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Gerontology students complete course work while being neighbors to nursing home residents

Dec. 1, 2000

By ALANA LYONS

Reporter

A former downtown Waco hotel is now home and workplace to eight Baylor gerontology students. The 12-story building is now an independent living complex for the elderly where students may live, volunteer and complete their gerontology studies.

Students volunteer 10 to 15 hours a week at the adjacent St. Elizabeth Nursing Home in exchange for room and board at the Regis Apartment Complex.

St. Elizabeth serves recovering patients and individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

Some of the students are trained as administrative liaisons and assist residents in solving problems with each other and with the administration. Using conflict resolution, students act as moderators to address the complaints and questions of residents.

Other students contribute by assisting with recreational activities.

Seven of the student volunteers are gerontology graduate students invited to the program by gerontology professor Dr. Ben E. Dickerson.

'The program has been very successful,' Dickerson said. 'The students have benefited, and the residents have benefited from the interaction.'

Heather Dyer, a San Antonio senior and sociology major, joined the program in August to gain experience in the nursing home administration field. She plans to begin her graduate studies next spring.

'I'm getting hands-on experience that very few people get to have,' Dyer said.

The program is open to gerontology graduate students, and they may participate as long as they desire.

'We interact with residents on a daily basis and learn a lot from them,' Dyer said. 'They become a part of our lives, and we become a part of theirs.'