Enhancing Quality of Life: Cleveland State University’s Academic-Service Partnership for the Aging Promotes Community Insight - St Augustine Health Ministries

May 8, 2024

Enhancing Quality of Life: Cleveland State University’s Academic-Service Partnership for the Aging Promotes Community Insight

The Cleveland State University Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program (OTD) Service-Learning Class contributes diverse recreational activities for St. Augustine Health Campus residents, and they are making a significant impact. By designing activities with specific goals in mind, the students are not only applying their knowledge and skills but also tailoring their interventions to meet the unique needs of the residents. This approach not only fosters engagement and enjoyment but also promotes experiences that can contribute to the residents’ overall health and happiness.

Their dedication to providing meaningful interaction demonstrates a deep commitment to enhancing the well-being and quality of life for the residents. It’s wonderful to see students actively engaging with the community and applying what they’ve learned in a real-world setting. This hands-on experience not only enriches their education but also reinforces the importance of service and empathy in their future practice as occupational therapists.

One of the delights of being an instructor is to watch a group progress from the awkwardness of being strangers to gaining a rapport and familiarity that informs the strengths and weaknesses of both the individuals participating, and the student therapists. Through weekly interactions, the CSU students were able to hone their clinical skills and activity analysis through the unique lens of Occupational Therapy which fostered so much joy on both sides. 

Leslie Ruch, CSU OTD program 

Week 1: Nature-Themed Textile Art

Residents crafted ladybugs made out of rock, all-natural hand scrub, and personalized collages using materials found in nature.

There were a variety of clients with different conditions and different ages, which taught me a lot about the differences in treating specific populations. Due to the variation in conditions and ages, I learned different strategies to promote wellness in various populations.

CSU OTD Student

Week 2: Personalized Decor Craft

Residents picked out images that meant something to them and turned them into a magazine collage as well as door decorations.

One of the members continued to talk about how they are going to give their collage to their social worker. Throughout the session I helped design their piece specifically for them and their social worker’s preferences; witnessing the excitement to be able to do this for them made me excited as well.

CSU OTD Student

Week 3: Healthy Eating Course

Residents learned about different nutritional ingredients and their benefits, then created granola bars and fruit parfaits out of them and finished with healthy eating bingo.

Initially, I was hesitant to directly engage with clients during activities due to shyness and a fear of making mistakes. However, this dramatically changed over time as I found myself providing one-on-one assistance to residents and having meaningful conversations with them.

CSU OTD Student

Week 4: Spring-Inspired Painting

Residents painted mason jars to reflect their favorite springtime flower and mini flowerpots which turned into leprechaun hats just in time for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

It made me proud to see residents engaging in activities/tasks they previously thought they couldn’t do. For example, I remember one resident stating “I can’t do it” during one of the first intervention groups. As weeks passed, we got him to participate and do the things he wanted to do while engaging in the groups. I am proud to see their performance and self-confidence change for the better.

CSU OTD Student

Week 5: Risk Assessment and Scam-Warning Jeopardy

Residents broke out into three teams and played an educational game of jeopardy, learning about commons scams and how to avoid them.

I am most proud of the increased engagement in the activities and social participation among group members that I observed over the weeks. It was rewarding to see how our interactions and shared experiences positively impacted them. Additionally, I’m proud of the meaningful relationships I (and other students) were able to make with the residents!

CSU OTD Student

Week 6: Under the Sea Crafts & Beach Party Invitations

Residents used different mediums to create “under the sea” decorations such as jellyfish and starfish for next week’s beached-themed party — invitations for the event were also created.

Overall, closing the group feels bittersweet. It is sad that we will not get to see the residents each week, but it also makes me happy to know that we made a difference in their lives! They all expressed their gratitude with the experience and memories we made with them.

CSU OTD Student

Week 7: Summer Fun Beach Party

Residents exercised by batting around a beach ball that had different questions relating to summer/summer activities on it — whatever it landed on, they answered it. They also played the game headbands where they had to use their analyzation and problem-solving skills to figure out what summer-related word they were wearing!

Watching each resident having fun with the headband and beach ball game as they just genuinely enjoyed their time was a great experience. They were all having so much fun dressed up, playing games, and engaging with their peers. It was very rewarding being a part of that and having the opportunity to provide this type of “refreshing” and different moment in their daily routine.

CSU OTD Student

The activities promote health and wellness, initiate problem solving, help to develop coping skills, and encourage communication and group participation to build a sense of community. 

Each and every activity that the students planned was very innovative for us residents. The beach party was a lot of fun; you could tell there was a lot of thought and care put into it — it was just marvelous!

Lavonia, St. Augustine Health Campus Resident

The groups are designed to be “hands on” where our residents work on a craft, play a game, prepare a light snack, etc., while receiving education and assistance from the students.  These groups aid people with dementia but are beneficial for all our residents; the students provide individualized attention as they are designed for each person or each group’s specific needs.

It was great seeing our residents’ and CSU OTD students’ faces light up when a connection was made; the experience appeared rewarding for everyone involved. I know for a fact our residents enjoyed every activity they were able to share with them, and the students couldn’t have been more accommodating, engaging and creative with the activities they conducted here. We’ve been fortunate to host them for two years now, and it’s a partnership I hope continues indefinitely.

Tim Tobias, St. Augustine Health Campus Activities Director

We are always welcoming new partnerships with colleges, high schools, companies and organizations. If you are interested in sharing your time and talents with us, please consider our many volunteer opportunities or contact Caroline DiFabio at cdifabio@st-aug.org for more information.

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