OT students to spend 19 months in retirement community

contact: Charlotte Murphy
| WMU News
Photo of Youngs, Chapp and Johnson.

Students pictured left to right: Youngs, Chapp and Johnson.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—While many college students moved into a residence hall to start the new school year, three Western Michigan University occupational therapy students moved into a Grand Rapids-area retirement community with 80 senior citizens.

In what is believed to be one of the first research projects of its type in the United States, the living arrangement is allowing the trio to study communication between community residents and their service providers. The data being collected is part of a project being undertaken by the occupational therapy program at WMU's Grand Rapids regional location in collaboration with Clark Retirement Community.

Collett Chapp, Lori Johnson and Corey Youngs moved Aug. 29 into Clark on Keller Lake, 2499 Forest Hills Ave. SE, and will call the facility home for the next 19 months. The collaborative project between WMU-Grand Rapids and Clark provides housing for the students, along with the opportunity for social interaction among the students and residents.

"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 of the 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. In addition to examining aging in depth, they will look at such key research areas as the impact of social isolation and loneliness and stereotypes from the perspective of retirees toward college-age students and students toward 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 at 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."

For more information about WMU's occupational therapy programs, visit wmich.edu/ot.

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