Higher Education: A Perfect Partner for Seniors Housing

Residents, students and community can benefit from multigenerational programs.

 By Geoff Fraser

Collaboration. The definition of the word evokes visions of working together, shoulder-to-shoulder, where several groups benefit.
Any time collaboration can be found, especially with higher education, it connects past and future trends and generations. I’m seeing an exciting new shift toward synergistic partnerships, relationship building and resulting innovation between higher education and healthcare.
In cities such as Lyons, France; Barcelona, Spain; Boston; Gainesville, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Phoenix, healthcare and education are working together to create programs that help seniors receive innovative healthcare while taking part in the college setting. Seniors housing facilities are offering seniors the opportunity to enroll in classes, continue employment, mentor students and take part in campus activities.
In the Netherlands, university students are even living in senior citizens’ homes, providing help and improving the lifestyle of seniors while creating intergenerational bonds of trust, knowledge and friendship.
The next step in collaboration
While there are many ways higher education is collaborating with senior care providers, Dolphin Pointe Landing in Jacksonville reaches another level.
Built on the St. John’s River adjacent to Jacksonville University (JU), the first of the project’s three phases includes a skilled nursing facility featuring 120 private suites. Additionally, this part of the project will convert the former JU Alumni House into an ultra-modern activities-of-daily-living (ADL) assistance home for the new Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences doctoral program.
With these additions, Dolphin Pointe Landing will up the ante for student volunteerism, hospitality training, hands-on practicum and classroom learning.
Higher education has been challenged for decades to provide deeper, more robust training for students. JU’s proximity to and intimacy with Dolphin Pointe (JU has only about 2,800 students) delivers a tremendous ease-of-access advantage and allows students great integration between classroom learning and hands-on practicum.
As this trend continues and deepens, participating schools of higher education, such as JU, will produce job-ready graduates, primed to produce from day one in the workforce. And, when managed well, the seniors housing facilities will enjoy a loyal and passionate base of clients, many of whom are already in some way connected with the school.
Benefits for students
A school’s partnership with senior living offers valuable opportunities to all students. Volunteer programs will enable students to implement game nights, read to and visit with residents, assist residents to and from activities, and more. Academically mandated hours of shadowing, observation and clinical rotations in fields such as speech pathology, nursing and occupational therapy will be seamlessly accomplished by students with a facility a stone’s throw from their classrooms and dorms.
Job opportunities for marketing and media specialists, transportation coordinators, receptionists, medical assistants and certified nurse assistants will offer students part-time income opportunities. The intergenerational mixing will bring students first-hand experience with those who lived through last century’s depressions and recessions, celebrations and surrenders — the very things they are learning about in history class. A hospitality culture will provide experiences far beyond clinical training found in schools without such medical partners.
Just think of the advantage of having a lab-like classroom, where students can learn a concept then put it immediately into practice. These types of programs will produce job-ready graduates who enter the workplace confident and contributing immediately.
Benefits for seniors
When seniors become injured or undergo surgery, my experience shows that they desire a state-of-the-art yet non-institutional setting to heal. When seniors housing facilities choose to partner with higher education, generally they are choosing technologically savvy, innovative partners with a strong brand identity to preserve and promote.
For example, Dolphin Pointe’s collaboration with JU is producing a 6,000-square-foot therapy gym equipped with the most advanced rehab equipment, including two underwater treadmill systems, anti-gravity machine and an ambulation track system. These systems all work together to help residents and outpatients heal quickly, and get them home faster and with less pain.
College-educated Baby Boomers will value their ability to take
university-sponsored courses and participate in performing arts held at the retirement facility or venture to campus for classroom learning alongside students. Their quality of life will explode as they engage in the community and pursue life-long learning.
Benefits to the community
These partnerships will also benefit the development of the local community. Preliminary projections put 500 new jobs in the Arlington community of Jacksonville, JU’s home, with the completion of Dolphin Pointe Landing and its surrounding infrastructure.
This project is not just creating jobs, but also creating service provisions for all community members and helping to build the medical infrastructure of a community, revitalizing its foundation.
Community healthcare providers will have access to the region’s most advanced recovery setting, with an innovative staff and state-of-the-art modalities. This will happen time and again as seniors housing providers strive to partner with higher education, bringing ancillary medical benefits to the communities they serve.
Collaboration can change the senior living industry
Senior living facilities with ties to universities are a growing trend and will continue to impact the seniors housing industry for decades to come. When we as an industry work with educational leaders, projects like this will become more commonplace. We will deliver patients an exceptional care experience while helping to develop a better overall healthcare system.
The senior living industry needs innovation. It’s been stuck in a rut for years. This business model will work as universities and top-tier health care management firms join forces.
JU and Dolphin Pointe Landing, as well as other similar projects, will serve as a model for senior care innovation. This fresh, new, collaborative approach to senior living will serve as a catalyst for change in the nation’s delivery of senior care. It will breathe new life into an industry hungry for modernization, innovation and improvement, while providing an enhanced educational experience for students of higher education.
Geoff Fraser is senior vice president of operations with Clear Choice Health Care, an operator with communities in Florida and Colorado.