watch, like news channels, and popular channels, like ESPN or CBS, would be the best. Also important would be the time slots they are shown, with Tuesday through Thursday as the best days, and between 6-9pm as the best time.
The content of the advertisement is also crucial to its impact. The main focus of the advertisements targeting families should be the care and compassion of the caretakers. The ad needs to reassure families that their loved ones will be well taken care of, and that their needs will be met. For the ads targeting seniors, it should key in on the aspects of keeping their independence. It should talk about the benefits of having in-home assistance, and try to remove the fears from their mind. Losing their independence is a key fear to seniors, and a big reason they resist transitioning to some type of in-home care. If the ad can downplay or neutralize those fears, the ad will be much more effective in helping raise awareness of the pros of in-home care. Other points of emphasis should be the price or the convenience of the care, depending on the company.
While marketing won’t directly impact the care of seniors, it can help the company that provides it, which means it in turns benefits the seniors. It can bring more money to the company, which they would invest into the care they provides. An effective and efficient ad campaign could work wonders for the business side of in-home care, and help spread their care and compassion, meaning they can touch the lives of many seniors and their families.

Response by Trevor Williams, University of South Florida

My major of study will help lead me to becoming a doctor. This ultimately will allow me to able to treat and care for the elderly from a different scope. I would then be able to ensure the best care for seniors in my town. After establishing myself as a physician, I would then be able to one day open my own assisted living facility.
As a child, I have always dreamt of becoming a physician. The thought of helping to heal others and care for them through their challenging times has always exhilarated me. As it relates to medicine, some people are just immediately attracted to a specific age population, and for me, it has always been the elderly. Growing up I have always felt inspired from the elderly and encouraged through their wisdom of life. That very encouragement has made my heart very fond of the senior citizens. After all, we will all be in that very state of life one day. Seniors have helped pave the way for our generation. With that being said, I was always taught to respect and look after the elderly. Therefore, becoming a physician, I can ensure that I am the epitome of respect, compassion, and kindness to the elderly.
Working in the medical field for the last 6-7 years of my life, I have seen the elderly mistreated and misguided in various types of facilities. I have provided care from a CNA/PCT perspective, but as the physician I would be establishing the healthcare provided. As a physician and the medical provider to the elderly, it would be my duty to regulate proper healthcare to the elderly. This includes proper diets, therapy, and medication. I would be able to promote rehabilitation for those who have lost their way and just thrown to the wayside to deteriorate. While that may sound harsh, it is the reality of what goes on in facilities for seniors. Additionally, I can closely monitor the responsiveness to medications. Many senior citizens are given high doses of medication like, Ativan and Haldol that makes them worse off! Well, as the providing physician, I could ensure this doesn’t happen. Another important factor of being the providing physician would be to make certain the senior citizens are receiving all the right nutrients with healthy food.
With my experience as a CNA/PCT I have seen many different types of healthcare facilities and how they are ran. I have always longed to open my own assisted living facility to provide the best care possible for senior citizens. Over the years I have learned the dos and don’ts of healthcare facilities. As the physician and owner of the facility, it would be my responsibility to hire the best staff who are committed, kind, patient, and compassionate to the residents. It would be my mission to create an environment where residents are placed first and the resources available are of top quality.
In closing, by obtaining my degree in Health Sciences this would be the stepping stone for me becoming a doctor. By becoming a doctor, I will be able to provide healthcare the way it should be delivered and that is respect, kindness, compassion and commitment. Establishing myself as a doctor will allow me to open my own assisted living facility, where I can ensure quality care.

