Thursday, July 12, 2007
This presentation is part of : In Giving We Receive: Community Engagement of Nursing Students with Culturally Diverse Populations
Engaging the Elderly in Building Health Promotion Programs: A Model to Promote Benefits for Both Undergraduate Nursing Students and Elderly Populations in the Community
Patricia Thompson, PhD, RN, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Winona State University, Rochester, MN, USA

Health promotion and disease prevention for the elderly is a key priority for Healthy People 2010.  Although illness and disability rates increase with age, a large body of research indicates that health promotion and disease prevention activities can assist the elderly in living healthier and independent lives. Baccalaureate nursing students (n = 27) from a mid-western university worked with economically disadvantaged, high risk elderly in their residential settings to develop relevant health promotion and education programs.  The elderly were diverse in age, life experiences, access to resources, race, ethnicity, health status, and culture.         

 In an effort to expand community health clinical experiences, students and faculty were immersed in a diverse community setting for an academic year with the goals of improving the health of an aggregate population. Students were engaged in critical reflection on issues which included:  community assessment, partnering with clients in the development of interventions, translation of evidence-based theory into clinical practice, and development of strategies to promote health and prevent disease within an elderly community.

 The study is a mixed-method design. Descriptive data were obtained from pre-post testing of knowledge and attitudes of students regarding community based health promotion activities and issues facing the elderly. Qualitative data from reflective journaling and open-ended questionnaires were analyzed for common themes.  Although data collection is ongoing, initial analysis reveals gains in knowledge and skills, with changes in attitudes reflecting more positivity and less bias regarding working with the elderly.  

 Students benefited from the process of engaging the elderly in the development of health promotion programs.  Benefits to the elderly participants of health promotion programs warrant further exploration.