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Seniors help nursing and medical students understand realities of aging

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Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Emory School of Medicine in partnership with the Renaissance on Peachtree, a Leisure Care senior living community, are helping to promote positive attitudes toward older adults and enhance the psychosocial aspects of geriatric care through their Senior Mentorship Program.  The program couples first year medical, nursing, physician assistant and physical therapy graduate students with senior mentors for one academic year to provide a more comprehensive understanding of seniors' varying medical needs and complex challenges. 

"This program has definitely changed my perceptions of how active elderly people can be," says Patrick Kreuger, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing student. "If you are going to care for people, it helps to have some insight into their lives and how they live. This has been a great opportunity to really get to know someone, the challenges they face as well as their strengths."

More than 10,000 people will turn 65 years old today and about 10,000 more will cross that threshold every day for the next 15 years, according to the Pew Research Center.   As a result of this fast growing demographic, healthcare providers will be working with an increasing number of older adults in their selected disciplines. The Senior Mentorship Program seeks active, healthy aging community members to partner with the students.  They meet monthly to discuss various topics ranging from bucket lists to values.

"The program allows students to get to know these seniors as people, not just patients," says Jessica Wilson, program coordinator, Emory University. "When they become medical professionals, they will remember these mentors and be more empathetic to every day challenges for seniors, such as what it takes to get to a doctor's office. They will also witness firsthand how healthy and active seniors can be."

The partnership between Emory University and Renaissance on Peachtree has proven to be a beneficial relationship for both the school and the retirement community.  In addition to the mentorship program, the Renaissance on Peachtree also offers their facilities for Emory's Lifelong Learning Institute to host continuing education classes for people over 50.

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