Response by Tricia Leskiw, University of California Los Angeles

Business skills are essential to successfully running nearly any enterprise – assisted living facilities included! In order to properly plan for an elderly community, a location must be chosen, purchased, and permitted. Accommodations must be designed and constructed to optimize geriatric lifestyles and medical needs. Sales and marketing teams need to procure the investment funds and inaugural resident interest. Logistics folks need to plan how supplies and resources will be ordered, stored, and distributed amongst residents. Managers must oversee all kinds of staff across care-giving, medical, culinary – even landscaping- fields. Operations must compile and archive all personal information for quick electronic reference and compliance with healthcare encryption mandates. Additionally, strategists take learnings from other businesses and make adjustments as necessary, especially when considering franchise expansions or other growth opportunities.
As you can see, applying business concepts is absolutely paramount to creating and improving assisted living facilities in Long Beach. In southern California, Long Beach is the second largest city, after Los Angeles. With its temperate climate and coastal locale, Long Beach has attracted retirees who have been able to manage the cost of living. However, recently and sadly, the local Breakers retirement community on Ocean Boulevard had its license revoked amidst an elder abuse and wrongful death suit. Residents were given 60 day eviction notices, according to an article in the Long Beach Post. With such unfortunate events, a large senior population of the community is left at a loss for how to continue aging without dignified support.
With the recognition of this problem and the resolution to help mitigate such impacts to the elderly, the City of Long Beach needs to welcome small and large businesses alike to assess and improve the current support networks for the elderly. Now is the time for realtors, marketers, financial planners, investors, managers, strategists, and individuals of varying business backgrounds to unite and work together to help the old. Additionally, such investment in the Baby Boomer demographic will also help the numerous homeless and mentally ill who wander the streets of Long Beach. With sufficient care, shelter, medical attention and support to the elderly, assisted living facilities have the ability to also serve as forerunners to successful mental health and homeless institutions. Combined with the business acumen of residents who care, collaboration and cooperation can surely lead to mutually beneficial assisted living facilities in Long Beach that can better the community overall.

Response by Tyler Koch, University of Virginia

Let’s begin with a brief narrative. Judy is seventy five years young. She has three children—a boy and two daughters—who have provided her with six adorable grandchildren she spoils whenever she gets the chance. Judy’s husband passed away some time ago, and she’s lived alone ever since. She’s the type of woman who drives by nursing homes and vows that she’d rather kick the bucket than be put in one of those, the type of woman whose identification is inexplicably tied to her independence. Until a few months ago, that was fine, but lately her hip has given her some issues, and her joints don’t have the same movement they used to all those years ago. Her body doesn’t function optimally, even for her age. Reluctantly she hired a caregiving professional to assist her with some of the chores around the house. Her burden is shared, but she can’t get over the idea that somehow she could fix all of this, if only she knew how.
The truth is two-fold in this situation. The first is that our bodies wear down over time. It’s a slow, wide reaching truth that we’re never as supple at seventy five as we were at twenty. However there’s another truth at play which is often forgotten: with the right therapist or trainer, even a woman who’s seventy five can regain the freedom of movement.
I’m studying Kinesiology at the graduate level. In terms of having the knowledge to enhance people’s lives through proper movement, there’s no better degree. Many seniors receiving in home care do so because, at some juncture or another, their body has failed them where it once worked beautifully. They’ve lost the precious gift of walking, standing, sitting, reaching—the movements that summarize the core of our human experience.
Those who have studied kinesiology have the tools to help a senior citizen regain their independence. This is physical empowerment to the highest degree, and more than that, there is a change in perspective. Now the in-home care they receive is not a necessity but a choice. Specifically, there is balance. The burden of care rests not on the caregiver but instead is distributed evenly between the two. If the senior citizen—Judy in our example—wants to reorganize the garage, she is now able to do so with assistance, not dependence.
Control is powerful. As a senior citizen learn over time to use their body properly, so too can they limit the need for in-home care. Speaking personally my grandmother required in-home care before she passed away and she was quite miserable about the whole experience. But that needn’t have been so, if she had sought out help from an educated therapist or trainer. I suspect that if she only needed her assistant once or twice a week, instead of every day, that a true friendship could have ensued in lieu of resentment. This would have benefited both parties immensely.
With my advanced studies in Kinesiology, I can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care by reintroducing them to the powerful machine that is their body, and by taking away the negative stigma attached to the dependence of an assistant. In both these instances, senior citizens are inspired to live life to the fullest.

