For most community organizations, college interns enable extended engagement with their clients or members, that would otherwise not be possible. With the energy and support provided by college interns, non-profit organizations and businesses alike gain access to enormous banks of talent. This summer, the David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation (Innovation Center) benefited from five talented college interns, and recruitment is in full swing for a new cohort!
The Innovation Center is a community benefit of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and our incubation project, linkAges, leverages technology to create a support network to improve the health and well-being of older adults and family caregivers. Our comprehensive approach to well-being focuses on the non-medical determinants of health and gathers critical information on social, environmental, and personal factors that impact quality of life for individuals and communities.
linkAges Advocates is a college internship program designed to support implementation of linkAges in the community. Advocates work with healthcare professionals, innovators, and community partners to support healthy aging in community.
Our inaugural cohort of Advocates set a high bar for future candidates. Hailing from Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Foothill College, the original five brought a wide breadth of knowledge and skills. Between them, they spoke five languages and studied topics ranging from computer science to human biology. Their collective passion for community health united them as they engaged with seniors and fostered intergenerational connections.
Every Tuesday morning at the Mountain View Senior Center, older adults arrived for 45-minute appointments to receive technology assistance from the Advocates. Ranging from basic computer instruction to complicated troubleshooting, these sessions exemplified the variety and diversity of skills and needs amongst seniors. The Advocates quickly realized the challenges and triumphs of community outreach.
In addition to technology help, Advocates also conducted friendly home visits with homebound seniors. These visits were some of the most rewarding experiences for the interns and the seniors as stories were exchanged across the generations and new connections formed. They bonded over art and music, taking walks and playing board games every week until the visits blossomed into more than either party imagined. Many of the pairs still keep in contact with their new friends.
Now, the program is transitioning from the summer to the academic year. Advocates will continue with many of their same activities, but they will focus more energy on supporting the linkAges TimeBank, which is a new take on the old idea of neighbors of all ages helping each other. By helping seniors enroll in the TimeBank, the Advocates utilize their technology expertise to cultivate the same sorts of intergenerational relationships they experienced firsthand. Anyone can become a member, and anyone can rebuild community.
The linkAges Advocates internship program is gearing up for a new round of outreach for January through May, and we welcome applications from undergraduates passionate about impacting population health from beyond the boundaries of the traditional sick-care model. For more information, visit http://advocates.linkages.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.