linkAges Advocates complete spring internship!

After a six-month internship period, our latest group of linkAges Advocates concluded their internship at the David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation (the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s innovation center) in June.

The Innovation Center welcomed these four linkAges Advocates, in January 2015 and they were selected for their passion and interest to support healthy aging in the community.


From left to right: Stefanie Kong, Elena Haight, Dominic Boccaccio (Advocates Program Coordinator), Margret Mendenhall and Stacey Urauchi

Though all four Advocates attended Santa Clara University, they had different reasons for wanting to join the linkAges team:

Stefanie Kong’s close relationship with her grandmother helped her realize the importance of social connections in promoting a high quality of life for older adults. She saw the internship as an opportunity for an “infusion of youth” into the lives of seniors, and vice versa.

Elena Haight understood the role of mental health in overall well-being, and wanted to explore a more holistic view of health outside of the clinic.

Margret Mendenhall wanted to play an active role in the expansion of resources for aging baby boomers, leveraging technology to bring families closer together.

As a public health major, Stacey Urauchi learned about the booming senior population and saw this as an opportune time to get involved as healthcare evolves and shifts.

At the start of their internship, they went through an intensive two-day training session. Training modules ranged from motivational interviewing, to program logistics, with in-depth preparation for situations around privacy, effective communication with seniors, and teaching technology. Through the course of the internship program they drew upon these skills to empower their work and inform their outreach strategies.

The Advocates spent a considerable amount of time at local community sites, including the Mountain View Senior Center and the Sunnyvale Senior Center, to provide one-on-one technology assistance to older adults.



These experiences were incredibly rewarding to the Advocates because, as they pointed out, few college students have the opportunity to interact with seniors on a regular basis.

The Advocates also helped spread the word to patients and community about the linkAges TimeBank Program when visiting the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Mountain View and Palo Alto Centers. Through partnership with PAMF”s Community Health Resource Centers, they coordinated outreach for interested patients and staff.

Another important piece of the linkAges Advocates internship program is that interns are asked to develop a self-guided personal project. This cohort of Advocates decided to initiate outreach to the Santa Clara community, an area of expansion for the TimeBank with only a handful of existing members. They contacted student groups at Santa Clara University, faith-based groups, community leaders, and local healthcare providers. Their project concluded with a community event at The Forge Garden. Fifteen people attended the event and got their hands dirty while learning about sustainable gardening – and were able to learn more about the linkAges TimeBank too!

Thank you and well wishes to this group of linkAges Advocates and thank you for your service during your internship!

This group of Advocates made monumental impact for good, both on the internship program and the community. They helped older adults through home visits, technology assistance, and other TimeBank exchanges. They learned about health outside of the clinic during a monthly speaker series, and they had the opportunity to take a significant role in program deployment strategies. And, they did it all with passion, maturity, skill, and innovation. We’re going to miss them, but wish them the best on their continued career paths to make a difference in the health and well being of local communities.


Why I’m a linkAges Advocate

Stefanie Kong is a premedical student working under the Stanford School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence in Diversity in Medical Education’s LEAP program to improve the health of local communities. In this blog post, she shares why she works as an intern with our linkAges Advocates Program.

linkAges Advocates
linkAges Advocates (Left to Right: Margret, Elena, Stacey, Stefanie)

Being a college student and caregiver to my grandmother, I recently became aware of how important social connections are in providing a high quality of life for seniors. These social determinants of health are hard to reconcile with the fact that our society often tends to push those who are not “young and able” to the margins.

For example, one of my dearest neighbors is now living in a senior home. Aside from his wife, some neighbors, and the nursing staff — the only company he gets is the television and a book. I have seen so many seniors like him who, despite their talents and rich life experiences, lose their sense of self-worth and contribution to the community as they age.

I am currently working as a linkAges intern and actively promoting linkAges TimeBank throughout the South Bay. This is because I believe that seniors and family caregivers are a valuable asset to their community and should still be connected to others in meaningful ways. All of us can benefit from connecting with the rich talents and experiences of seniors; I personally learned that from my time with my grandmother.

There needs to be an “infusion of youth” colliding with a “diversity of seniors” to create a culture of inclusion. It will help reinforce a positive mentality of youthfulness, a sense of community, and promote well-being for our older community members. In return, younger members will obtain role models of older adults and also be more conscious of the realities and journey of aging. This contact will hopefully prepare them to be positive about their own future experiences with aging.

