The city of Sweetwater is partnering with Keiser University to offer students professional experience and offer seniors services and assistance.
Students in nursing, psychology, occupational therapy, sports medicine and radiological technology at Keiser University will visit the center periodically as part of the new partnership between the university and the city. On Thursday morning, groups of students from the five different degree programs visited the Mildred & Claude Pepper Senior Center to showcase activities for the senior residents.
Nursing students checked the seniors’ blood pressure and gave them safety tips and information about common elderly concerns, such as hypertension, diabetes and falling.
These students do clinical training at Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove and Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, but coming in to the senior center allows them to improve their skills in patient care while providing a service to the community.
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“We teach them about safety — to take their medications, their lifestyle at home and how to prevent falls,” said student Marlena Baquero, a first semester nursing student.
In another room, psychology students played cognitive games with the seniors to help them boost their memories. In one activity, seniors picked hats that triggered a memory and they went around the room telling anecdotes.
“The goal today was to improve their memory. As we grow old, it starts to fade, but like any muscle, we need to exercise our brains,” said Melissa Noya, a psychology faculty member.
Radiological technology students were playing Bingo, taking the time to socialize with the seniors and establish a rapport with them.
Just beyond the large Bingo room, sports medicine and fitness technology students led a fitness class for seniors to improve their balance, flexibility and coordination.
“We do resistance training,” said program coordinator Gined Vitali, who was supervising the three students who were teaching the class. “One student comes in Monday to Thursday for one month, and then they alternate.”
Outside, occupational therapy students were helping seniors with arts and craft activities.
“This helps them use coordination and motor function,” said Zeida Gutierrez, occupational therapy instructor. “At the end of the day, it’s fun.”
Keiser University, a not-for-profit university, moved four years ago from Kendall to a building next to Dolphin Mall and the new Sweetwater Ikea store.
Its proximity to Sweetwater has allowed the school to participate in many city events, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas food drives. Keiser University has also established a scholarship program for Sweetwater employees.
“The city of Sweetwater has been an exceptional partner since our campus moved to this location so having the ability to work together on something benefiting our students and the citizens of this area has a positive ripple effect,” said Gary Markowitz, campus president. “Our students are able to apply what they are learning in the classroom.”
Marilyn Rojas, 79, came seven years ago from Cuba and spend most of her days at the senior center. On Thursday, Rojas walked her way around each station, collecting stickers to mark each activity she has taken part in.
“I like all the activities,” she said. “I come every chance I get.”