Health promotion master's students Christine Kukich, Kelsey Brayman, Paula Kalksma, and Gwen Branscome with participants in the PhotoVoice project at the Howard Weston Senior Center.

Intergenerational initiatives

UD students help seniors unleash the power of age

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10:33 a.m., May 21, 2014--Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions and provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active. 

A celebration on Thursday, May 15, at Howard Weston Senior Center in New Castle, Delaware, highlighted some unique intergenerational initiatives between University of Delaware students and community seniors. 

Campus Stories

New Vita Nova

Students and faculty enjoy the newly renovated Vita Nova student-run restaurant, and hold a luncheon to celebrate donors Jayne and Chris Malfitano.

Exercise counseling

The University of Delaware's Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology is now offering exercise counseling services at the Nurse Managed Health Center.

The event, which attracted more than 100 attendees, showed off a participatory photography project by four graduate students in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, and lunch was topped off with a healthy dessert featured in a nutrition project carried out earlier in the semester by four other UD grad students.

Both projects were part of a course, Health of Older Adults, taught by Beth Orsega-Smith, associate professor.

A new wall mural designed by intern Lauren Wilson, an art major at UD, and painted by seniors and UD students, was also unveiled at the event. 

Other exhibits displayed paintings by participants in the center’s art class as well as art projects completed by people in Howard Weston’s adult day care program.

“These initiatives remind us that creativity doesn’t diminish over time and that some things do get better with age,” said Weston director Vicki Sheraton. “The key to aging well is to stay active and involved.” “Through these cooperative efforts with the University of Delaware, we’re mobilizing the vast potential of young college students to improve the lives of our seniors.”

Speaking through pictures

PhotoVoice is an approach started in the U.K. that uses innovative participatory photography and digital storytelling methods as agents for social change. 

Borrowing from this technique, health promotion master’s students Kelsey Brayman, Gwen Branscome, Paula Kalksma, and Christine Kukich posed a number of questions to the eight participants in the project at Howard Weston: What makes you happy? What makes you feel young? What makes you relax? What makes you unique? What gives you purpose in life? What is nature? What are your hobbies?

The dozens of photos in the display showed grandkids and gospel music, quilting and crocheting, religion and reading, parks and pets.

“It really made me think,” said one participant. “It was a very good process, and I ended up talking to my daughter and my grandchildren to get ideas.”

For the UD students, the project broke down stereotypes of older people and the stigma often associated with aging. 

“The pictures show that many older people are happy, and some of them are so busy that they had a hard time choosing what to photograph for the project,” said Brayman. “It was really good for us to see that.”

More fiber, less salt

Just a month before the art exhibit, a smaller group of Weston seniors and the center’s chef traveled to the UD campus for a hands-on lesson in adding healthy fiber to their diets, increasing their water intake, and cutting back on salt.

The participants paired up to prepare spinach-artichoke dip, minestrone soup, vegetable baked ziti, bean salad, sweet potatoes with roasted bananas, and “fruit cake” — but not the kind with cherries the color of crayons. The recipes, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic, were low in sodium and fat and high in fiber and flavor.

“This is wonderful,” said Peggy Barker, program director at Howard Weston. “You can see that everything doesn’t have to be fattening to taste good. It was also great to have the experience of cooking and sharing a meal with the students.”

The cooking project was developed by Beatrice Gaynor, a Ph.D. student in nursing science; Kara Magane, a master’s student in health promotion; and Emily Stave and Brittany Knick in the human nutrition master’s program.

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos courtesy of Weston Senior Center and by Kathy F. Atkinson

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