OT students help senior citizens connect with loved ones through technology

July 30, 2021

Two OT students teach an older adult how to take a selfie using a cell phone

Four Quinnipiac occupational therapy students spent time at the North Haven Senior Center leading a photography class to five senior citizens to help them better communicate and share their experiences with loved ones.

Alongside camera features, doctoral occupational therapy students Emily Alderman, Andrew Clark, Nulin Phrommavanh and Valerie Sobo, taught the senior center students how to send the photos they took to their friends and family via text or email.

“We held three classes for this pilot program that were dedicated to one on one tutorials,” said Phrommavanh. “We also held a photo scavenger hunt where the older adults were able to go outside and take various photos to gain practice with their device.”

The course culminated with an art show where members of the class hung photos they took around the room.

“We were also able to use our knowledge from previous courses to ensure that our handouts and presentations were accessible to all abilities,” said Alderman.

Alongside using their skills from the classroom, these sessions helped the Quinnipiac students get a better understanding of some future goals with their careers.

“This experience working with an older adult population was both educational and very fun,” said Clark. “It certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of working with older adults again in my future career. They were so fun to work with and brought so much value to each class.”

The art show — which included everything from nature scenes and selfies — gave the senior citizens the opportunity to share what they created with their friends. 

“It was a really great way to end our program in a heart-warming way,” said Sobol. “Watching everyone walk around the room to see their photos was beautiful because of how proud of their work they were.”

The occupational therapy students said they were impressed with the excitement and willingness that each senior citizen had.

“She was excited to learn but rarely got the opportunity to do so at home,” said Clark. “This helped me to realize just how big an impact each of us can have on the lives of the seniors that we love if we are just willing to help.”

One of the senior citizens, Farilyn Van Cleef, said that “the friendly, helpful young people were so very willing to help at all times. It’s very hard to improve such a good study.”

This memorable experience was one for the books for the Quinnipiac OT students. Their goal is for this program to continue on with future students, with the ability to create more one-on-one relationships with the older adults of the community.

“The relationships we’ve built, even during the short time, made the entire experience unforgettable,” said Phrommavanh. “We hope that future students will be able to continue this on to impact more lives.”

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