Public health students at Regis College will work to address loneliness in the elderly as a public health threat through an initiative funded by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in partnership with the AARP Foundation.

Regis is one of 22 institutions nationwide selected to receive a grant for CIC’s Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults project. The initiative allows the university’s public health undergraduate students to have a dynamic exchange with retired Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) residents at the Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham.

Ten undergraduate public health majors will conduct a needs assessment of the Sisters to better understand social isolation among retired persons specifically with a religious affiliation.

Students will ask questions utilizing PhotoVoice (a participatory action research technique) to capture their shared experience. In PhotoVoice, groups participate in discussion and then use photography to document their experiences. During the yearlong project, public health faculty with support from members of the Lifelong Learning at Regis College (LLARC) program and religious studies faculty will facilitate students’ knowledge of how to better engage with older adults, participatory action research and social determinants of health, as well as the history and principles of the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded Regis in 1927. The project will conclude with a visual display of the experience. The $9,653 grant will fund student stipends and transportation to and from Regis and Bethany Health Care Center.

“This is yet another way that our intergenerational campus collaborates,” said Regis President Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN. “This experiential learning outside of the classroom will enhance student learning and enable student-led research on a pressing public health issue.”

CIC launched this initiative with support from the AARP Foundation in 2017 to encourage colleges to create or extend programs in which students help low-income older adults (ages 50 and older) address their key needs.

“The Intergenerational Connections program is a significant step toward developing a national network of programs on independent college and university campuses that promote intergenerational interaction between students and community members,” said CIC President Richard Ekman.

In total, 38 colleges and universities are part of a network of colleges and universities that have begun to establish best practices for engaging students in ensuring that older adults in the communities surrounding college campuses have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining social bonds. Participating in the network this coming year also will be 16 institutions that have received grants to continue the projects they began during the project’s pilot year.

More information about the project and the participating institutions is available on the CIC website.

About Council of Independent Colleges

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is an association of 770 nonprofit independent colleges and universities, state-based councils of independent colleges, and other higher education affiliates, that works to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of independent higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on services to leaders of independent colleges and universities and state-based councils. CIC offers conferences, seminars, publications, and other programs and services that help institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, student outcomes, and institutional visibility. It conducts the largest annual conferences of college and university presidents and of chief academic officers. Founded in 1956, CIC is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. For more information.

About AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share our commitment to innovation and our passion for problem-solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP.