Unique partnership matches students-in-residence with Masonicare community

When Annemarie Allen, ’23, MOT ’25, and Elise Maiorano, ’23, MOT ’25, learned they could provide effective strategies to help the elderly remain independent and active, while spending an academic year residing at Masonicare’s assisted living community, they immediately had the same thought.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘We have to apply for this,’” said Maiorano. “It sounded like the most incredible experience.”

On August 15, Allen and Maiorano moved into Masonicare’s Pond Ridge assisted living and memory care neighborhood at Ashlar Village in Wallingford, Connecticut.

During the 2023-2024 academic year, the two will interact with their older adult neighbors while also undertaking studies in the Master of Occupational Therapy program at Quinnipiac’s School of Health Sciences.

School of Health Sciences Dean Janelle Chiasera said the move-in marks the resumption of the annual Quinnipiac-Masonicare students-in-residence partnership after it was paused from 2020 through 2022 due to COVID-19 safety protocols. The partnership began in 2016.

The exceptional live-in experience is highly valued by Quinnipiac occupational therapy graduate students and offers a unique exchange for the community it supports, said Chiasera.

“This is wildly popular because it’s an opportunity that doesn’t happen a lot in colleges,” said Chiasera. “We can’t mimic this on our college campuses. The value of it is that not only do our students learn and expand, but the residents learn and expand too.”

As proven by the program’s past success, the intergenerational experience between the students and older adults also helps to refute society’s often negative views of ageism and reverse ageism. Students interact with residents who contribute their energy, wisdom and vitality. Residents find in their younger colleagues the values of hard work, dedication and compassion, added Chiasera.

The program also supports the growing need for young professionals to help shape the future of aging services to support a growing demographic. Quinnipiac’s Master of Occupational Therapy program provides an education steeped in compassionate care, the latest technology and innovations and clinical experience.

Chiasera said the opportunity for the students-in-residence program draws a lot of interest and applications.

“A great deal of the selection is based on the passion about care in long-term care facilities and working with patients with dementia,” said Chiasera. “We like students to have that interest in the beginning, so they can expand upon it, with the hope that they will continue and go on to work at a place like Masonicare or others.”

By sharing their experiences with their classmates, the students-in-residence also help to demonstrate the spectrum of possibilities for careers in aging services, as well as showcasing the vibrancy and fulfillment of a career working with elders.

“Because the students are back in the classroom as well as here, they talk about it with their classmates every day,” said Chiasera.

Allen and Maiorano were with their classmates when they learned about the chance to apply for the students-in-residence program from Masonicare Recreation Manager Jacqueline Myers.

“I actually had never heard about it until Jacqueline came and did a presentation at Quinnipiac for all the occupational therapy students and told us about it,” said Allen.

Allen was with Maiorano at the presentation. The two became close friends during their undergraduate years at Quinnipiac.

“We said, we’ve got to go to the front of the line and get her business card!” said Allen.

Myers said Masonicare is excited to have Allen and Maiorano join the community and is looking forward to the enrichment their presence and contributions will provide to residents.

“I think the residents are going to love them,” said Myers. “I know, as a staff member here, they love any time we can give, so, to have some people who are going to be living with them, and dining amongst them and providing activities for them, they’re going to love it.”

Maiorano said she and Allen both enjoy working with older adults.

“They can be so funny and have a lot to share,” said Maiorano. “You just feel fresher after the conversation than going in. We’re looking forward to doing activity planning and things we’d be doing with our friends like karaoke, arts and crafts and anything people would do for fun.”

During the 2023-2024 academic year, Allen and Maiorano will provide a minimum of eight hours of occupational therapy service per week to their assisted living community neighbors.

“We’ve got about 115 residents at any given moment, and that’s how many people they’re going to be working with,” said Myers. “All residents will have access to the activities that they’re going to be providing. It’s very exciting.”

Chiasera said the School of Health Sciences is thrilled to see the program resume for a fifth year.

“This was a build-on that came out of the long-term relationship that we have had with Masonicare for a number of years,” said Chiasera. “Quinnipiac is sending students here for clinical rotations, sending nursing students here and we now have business students here too. To be able to build on that relationship and develop something that’s as transformative as this type of experience - that’s the power of these types of partnerships."

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