Two Miles From Campus, Medical Outreach to Seniors

Barbara Vincensi, Ph.D. | Associate Professor of Nursing

Years ago, when Barbara Vincensi’s work as a parish nurse took her to the homes of low-income senior citizens, it became clear to her that many would be healthier if regular medical monitoring were available to them close at hand. That unmet need stuck with her as she joined the Hope faculty and worked with students drawn to gerontology and community nursing. In 2015, Dr. Vincensi developed a nurse-managed wellness center at an affordable housing complex for senior citizens near the college. One morning a week, residents drop in for health screenings, exercise like chair yoga and balloon volleyball, consultation with Vincensi and with Hope nursing majors enrolled in her Community Health Nursing course, and an occasional community lunch that serves up nutrition education with each bargain-priced meal. Supplies provided by Hope’s Department of Nursing and grants from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area and the Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation have helped support the clinic’s work.

The students gain a different perspective on the elderly and on needs in the community. It definitely opens their eyes. For residents, the outcomes include decreased isolation and increased health literacy — and the higher the health literacy, the less likely they’re going to end up in the hospital with chronic disease issues. We assess how people are responding to their treatment. Are they taking medications correctly? Are they checking in with their doctors? We assess how they’re feeling; isolation is an issue. Mobility and transportation are big issues, too. A Meijer grocery store is across the street, but it could be across the world for them.

Photography: Steven Herppich