College of Health Professions to partner with Samaritas Senior Living for intergenerational exchange program

The Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Grand Valley's College of Health Professions has partnered with Samaritas Senior Living of Grand Rapids to develop an immersive program where students will interact with seniors on a daily basis.

This pilot program, launching in fall of 2022, will give two College of Health Professions (CHP) students an opportunity to live and work at Samaritas for an academic year in exchange for low-cost room and board. Lawrence Technological University, out of Southfield, will also participate in the program. 

"We are looking forward to expanding our affiliation with Samaritas beyond our clinical affiliation agreement," said Teresa Beck, acting dean of the College of Health Professions. "This living and learning opportunity has the ability to have a tremendous impact on the students as well as the Samaritas residents through the intergenerational programming."

Students participating in the program will reside in a one-bedroom apartment at Samaritas for a cost of $100 per month and will receive two free meals each day. 

To fulfill program requirements, participants must provide at least 10 hours of volunteer work a week. When volunteering, students are encouraged to combine social engagement with their academic interests. This may include friendly visits, health and wellness activities, arts programming and literacy programs.

“We are excited to welcome students that bring a new energy to the seniors of Samaritas," said Beth Covault, executive director of Samaritas Grand Rapids. "Our residents have a lot of personal life experiences and stories that they love to share, and having students here will lend itself to a wonderful learning experience for everyone.” 

Intergenerational practice is a form of engagement that provides significant benefits to senior living residents by connecting them to the broader community, enhancing well-being for both youth and older adults and reducing ageism. 

Dawn DeVries, program director and associate professor of GVSU's recreational therapy program, said allowing students to see the daily experiences of older adults will provide insights and develop skills outside of the classroom that will make a difference in caring for older adults.

"The intergenerational experience will be tremendous for both older and young adults to experience life together," said DeVries. 

After the pilot is complete, organizers hope to continue the program and expand the number of students living at Samaritas.

Applications are open now through April 15, 2022. Students can learn more and download the application here. Only current GVSU CHP students may apply.