Response by Veronica Sanders, University of Texas at Arlington

For 28 years, Arnold would wake up around 5 o’clock in the morning every weekday to look in on his wife as she slept. He would give her a kiss, gently pat her head and leave for work. He remembers how he used to do the same for his three daughters and how that changed as they grew up, moved out, and started to live their own lives. Like any other weekday, Arnold would greet the guys with a huge smile, clock-in, and take his post on the line to prepare for yet another day of back breaking work making bed rails. He would take his lunch break, go back to work, head home, and tomorrow, do it all again. But today was not like any other day. On this particular weekday in the year 2011, Arnold would have an unsuspected brain injury that would change his life forever.
Arnold would be rushed to a bland hospital room and be greeted by his wife and daughters that he can’t, for the life of him, remember who they are. He would feel alone and wish that there was something in this cold, bland room that he could familiarize himself with. It took two weeks to remember who his family was and even longer to remember the many details of the past fifty years of his life. Equally as important, this unfortunate situation has resulted in mandatory early retirement and the need for in-home care.
Arnold is just one example of many people experiencing the same or similar issues. People just like him are getting care at home or in assisted living facilities that may not be equipped to make their lives and the lives of their caregivers easier. If something as small as a change of wall color can lighten a person’s mood, bring back positive memories, and improve their well-being, imagine what small necessary changes in their living environment home can do! Having a pulley and pull-up bar installed in a shower can help a disabled person bathe. Over stuffed cushions being specified for a space can make seating more comfortable for the elderly. Think about how tearing down an unnecessary wall in a home or facility can make more efficient travel space for a person in a wheelchair. The interior design career field was created to improve the built environment and the lives of its inhabitants. Every day, interior designers specify products and design spaces that improve the quality of living for you and your loved ones.
An interior designer is professionally trained to create a functional and quality interior environment. They are qualified through education, experience and examination. A professional designer can identify, research, and creatively resolve issues and lead to a healthy, safe, and comfortable physical environment. Designers also develop documents and specifications relative to interior spaces in compliance with applicable building and safety codes. They are trained to provide the tools you need to live at your highest capability. These are just a few reasons why I love this career, why I’m pursuing this education, and why it is important to implement in assisted living facilities!
Did you know that the décor of your home affects your health, and for that matter, your recovery? Everything in your environment affects your emotional, physical, and mental state. Something as simple as a designer creating a living wall in your home or healthcare facility will not only increase your mood, but it promotes faster healing and improves the quality of the air. It helps reduce allergens which aid in breathing, increases concentration and memory, enhances performance, and is beautiful to look at. An interior designer is trained to know how to make your living space safe and aesthetically pleasing. That is why interior design can and will improve the lives of the elderly (and anyone) in assisted living facilities and at home.
Interior design is a service driven career. Everything about the profession is about helping others and we are blessed to experience that reward. You can learn so much about the needs of others and it is such a mind opening experience. When Arnold, my father, got sick, the only thing I could think about was improving his living environment so that his health and stay-at-home experience would be less dreadful and more enjoyable. It is through this career that I can see myself providing that help to him, and the many others like him, with a positive path of recovery at home and in healthcare facilities.

Response by Victoria Alarcon, Palm Beach Atlantic University

My major can be deceiving if you’ve never heard of Christian Social Ministry, but it is just that social ministry, my studies thus far have taught me the importance of service to others and the amount of time it takes to see a change in the community. So often we see projects that start in the community and then after a few months the flame burns out and the project is a faint memory, this leaves the community hesitant to accepting help from those outside of the community who want to make a difference. I am learning that change takes time, diligence, perseverance, and geniality. I have learned a lot about serving in the community and understanding that their needs are not based on the things that you think they need but based on what they know they need. One thing that I have found is that there are so many aids for children and young adults, but very little to help support senior citizens. There are incentives for those who choose to work in low-income schools or for those who choose to work with “at risk” young adults to help them become more involved, but there are very little programs out there that are willing to go the extra mile for the seniors of their community. Another thing that I’ve realized is that through the few programs that there are out there for seniors, that provide a comfortable environment and help them in enjoyment of their life, are often times only made for those with the money to afford to live there and participate in those activities.
With the studies I have under my belt and the knowledge that I will continue to gain through out the rest of my time at Palm Beach Atlantic University; here are the things I would do to make a better home for the average senior citizen:
I would begin to go through the assisted living programs and weed out the negative living circumstances. How you ask? Well for instance, if it is a financial need that they are lacking in I would reach out to the community for financial support, local churches, youth activity centers, file grants from the government, and apply for scholarships with a detailed plan of what we want to see in the assisted living program that would also help the community.
Next, if they are lacking in involvement from its residence and surrounding community, I would invite youth from the near by high schools, and college students to be apart of a monthly dinner where they are there to entertain and be actively engaged with the residence of the living center. This would improve assisted living in a whole new way by allowing the residence of the Assisted Living Program feel involved in the way things are changing outside of their own world.
Providing internships to college age students along with volunteer hours and potential jobs after could really help get college students and even high school students involved, which could help the staff if they are lacking in the amount of help that they need.
Another thing that could really help the assisted living facility is by having programs provided by the center that help to empower senior citizens instead of making them feel like they are helpless. Activities such as bagging lunches for children in low income schools, going to schools to talk to children about staying on the right path, etc…. Providing daily physical activities such as; yoga, zumba, Pilates, nature trail walks, spin classes, the list goes on and on. I would also be better able to get social workers involved on a voluntary level to help them and their families with any issues that may occur before or during their time in the facility.
There are so many areas that my major can be applied to in writing this essay, everything from asking for donations, getting volunteers, getting involvement from the community, and spreading the word about what Senior Assisted living is, is not, and what it could become. Those are just a few of the things that my major can help with to improve the lives of our senior citizens, living in the senior assisted living centers in our local communities. I am passionately in love with doing well locally & making a global impact, and this is where it can begin.

