(Pictured: Noor Awad, Rayna Horner and Shayla Horrigan)
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of older adults engaging with young people. This is true, maybe even more so, for people living with short-term memory loss or dementia. And, it’s why MemoryLane Care Services places an emphasis on creating meaningful experiences for students who are interested in careers working with the aging population.
Bringing older adults and young people together in what’s called intergenerational interactions serve as a purposeful activity and positively impact quality of life for the older adult.
Internships Prepare Students for Careers in Dementia Care
MemoryLane is fortunate to offer well rounded intergenerational programming for college students and high school students, from internships to a range of volunteer opportunities. College internships allow students studying in areas such as social work, nursing and public health the chance to engage with our day center participants and family caregivers. During their internship, students lead a variety of projects from planning a program for our day center participants and staff or conducting surveys.
Rayna Horner, who recently graduated from The University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in social work, focused on reminiscence therapy. She created an activity for our day center participants and led a program for the staff.
“The reminiscence activity explained how our senses can trigger memories. In the first part of the activity, participants smelled different spices that sparked memories of sweets they ate growing up. Then, they reached their hand into a bag to feel different objects. For sound, we listened to older music, and for sight, we watched an older movie,” she said. “It was wonderful to see the participants recall memories from their past.”
Noor Awad, who also graduated from The University of Toledo with a degree in social work, had hoped to do an internship with children. Being placed at MemoryLane proved to be a blessing in disguise.
“I was happily surprised,” Noor said. “I didn’t expect it, but I fell in love working with the participants. Now, I plan to continue working with older adults.”
Both Rayna and Noor felt inspired when they had opportunities to make impactful connections with participants.
Rayna recalled a time when she saw a participant who seemed anxious and uneasy. She and another staff member tried to calm her. Acting on instinct, Rayna picked up a robotic animal, a cat, and brought it to her.
“Her eyes lit up and it calmed her right away. Maybe she had a cat at one time in her life,” Rayna said. “I love to figure out what might make a connection with someone.”
Noor added, “It can be a trial and error. Once you assess the situation, think of ideas that might help.”
Pilot Program Introduces High School Students to Healthcare
MemoryLane is participating in the statewide High School Healthcare Preceptor Pilot in partnership with LeadingAge Ohio. Through a grant from the Ohio Department of Education, the program provides students in grades 9-12 the opportunity to work with an aging services provider for invaluable experience and to complete an elder care certification course, which gives them points toward a career readiness seal for their diploma.
Three freshman students from the Toledo Public Schools’ Pre-Medical and Health Science Academy work in the Adult Day Center after school two days per week.
“In addition to assisting in the day center, the students learn about what it’s like to work in a healthcare setting and handle responsibility,” said Cheryl Conley, Director of Social Services for MemoryLane.
Cheryl also said that getting younger students exposed to the aging field is a win-win. The students gain experience working with the aging population while the organization and day center participants benefit from the energy of the young students and their willingness to help and learn. The goal is to get more students working in the field of dementia care.
“We have a passion for training the next generation of professional caregivers serving older adults with dementia,” Cheryl said.