Reducing Risk of Falls, One Home at a Time

Elaine Whitford News

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving and Meredith College students are teaming up to reduce older adults’ risk of falls through safety modifications and in-home exercise programs. Funded through a Council of Independent Colleges grant, the students will have the opportunity to form meaningful connections with seniors.

“CIC hopes that this pilot project will serve as a first step toward the development of a national network of programs on independent college and university campuses that promote intergenerational interaction between students and community members,” said CIC President Richard Ekman.

Three Meredith students were accepted to be part of the project that kicked off on August 22 at The Center. Anna Huff is a senior and earning a degree in Exercise & Sports Science. Nola Grace Brown is a sophomore and working on dual degrees in Dance and Exercise & Sports Science. Christa Soyars is also a sophomore with plans to graduate in 2020 with a degree in Psychology and Public Health.

The students and Meredith faculty met for the first time with our staff and guest speakers at The Center on August 22.

Understanding the Risk
Ellen Schneider, a Research Scientist with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, helped lay the foundation for the challenges for older adults who live alone.

“Falling is the leading cause of injury facing older Americans,” said Schneider. “Annually, 27,000 people die from a fall every 19 minutes and every 11 seconds, someone is treated for a fall injury.”

The impact is felt in the emergency department with 2.4 million visits and direct medical costs of more than $30 billion.

Martha Louanne “Louie” Mobley, Home Fit Education Volunteer at AARP shared ways the students can be a part of the solution. “We are helping the students be prepared to administer home safety checks, as well as have the tools they need to follow-up with recommendations,” said Mobley.

Next Steps
The students will begin the process of working through logistics of implementing the plan. The Center has identified several Care Receivers to be a part of the program and is developing bios for each one that will help the Meredith students be successful with the outreach effort.

“The goals of this project are to reduce the risk, reduce the cost and keep older adults living safely in their homes,” said Robin Pollock, Services Coordinator for The Center. “We are excited by the energy and enthusiasm of the Meredith students.”

About the Project
Through Meredith College’s project, “Fall-Risk Reduction through Home Safety Modifications and In-Home Exercise for Socially Isolated Older Adults,” college student visitors will work with socially isolated, low-income older adults who are living independently within the community to reduce the risk of falling.

Huff, Brown and Soyars are studying under the direction of Cynthia Edwards, Ph.D. Department Head, Psychology and Social Work; Professor of Psychology, Melinda Campbell, Ph.D. Professor of Health, Exercise and Sports Science, and Gwynn Morris, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychology.

“The students want to work with older adults and gain the needed experience in intervention programs with the ability to use their skills in data collection and assessment,” said Edwards.

The project is scheduled to run for the 2017-2018 school year. The current students will wrap up their portion of the program at the end of this semester and then help train more students to run the program in January.

About the Grant
Meredith College is one of a select group of 21 institutions across the nation chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to receive a grant to implement an Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults program.
The one-year, $13,000 grant from CIC will be used to enhance connections between undergraduate students and older adults in the community. CIC launched this new initiative with support from the AARP Foundation to encourage colleges to create or extend programs in which students help low-income older adults (ages 50 and older) tackle key life challenges.

These 21 colleges and universities will be part of a new network of colleges that the AARP Foundation hopes will help establish best practices for engaging students in meeting the challenges of older adults—hunger, safe and affordable housing, income-generation, and social isolation—in the communities surrounding college campuses