Response by Victoria Huth, Sacred Heart University

The purpose of most assisted living facilities is to allow for residents to experience a more independent lifestyle despite illness or debilitation, while providing medical assistance to those individuals who are in need. Residents of assisted living facilities are additionally encouraged to maintain, or even improve, their current level of physical ability; while sustaining a high level of independence overall. In a similar manner, my chosen college major of Physical Therapy allows an individual to receive treatment by physical means for a disability, injury, or disease. An aging individual may experience ailments, injuries, or other conditions which require treatment by a physical therapist. The role of a physical therapist in an assisted living facility setting is to restore, improve, and sustain the physical capabilities of aging individuals. Physical therapy protocols typically encourage an individual to become as active and independent as he/she is able despite skeletal or neuromuscular dysfunction. Fortunately, many assisted living facilities employ physical therapists to work directly with residents within individual treatment sessions (as prescribed by their treating physician), as well as in group exercise type settings.
Physical therapists often work with aging individuals residing in assisted living facilities to improve muscle function, coordination, and control. It is a proven fact that as people age, they tend to lose strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, therefore, physical therapists often work to help individuals improve their level of function in these areas. Those individuals who have suffered from an injury or disease process often work with a physical therapist in attempt to restore their previous levels of movement and function. Therapeutic instruction allows for elderly individuals to learn proper and safe ways to move their aging bodies to alleviate pain and prevent injury. Seniors are often taught new ways to perform familiar tasks by addressing energy conservation and safety awareness, which allows them to maintain their levels of independence within their assisted living setting. Residents are taught the importance of conserving their energy, which will assist them in extending their levels of endurance during task performance. For example, individuals are taught by their therapists to bend less frequently during an activity or to perform tasks at or below chest height, to gain increased stamina and experience less fatigue when participating in activities of daily living. Additionally, safety awareness remains a very important area of instruction for aging individuals. Simple home assessments and activity analyses allows a physical therapist to evaluate how an aging individual is living and working within their own setting, and offer suggestions and modifications to provide for a safe home or assisted living environment.
Physical therapy may also be prescribed for individuals who may have encountered a hospital stay prior to their moving into an assisted living facility. Aging individuals most often experience a weakened condition due to an extended period of inactivity during hospitalization. Physical therapists provide gait training and instruction in safe mobility for individuals suffering from weakness due to immobility. Physical therapists additionally work to restore the health, strength and physical function of these individuals. Strengthening programs provide previously hospitalized individuals with the opportunity to regain the strength and endurance they were accustomed to prior to their hospital stay. Physical therapists working within an assisted living facility often support aging individuals in maintaining a healthy level of fitness overall. Recent studies have reported that a combination of physical therapy, strength training, and a regular exercise program can help to control the effects of common senior ailments such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and fractures that may be the result of falls. Aging individuals may also be instructed in ways to relieve pain and discomfort using activity modifications. Daily activities are analyzed step-by-step in attempt to identify problem areas, and the physical therapist will then provide instruction on how an activity can be modified so that an aging individual can accomplish it independently and safely within their own environment. This allows an individual to maintain a sense of integrity and accomplishment, while striving to remain as independent as they are able. In these, and many other ways, physical therapists play an important role in restoring, improving, and sustaining the physical capabilities of aging individuals residing within an assisted living facility.

