GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Aug. 24, 2016—As college students get ready for move-in day, many think of dorm life, but three Western Michigan University occupational therapy students will be moving into a Grand Rapids area retirement community with 80 senior citizens. Though this seems strange, it’s part of what is believed to be one of the first research projects of its type in the United States. The data being collected is part of a project being conducted by the occupational therapy program at WMU’s Grand Rapids regional location in collaboration with Clark Retirement Community (Clark).
On Monday, Aug. 29, students Collett Chapp, Lori Johnson, and Corey Youngs will make Clark on Keller Lake, 2499 Forest Hills Avenue, SE, home for the next 19 months. The collaborative program between WMU-Grand Rapids and Clark provides housing for the students along with the opportunity for social interaction among the students and residents of the facility.
“There has been a tremendous amount of collaboration between Clark Retirement Community and WMU to be able to pursue meaningful research regarding the perceived attitudes of the aging and those of our younger generation,” said Nancy Hock, coordinator, WMU-Grand Rapids Occupational Therapy Department. “We hope the data collected will lead to more effective intergenerational communication.”
During the students’ time at Clark on Keller Lake, they will collect qualitative data from their experiences. Some of the key areas of research include the impact of social isolation and loneliness, an in-depth look at aging, and stereotypes from the perspective of retirees towards college-age students and students towards retirees.
“WMU’s Occupational Therapy Department identified a situation that many people talk about but never take the time to truly understand,” said Nancy Ayers, director of resident living, Clark on Keller Lake. “We are proud our residents have agreed to help WMU’s students on this very important research, which will help create better communication between the aging population and those who provide vital services to them.”