Now that you have completed your experience, what are your general feelings and thoughts about it? It was exciting to represent the occupational therapy department by volunteering at San Pedro Commons. What surprised me most was the amount of time it took before we (a team of four SJSU occupational therapy students) were able to orient ourselves, interact with the residents, and start the interventions. The first four weeks we mainly dealt with logistics, learned about the MidPen organization, and observed the location and environment of the residents.
After this, we were able to meet the residents and establish report. The residents were a diverse group of older adults coming from different cultural backgrounds. They had a variety of personal interests, academic experiences, and motivations for attending the classes. Some residents would participate in all the activities, while others were more selective and would only participate when the activities were of interest. This kept our sessions interesting and challenging at the same time.
Also it was rewarding to plan individual intervention plans, it allowed each team member to explore an activity that they were excited about. It gave us a chance to observe and learn how each of us handled the responsibilities. At our last session, a potluck, the residents reported that the activities created an excitement and that they looked forward to what was to come each week. We noticed that most participants contributed to the potluck and seemed proud of the dishes they brought in. Throughout the weeks we had talked about the variety of herbs and the cultural differences when preparing dishes.
At the potluck the residents presented their dishes, marked the origin on a world map, and were able to share stories. The social services assistant noticed that compared to previous organized potlucks more residents contributed and that there was a larger variety in dishes. Getting the positive feedback from the residents and seeing their excitement made the experience and work worthwhile. How did you apply the social model of health to promote participation in health-promoting occupations, for groups and community? What other model did you use the most?
We promoted the social model of health by offering the residents choices during the interventions so that they had a sense of control while participating in the activities. Since the group was diverse and some had physical limitations we also promoted adaptations so everyone was able to participate. Most residents perceived the activities as being meaningful since they were involved when decisions were made.
Additionally the participatory action research (PAR) was used, this model allowed us to investigate a social problem at the San Pedro Commons site, while aiming to improve health through involving the residents (Baum, F. MacDougall, C. , & Smith, D. , 2006). Before meeting the residents the initial identification of the problem was addressed by making our own observations at the location and by talking to David Lee, the program manager for the senior services program of MidPen Housing, and Zahira Pena, the social services assistant. Both had some insights in what they considered a need for the San Pedro Commons residents. David Lee discussed similar MidPen residences and the programs previously implemented at those locations, while Zahira shared her thoughts about the local residents.
To investigate a sense of the real problem and to discover the needs of the primary stakeholders’ two surveys were introduced. The residents were asked to: answer a single page PNF Interest Inventory survey, and to draw in a “Dream Courtyard/Building” on a map resembling the San Pedro Commons building and courtyard. The information gathered through the collected data, the advice from stakeholders, and the observations of our team allowed us to design and implement the intervention plan for the following weeks. In what ways did you assume the role of occupational therapy consultant or collaborator in community practice?
The role of occupational therapy consultant on an individual, more personal level was apparent through the weekly intervention plans we introduced to the residents. Since the groups were small, we were able to give individual attention to the residents by taking their unique limitations and strengths in consideration. Also the residents would give feedback while our team shared occupational therapy related knowledge and activities. On a higher level, both the role as occupational therapy consultant and collaborator was assumed.
The PAR approach supported a collaboration between all those involved by taking everyone’s ideas and concerns into consideration. We collaborated with David Lee, who was a source of information about the organization and was able to give us some feedback about previously implemented programs in other Mid Pen facilities. Zahira, our primary contact at the San Pedro Commons site, shared information about the individual residents. She knew them on a more personal level as she organizes a weekly BINGO event and conducts the functional assessments every 6 months in order to track the residents’ health status and functionality.
Larry Albert, the property manager at San Pedro Commons, was knowledgeable about the building, complying with ADA regulations, and the regulations concerning the residents living in low income housing facilities. Name your site. What was the richest aspect of your experience? The most challenging? What would you change? San Pedro Commons is an affordable housing complex for seniors and a property of MidPen Housing, a non-profit organization in the Bay Area. By offering housing with related services to this population, MidPen aims to encourage healthful aging in place.
Most San Pedro Commons residents live independently but have health issues. The richest aspect of my experience was the interaction with the residents and the excitement of being able to share experiences and activities. The participating residents were open, enthusiastic, and educated, which made this experience very positive. This population is inspiring to work with and they motivated me to research interventions that would keep them interested, engaged, and would address the goals. The most challenging part was the limited amount of time we were able to spend on site and having the interventions on a set day and time.
Because of school obligations the team members only had Wednesday afternoons available and this limited us on how many residents we were able to reach. This was apparent at the potluck when more residents were present because it was scheduled on a Friday evening. Also MidPen had a policy that volunteers need to be supervised at all times, thus we had to reschedule when Zahira was not available. Another challenge was that after we planned the interventions, Larry Albert made us aware that part of the plan may not be feasible because of regulations and logistics.
Our team wanted to make environmental changes, such as building planter boxes on the cement patio for the enjoyment of the residents. However any physical changes made to the environment have to pass through the manager responsible for the property, the engineers, and the service department. We also did not consider details such as: having the planter box fit in with the existing furniture, the quality of the planter boxes, who can access and claim the vegetables grown in the garden, and ADA regulations concerning the planter boxes.
In the future I would keep these limitations in mind and consult management before designing the interventions. What were your original goals and expected outcomes at this site? How did you measure them? To what degree were they achieved quantitatively & qualitatively? 1. Increase social participation: Increase number of residents participating in weekly activities from the current average of 7 to at least 12 by the final week. As evidenced by our last intervention, a potluck ttended by at least 17 residents, we successfully increased social participation at San Pedro Commons. A secondary social participation goal was to support the development of empowering community roles. Our initial idea of a community garden club involved volunteer leadership and management positions. While the community garden plan is on hold, we did succeed in identifying two community leaders interested in forming a welcoming committee for new residents to San Pedro Commons.
In facilitating a collaboration between these residents and the activities coordinator, we achieved this goal. 2. Increase quality of life for SPC residents through increased participation in healthful, community occupations. Quality of life will be measured as an increase in average of all subscale survey scores pre and post intervention. For measurement, we used the Older People’s Quality of Life questionnaire, a valid Likert scale (Bowling, Hankins, Windle, Bilotta, & Grant, 2013).
Successfully completed surveys indicate a high quality of life for residents at San Pedro Commons. However, incorrectly scored/ incomplete surveys, and a lack of pre- and post-data, make any significant conclusions impossible. Qualitatively, we received excellent feedback from residents who participated in our interventions. Comments included reiteration of the helpfulness of techniques that were taught in our classes Additionally, individual intervention goals were met each week, including observation-based measures of participation, safety, and social interaction.