MCF grant aids Center for Healthy Aging at Dominican

Dominican University of California has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Marin Community Foundation to establish the Dominican Center for Healthy Aging. The Center will build upon University programs in which students and faculty from the Department of Nursing and the Department of Occupational Therapy provide health and wellness services to low-income older adults in Marin.

“The goal of the Dominican Center for Healthy Aging is to promote health and reduce risk, train future health professionals to work effectively with older adults, and partner with local non-profits to serve as a community resource and strengthen the delivery of services to low-income seniors,” said Dr. Martha Nelson, Dean of Dominican’s School of Health and Natural Sciences.

“We thank the Marin Community Foundation for supporting us in our efforts to educate our community’s future healthcare professionals, as well as for enabling Dominican to increase our ability to offer services to Marin County’s low-income senior citizens.”

The Center will incorporate two existing senior service programs at Dominican, the Umbrella Project and the Healthy Seniors Program.

MCF funding also will enable the University to offer scholarships to low-income Marin residents enabling them to attend the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Dominican. Currently, almost 600 older adults are enrolled in the, an educational program supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

In addition, MCF funding will enable the Center for Healthy Aging to offer "CarFit" evaluations for seniors who do drive. In recent years, Dominican has partnered with the Marin County Commission on Aging and the Marin County Division of Aging to present CarFit, a program designed to check on how well senior drivers and their vehicles work together.

The goal of the one-year grant is for Dominican to serve a minimum of 300 low-income Marin County seniors.

The Umbrella Project is a health promotion, public education, and student training program coordinated by the Department of Nursing. The project started in 2006 in collaboration with the Marin Housing Authority and has expanded to involve Ecumenical Association for Housing.

Each semester, about 40 undergraduate nursing students and faculty advisors provide on-site health promotion and assessment services to low-income residents of MHA and EAH housing. The Umbrella Project was created to meet several specific health related needs identified by MHA and EAH: health screening, wellness promotion and medical emergency planning.

“The Umbrella Project not only enables us to provide health assessments and other services to seniors, but it also helps ensure that our students – many of whom will remain in the area serve as the future healthcare workforce – are well-trained in the areas of clinical care and treatment of seniors,” Dr. Nelson said.

Healthy Seniors is a weekly, eight-week on-campus clinic in which faculty and graduate students and faculty from the Department of Occupational Therapy work with seniors develop skills to maintain independent living. This program promotes community mobility, with a particular focus on fall prevention for older adults. Falls are both a cause and a consequence of functional decline for older adults. More than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States, and among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Healthy Seniors is a free service designed to serve seniors who have chronic health conditions but do not meet the income criteria to qualify for government-subsidized hospital-based or in-home support. Issues addressed include: improving strength and coordination; recovering from illness/injury; coping with chronic physical conditions; fall prevention and home safety; and improving flexibility and endurance. MCF funding will allow the program to be offered two semesters a year, offer transportation to campus for clients without cars, add train the caregiver services, and expand the program to off-site locations currently served by the Umbrella Project. Dominican is partnering with San Rafael’s Whistlestop to provide transportation and space for off-site programming.