A multi-year award from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area is enhancing an ongoing program that connects Hope College nursing students with residents of Waverly Meadows, an independent-living senior community in Holland.

“The Community Foundation is excited to support the Hope College Nursing Department’s new partnership to provide health services to Waverly Meadows residents with a grant from our Community’s Endowment,” said Elizabeth Kidd, vice president of community impact with the foundation.  “We believe this program will have a lasting impact on the health and quality of life of the seniors served.”

The $15,000, three-year award will support development of a new nurse managed health center at Waverly Meadows that will be staffed by Hope nursing students who will develop and implement on-site wellness and health-promotion programs for the residents.  The initiative, which will begin with the spring semester, builds on a relationship established in 2011 through which students in the college’s Community Health Nursing class have already been providing a variety of health care- and wellness-related services.

“We’ve valued our partnership with Waverly Meadows these past four years and the difference that we’ve been able to make for the residents as well as adding to our student nurses’ educational experience,” said Dr. Barbara Vincensi, an assistant professor of nursing at Hope who has a background in community nursing and teaches the course.  “As partners, we realized that there were additional health needs that we could meet.  The grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area will enable us to provide more services to promote optimal health for the residents, such as health assessments, exercise programs and increased access to wellness information.”

Located on Holland’s east side near Waverly Road and 16th Street, Waverly Meadows has approximately 118 residents age 55 and older.  Through the initial program, running during the school year, two students from the college’s Community Health Nursing course have provided blood pressure clinics every other week; four educational sessions per semester on diet, health and chronic disease; two chair exercise programs each semester; and an interactive bulletin board with information about a variety of health issues.  In addition, the entire class—in which other students participate in similar immersion experience placements elsewhere—hosts and participates in a community meal with the residents.

Based on input from the residents, the students also conducted a health needs assessment that identified services that will be provided through the expanded program.  The expanded program will include on-going testing on measures such as blood sugar, weight, height, body-mass index and bone density, as well as fall-risk assessments.  Increased emphasis on health education will include providing background on the purpose of testing and the meaning of results.  New physical education classes will emphasize activity that can continue day-to-day with an emphasis on improving overall health in addition to assisting with specific needs, such as assisting with balance.  The grant will help provide a variety of supplies, including a computer so that personal health-related data can be stored securely on-site.

Vincensi noted that the program builds on a proven model at a particularly important time, as the percentage of older adults in the U.S. continues to increase.

“There is a tremendous need nationally to provide health care to the growing senior adult demographic, and health care costs, especially related to chronic disease, are a major concern,” she said.  “Increasing emphasis is needed on preventive services and health maintenance for older adults in the community setting.  Nurse managed health centers, which place RNs and advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners within the population they’re serving, have been documented to successfully meet the needs of a diverse population with multiple health care concerns in a cost-effective manner.”

At Waverly Meadows, the health care isn’t the only benefit.  Cory Gould, community manager, noted that the residents also simply enjoy the chance to interact with the students while they’re on-site.

“They definitely love the relationship with students, who help provide a young atmosphere with energy,” he said Cory Gould.  “They enjoy establishing relationships with them and chatting with them.”

The mission of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ) is to create lasting positive change. CFHZ builds the permanent community’s endowment that supports high impact charitable projects. CFHZ also help donors achieve their charitable goals. More information about the foundation is available at cfhz.org