Response by Vita Stramaglia, Wayne State University

The need for quality assisted living facilities is increasing exponentially as baby boomers are settling into their golden years. Improving assisted living standards will be crucial for lowering health care cost, increasing quality of life and allowing patients to retain their independence for longer. Many challenges come in this setting of providing assistance to our elderly from managing large numbers of staff to caring for highly medically compromised patients. The field of assisted living has made many advances to improve caregiving, but one unaddressed need is the importance of providing easy to prepare, nutrient dense meals.
You are what you eat. And given 15-50% of the senior population is malnourished what they are eating (if at all) is nutrient poor. This unfortunate reality is a consequence of a variety of factors including the physical limitations that come with old age that make preparing meals challenging or not having the finances to obtain a nutrient-dense meal. However, this is not the case for people that are receiving assisted living care. The residents are relying on their caregivers to buy, prepare, cook and in some cases feed them their food. If the caregivers are not knowledgeable in nutrition and meal preparation then they cannot tailor their diets to their patient’s various health conditions from diabetes to heart disease.
It is true that eating a nutrient dense diet will not reverse many health conditions, but it can help to improve a patient’s mood, energy levels and overall well-being. Around 16 percent of seniors consume less than 1,000 calories per day and often eat one to two meals per day, further emphasizing the importance of seeing each meal as an opportunity to provide as much nutrients as possible. Not only can one focus on nutrients alone as being cost effective its also of vital importance. This would require training caregivers to buy fresh whole foods that are on sale and in-season from low-cost providers and education on how to prepare food to provide optimal nutritional value. After arming their caregivers with this knowledge, this will also allow them to teach residents to prepare easy and safe meals for themselves or others. Given the tremendous strain on caregivers at assisted living facilities, providing meals that are cheap and nutritional has not received much emphasis or focus. However when one examines the evidence it is clear that providing better nutrition-based care for patients is both more cost effective in the long-term and more importantly leads to better outcomes.
While on my path to obtaining a Nutrition and Food Science degree and working in various senior care facilities it has become apparent to me that the food given to patients needs to be tailored to their health conditions. Being aware of what foods to consume will be vital for providers to help aid in alleviating the symptoms of various ailments and improving the lives of seniors. Combining new discoveries in the scientific community with past knowledge of nutrition to innovatie assisted living could provide seniors with high quality of life in the future.

Response by Wendy Tabellion, Kent State University

I’m certain one may scratch their head when they try to consider how special education students could improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care. To me, coming from a background in healthcare, it seems like an easy connection. Intergenerational programs and activities have a wide-range of benefits and the types of programs are only limited due to imagination and creativity. Special education students and those receiving in-home services could interact with each other in many ways and formats. They can be friends, role models and mentors. They can teach each other new skills, new technologies and/or new hobbies. They can do this through programs such as pen pals, encouragement from/to each other through electronic formats such as email, skype or videos, and service projects. Both are groups that may have the need to expand their personal connections, improve their physical skills or improve their cognitive skills. Both groups would benefit from helping each other such as making items or other items they may need. If visits would be indicated, personal connections would benefit both groups. Helping others is a mutually beneficial activity and can help brighten someone’s day, provide encouragement, and increase skills. Personal connections can also foster increased motivation and encouragement to continue to work towards goals and persevere through challenges. Social isolation can impact not only recovery, but also quality of life. The possibilities and rewards are countless. I see this as an area that could really be expanded upon.
I am pursing a Master’s degree in Special Education. My goal is to obtain a teaching position where I can foster academics, life and leisure skills of students. I have been in the healthcare field for over 20 years as a recreational therapist. I have witnessed the benefits of positive interactions between the students and older clients or younger clients with physical limitations. I understand the need to assist individuals to have a positive experience by addressing their physical, social, cognitive and emotional needs. Providing increased opportunities for success can help in the recovery and learning process. By allowing the individuals opportunities for positive rewarding experiences, it keeps them engaged in whichever facet of life they may be in. Both categories received the benefits and smiles from the encounters whether they were in person or mail. I hope to have the opportunity to initiate this type of program for my students. Personal connections can also foster increased motivation and encouragement to continue to work towards goals and persevere through challenges.