I believe that by rebuilding community connections and being there for each other, we will be able to open up worlds for all of us and learn the important lesson of getting through life every step of the way, together.


linkAges TimeBank Expands into Community: Adds new Advocates

linkAges Advocates
linkAges Advocates

As linkAges expands in 2015, it will now be available as a community resource to all Palo Alto Medical Foundation patients. To support this expansion, four college students joined the Innovation Center team as the newest cohort of linkAges Advocates!

This second group of Advocates, from Santa Clara University, comes aboard after last summer’s pilot internship program, and their primary focus will be to engage our patient population with using linkAges as a community resource to support well-being. The Advocates will support linkAges TimeBank members by showing them various features of the TimeBank, facilitating exchanges, and suggesting offers and requests based on the member’s interests and needs. They will also be providing technology help at the Sunnyvale and Mountain View Senior Centers in response to last summer’s overwhelmingly positive feedback from the older adults who participated in tech help sessions.

Last weekend, the Advocates participated in an extensive training with healthcare professionals and community leaders. They learned about motivational interviewing and how to effectively communicate with older adults. In one of the sessions on technology training for seniors, the moderator had them wear special glasses and insert cotton balls in their ears to simulate physical limitations and teach them about the challenges many seniors face as they go about their daily life. The Advocates also role-played various enrollment scenarios and engaged in mock service-exchanges to get familiar with the linkAges TimeBank.

The Advocates will be stationed at the Community Health Resource Centers (CHRC) at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation clinics in Mountain View and Palo Alto where they will support enrollment of patients in the linkAges TimeBank and help new members create personalized linkAges plans. Individuals use these plans to set goals and optimize their use and experience of the linkAges system, with the Advocates available for assistance at every step of the way. Meanwhile, physicians are referring patients they think could benefit from becoming a member of the TimeBank. insert These include newly relocated community members, patients interested in increasing their connections to their community through service exchanges, seniors and family caregivers.

Stop by the CHRCs to meet the Advocates and learn more about the exciting work they’re doing in the community! You can find them at the Mountain View location every Monday from 1:30-4:30 PM and at the Palo Alto location every first and third Tuesday from 9:00-11:30 AM, as well as every second and fourth Monday from 1:30-4:30 PM.

Looking for a college internship? Join our team as a linkAges Advocate!

Our Summer 2014 linkAges Advocates
Our Summer 2014 linkAges Advocates

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! Continue reading

Meet the Advocates



By Miki Rai

Being a linkAges Advocate and PAMF intern has given me the incredible opportunity to meet people in all walks of life, who have background knowledge in areas that cannot easily be determined just by judging their superficial appearance. One of the reasons I enjoy working as an Advocate so much is because I feel that this internship has given me the capacity to gain so much more than I can give. Everything around me, the people, the activities, and everything else, are all part of a learning experience that I cannot achieve through any other means. I am fascinated by the fact that each intern holds a unique set of attributes that makes them outstanding at what they do. Maybe you’ve gotten a chance to read the Advocates’ blurbs on the website, but if you’re looking to REALLY get to know the interns, this post is for you!

Nhi – The calm, mysterious one

During the times that I have worked with Nhi, I have to say that whether it be driving to a new location or trying a new method of interacting with seniors, she is always ready for whatever is approaching us. Even in the most nerve-racking situations, she manages to stand her ground. I threw mysterious in there as well, because no one really knows how she is able to appear so graceful in everything that she carries out. It almost seems too surreal. Nhi also seems to have a steady equilibrium in her life — in addition to applying to medical schools, she somehow manages her time well enough for weekly Friday hangouts.

Bob – The expressive, knowledgeable one

Unlike the rest of us who are all following public health/medical school routes, Bob is a computer science/math genius. Whenever I have any questions regarding product suggestions or technological challenges, Bob is my go-to guy. In the case that he doesn’t know the answer, he will still set you on the right track and tell you where to look for the answers. Also, if you say something he may not completely agree with, his signature move is the slight head tilt, eyes looking up at the ceiling and palms up, contemplating.

Kasie – The curious innovator

One thing I really admire about Kasie is her ability to always actively think and ask questions. In all contexts, she is constantly taking notes in attempts to further her knowledge. Over the past few weeks, I can see that she has already integrated what we have learned in the trainings, workshops, and personal experiences to help make the most out of each interaction. If something doesn’t go as well as it could, she implements a change the next time a similar situation arises. As a side note… she is also gluten-free by choice, which is pretty incredible if you ask me.

