Across Campus

February 24, 2020

Research team midway through NIH grant focused on wayfinding

anita jones walks down hallway with man

Photo by Amanda Pitts

Anita Jones, site coordinator for the research team, walks down a hallway with an older man in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences to simulate how the wayfinding research team works in assisted living facilities. In the back is data collector Megan Harley.

When Rebecca Davis talks about her team placing an eight-foot American flag on a wall, or oversized, decorative utensils near a dining facility, a casual listener might assume she's an interior designer.

The flag and huge utensils are visual cues Davis, professor of nursing and associate dean for research and scholarship, and her research team plan and place in assisted living or long-term care facilities. It’s a key piece of Davis’ research on wayfinding to see if visual cues help older residents who have some difficulty in this area effectively find routes within their facilities.

Davis is nearly two years into a five-year intervention study after securing a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2018.

Her research team includes experts in building and designing facilities for the aging population, site coordinators, project manager, data collectors and graduate students in Kirkhof College of Nursing's Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

The team is working in six facilities in West Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio, with plans to add six more. Davis said the facilities vary in age and resident population but have complexity in common: long hallways with neutral-colored walls, confusing intersections, and poor or no signage. "The culture of care is to make facilities more home-like, without signs, but homes are not 100,000-square-feet," she said.

Artwork in these facilities tends toward landscape paintings with subtle earth tones, Davis said. People with cognitive issues and aging eyes may have better results remembering routes that are marked with bright-colored, simple and meaningful artwork, she said.

Residents who are recruited for the study are tested several times per year on various routes to destinations within their facilities. Davis said there is a formula for data collection that calculates the speed of completing the route along with any errors made.

Soon the research team will integrate location tracking using sensors similar to those used in manufacturing to track pieces of equipment. Davis said sensors will be placed in common areas and as residents move within their facility, their trips will be noted within data collection.

"It will help us know if residents are gaining confidence, knowing the routes better and getting out of their rooms more often," she said.

The study will end in January 2023 and Davis expects results to be published by that summer.

Challenge Gifts introduced to Faculty Staff Campaign

Each year, Grand Valley faculty and staff members set the gold standard for university giving with more than 50 percent participating in the annual campaign. 

This year’s campaign will run February 17-March 6; more than 125 volunteers will spread awareness about opportunities to support Lakers during the campaign. 

New this year is a raffle program allowing faculty and staff to achieve extra impact for an area on campus. Thanks to the Faculty Staff Campaign Advisory Cabinet, three $280 Challenge Gifts are available. 

To be entered into the raffle, a faculty or staff member must make a gift (any size, any designation qualifies) between February 17-March 6. Employees with current, sustaining payroll deductions will be automatically entered in the raffle. At the end of the campaign, names of three faculty and staff members will be drawn and those people get to designate an additional $280 Challenge Gift to a Grand Valley fund of their choice.

For questions or more information, visit

Hardy Dam tour

students in front of hardy dam

Honors students toured Hardy Dam and interviewed people who were ice fishing February 17 during the Dam to Dam tournament in Croton. Students in the Making Waves class will edit the video interviews for YouTube. The class is taught by Tara Hefferan, affiliate professor of anthropology; Peter Wampler, associate professor of geology; and Eric Snyder, professor of biology.