Response by Zainab Ali, University of Texas at Austin

Communication is key to any successful relationship, and it comes through observation and understanding. English professors stress the importance of a writer to understand their audience to efficiently communicate with them, which in this case, is the way a caregiver would have to interact accordingly with a senior. The choice of words or actions and the way they are presented make a huge difference to any experience or interaction. If this is overlooked, it can create misunderstandings, or the message that the caregiver is trying to deliver can go over the person’s head if not communicated correctly within the proper context.
My major in English can help improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care, because it teaches students how to communicate accordingly to their audience, a skill that will enhance the experience and care seniors receive. If a caregiver were to lack in this area, it would be discomforting to a senior, which could affect their often-sensitive health. Therefore, it is essential for the helper to be able to get their messages across to their seniors effectively with their values, wants, needs, and ideas in mind.
I have been raised in Houston, Texas, which is a diverse and ever-expanding metropolis. This is exactly the type of city where it would be imperative for a caregiver to be able to understand the different perspectives of which the seniors that they will need to interact with will come from and how to associate with them accordingly. Most likely, there will be a generation gap between the caregiver and their senior, and to bridge it, it is important that the caregiver should have the patience and versatility to put themselves in the other’s shoes and communicate with them with a farsightedness and proper understanding.
My grandmother is a senior who needs in-home care. Thankfully, there are relatives that live with her who are there to help out, but there is only one young person living in the house and she has started a job. The more difficult tasks involved with my grandmother’s care were usually done by her, and so we were desperate to find outside help. It took a while to find someone suitable for the job, because it was necessary to hire someone who is caring, understanding, and thorough. Because of this experience with my Nanima, my family and I know the necessity of having people who can understand the needs of different people and are gentle and patient at the same time. The main way for a caregiver to successfully do their job is to make sure that they understand the needs and wants of seniors, and their points of view specifically, so that seniors are satisfied and comfortable with their services. A person with an English degree would surely be able to handle this job, since they have mastered the art of how to communicate according to different audiences. The English major can benefit senior care in a way that is universal to any person trying to develop a relationship.

Response by Zoya Din, DePaul University

What I love most about psychology is its versatility. No matter what the field, understanding human behavior and the way people think is essential to improving how people communicate and interact with each other. Growing up, my mother suffered from episodes of mania and depression. After experiencing her mental instabilities, it made me curious about the depth of human cognition and its decision-making capabilities.
By majoring in psychology, it is my goal to help improve productivity and employee satisfaction in the workplace. There are many situations in which management has difficulty communicating with low wageworkers, which can lead to job dissatisfaction and low work morale. As an I/O psychologist, it would be my job to study the output of assisted living facilities in my town, and figure out ways to make improvements. This would include talking to the residents of those assisted living facilities about their quality of care and happiness. It would also include giving constructive performance reviews to employees of the assisted living facility. It might also include coming up with new ways to voice the opinions of low wageworkers and advocate for their needs.
I/O psychologists are tasked with finding the leaks in any facility, and coming up with practical ways to enhance the existing system as well as offer new and innovative reforms. Most importantly, it is the job of an I/O psychologist to increase the quality of services being provided by the facility, without compromising the satisfaction and happiness of the employees or the seniors. It is my hope as a psychologist to understand how individuals in assisted living facilities gain satisfaction from their quality of care, and use that knowledge to find more efficient ways to maintain those standards.
Likewise, when my mother worked as a home care aid she liked to share stories about the families in which her clients grew up. She especially liked how they genuinely missed her on days that she did not go to work. Growing up, my mother had to go to work most of the day, so I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. I grew closer to her, and I still remember burying my face in the warm clothes pulled fresh from the dryer. Together we would sit and fold laundry as I listened to her stories. Sometimes I would see her struggle to fold laundry, which reminded me that one day we would all need to rely on the help of our friends and family.
I believe it is a valuable service to be able to provide care for someone in need. I value my major because it allows me to advocate for individual needs, and help members of a facility work more efficiently together. In the end, aging is a beautiful process as well as a remembrance of our mortality. It reminds us that we have a short time to be proactive leaders, and take care of each other and our communities while we still can. And this scholarship can aid me in reaching those goals.

Based in Austin, TX, Amelia is the Content Marketing Manager for When she’s not writing about online reputation management, online reviews, and social media in the senior living space, she enjoys yoga and running with her dog Rockefeller. She graduated from Wellesley College cum laude with a dual degree in English and Medieval/Renaissance Studies.


  1. Arnulfo Skaggs December 11, 2016 Reply

    sometimes skinny jeans are not comfortable to wear, i would always prefer to use loos jeans-

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