Gerontol Geriatr Educ. 2021 Aug 4:1-16. doi: 10.1080/02701960.2021.1956489. Online ahead of print.
Social isolation and loneliness present significant challenges for the mental and physical health of older adults. Social distancing, mask wearing, and other precautions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic add to these challenges. This article details a telecollaborative service-learning project to engage older adults online and provide applied experiences for students. From March through October 2020, 54 students from Social Work (Master, Bachelor), the College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM; DO), and Occupational Therapy (Master) provided telephone support and Zoom™ based programming for older adults affiliated with the University of New England. Creative offerings were piloted weekly and debriefed on Friday afternoons in the spring, leading to more structured 8-week schedules in summer and fall. Peer-to-peer support took place between older adults with experience in video meetings and those willing to learn. Bidirectional and intergenerational benefits were noted as older adults and students navigated the exigencies of the pandemic and learned important lessons with and from each other to advance knowledge and improve quality of life.
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