(FYI,  the above three are all rising seniors at Stanford!)

Mihiri – The personable friend

Mihiri is the Advocate that is closest in age to me. I still remember the first week I met her. For some reason, I immediately felt like we had so much in common. She has this incredible way of making you feel comfortable around her, like you could share almost anything with her. Mihiri listens to what you have to say, and from that, thinks about how she can reply with something that cultivates a steady flow of conversation. It is her ability to stimulate conversation that allows people to open up to her. Of all the Advocates, she is the most focused on the public health piece.




The Unique Challenges of Teaching Tech to Older Adults

By Mihiri Karunaratne

mihiriStepping into the Mountain View Senior Center, you can already pick up the atmosphere of an active and engaged community. The space is beautifully designed and decorated, and full of older adults learning, socializing and enjoying themselves. It is different from my visit to other senior centers, some of which had smaller groups of people. From the start, the tech assistance that I, and my two other team members, Dominic and Kasie, were asked to give was also of a slightly different nature. The boards and postings made it evident that the members of the Mountain View Senior Center had several resources offering highly qualified technology help.

After a few minutes, it quickly became clear that today was going to be exceptional. Each of the individuals I helped today presented me with unique and challenging questions and problems; none of which I had experienced before. It forced me to think on my feet, and problem-solve to the best of my abilities, so that I could create a positive experience. Along the way, I was able to give some kind of help, regardless of the problem and my prior knowledge. I managed to work together with all of the seniors to combine our knowledge and discover alternate solutions. I had an especially rewarding experience working with Mary N, as we scoured the Internet looking for a way to understand Google Voice. Eventually we learned that the program had been informally replaced with Google Hangouts, and slowly delved into understanding the process of making calls. Finally, after almost an hour-long session, we managed to accomplish the first thing we had set out to do. Even though we took a much longer road to get there, it was a great experience to help Mary empower herself to connect freely with her loved ones and her community.

Technology in the Home

By Boshan (Bob) Zhao, linkAges Advocate

As LinkAges Advocates, our efforts to build community include various home visits to seniors’ residences, during which we offer companionship and conversation. These home visits can serve as opportunities to fill specific needs to which seniors and their caretakers alert us, and occur as one-off engagements or ongoing, weekly visitations. In addition, they serve as opportunities to get to know individuals in an environment that makes them comfortable. Looking at the plants in their garden, the family photos on their mantle, or interesting keepsakes around the house makes for ample ways to learn about these seniors’ lives and passions.

Such was the case with my home visit to Larry a few days ago. Larry had requested tech assistance with migrating files to a new computer, setting up an appointment after one of the computer help events staffed by LinkAges team members (like one that Nhi recounted in her blog post). Before, he’d sent in the laptop to clear off damage from a virus, but had to pester the store for weeks before he saw any resulting progress. At the tech help event, he’d gotten one-on-one attention, which was helpful enough for him to want additional help in the form of a home visit.

Upon arriving to his home, Larry greeted me and Nhi at the door with a big grin. “Are you guys the college students who’re going to help us with the computer stuff?” I nodded and he beckoned us in, tossing us slippers to wear inside the house. We sat down in the living room in front of an old-looking laptop. A Windows XP interface informed me of the difficulties he’d been having: the computer was at least seven or eight years old.

When I realized that the old computer was unresponsive, and the help Larry wanted was on the new computer anyways, we walked from the living room to the study. On the way there, I saw photos hanging on the walls: a wedding portrait, family photos when the kids were young, and more recent photos of his children. “One in Hong Kong, and one in Texas.” His wife called to us as we passed by, letting us know that there were things she’d like help with as well. “Perfect,” I thought, “there are two of us Advocates here anyways.” Nhi soon began helping her as I helped Larry.

Larry and I quickly got to work. Changing his default search engine back to Google? Check. Setting up automatic disk backups through Windows? Check. Transferring over his copy of Excel from the XP machine? Not so easy. Turned out that it can’t be done just by copying files: something I recalled from a recent experience I had with restoring a backup on a my new computer.

One of my greatest strengths in helping seniors with technology (and one of my colleagues) is the fact that we grew up with computers. Thus, many functions and shortcuts come to us as second nature, since we’ve quickly picked them up in using them so frequently, and that we have a general intuition as to what computers can and can’t do. I look forward to using my experience to benefit seniors in the future, teaching them how computers can help them do what they love.