Nursing Home Makes Room For Student Residents

The Intergenerational Living Program at St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence, a nursing home in Portland, Maine began in January 2017. It was modelled after a program in the Netherlands, a community called Humanitas, and built around the same values including that of “being a good neighbor.”

The program began 4 months ago with 3 students and has already grown to 12. The basics are:

  • College students apply to the program (to be an employee)

  • Students agree to work a minimum of 16 hours per week, either as a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A) or Neighborhood Assistant providing personal care.(If they are not already a C.N.A., free training is provided).

  • Students pay no rent.

  • Students get paid market wages.

  • Students are encouraged to interact and eat with residents when not working

  • Length of the program depends on the student— students are told that it is preferable that they stay at least 2 semesters (feedback so far is that many intend to stay until they graduate, which is 4, even 6 semesters.

The intention of having students work is to “grow” their own workforce in a community that struggles with workforce issues. ”We tried everything that everyone else was doing and it wasn’t working—we were still depending on agency staff. This is when the idea to start the program came about,” noted Peggy Farrington, Administrator of St. Joseph’s.

“We have had very positive feedback from students, residents, staff, families, and greater community. There is one story, in particular, that tells about the impact of the program so far. A long-term care resident was talking with one of the students and in the conversation said, “I’m really happy you live here, just knowing you live here, makes me feel less lonely. You are choosing to live here. I have to live here.

Additionally, out of all the students in the program right now, it is likely that 80% of them would have never visited, worked in, or entered a nursing home without this program. “The ‘bigger’ idea here is that we will change people’s minds about aging/nursing homes, etc. We will prove that the stereotypes are wrong—and get help to combat ageism if we can get people to experience this program, or something similar. The students have all health related majors, ranging from nursing, pre-physician assistant, and respiratory therapy. Most, if not all, of the students never considered a career in aging services. Now, some are thinking about it.“

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