Students and SJSU center join in health fair efforts for the elderly

by Oct 26, 2011 3:58 pm

Identification cards fixed to the front of their scrubs and stethoscopes hanging around their necks, a dozen SJSU nursing students milled around a small room inside the Timpany Center Tuesday morning.

To the right, past a row of chairs designed to create an intimate setting, nursing students and patients sat knee to knee embarking together on a fairly routine, although sometimes anxiety-inducing medical procedure: checking blood pressure.

“Some people are nervous,” senior nursing student Dziem Hoang said. “A lot of people come in and tell us exactly what their blood pressure is. They’ll say, ‘I know it’s going to be 136 over 70.’ It’s interesting to see how much people know about their blood pressure on both ends of the spectrum.”

Hoang was among the SJSU student volunteers who participated in the 19th annual Adult Services Resource Fair held at the Timpany Center, located near Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m on Tuesday.

SJSU’s Center for Healthy Aging in Multicultural Populations co-hosted the event.

The center, also known as CHAMP, is an interdisciplinary organization housed under the College of Applied Sciences and Arts that focuses on research, education and partnering with the aged community, said Sang Lee, interim director of the center and an assistant professor in social work.

“We want to provide information, screenings and education for seniors, but we also want for students to have that experience with seniors,” she said.

The fair was a collaboration between CHAMP, the Santa Clara County Department of Adult and Aging Services (DAAS), the Timpany Center, which is managed by the SJSU department of kinesiology and the Friends of Human Relations Commission of Santa Clara County.

Nancy Megginson, professor from the department of kinesiology and project director at the Timpany Center, said last year CHAMP approached the center about pairing up for a fair. She said last year’s event had a good showing, but there were more vendors than participants.

This year, Megginson said the fair had about 70 vendors from the community and about 60 SJSU student volunteers from multiple departments including social work, occupational therapy, nursing, kinesiology and nutrition, food science and packaging.

Kingston Lum, chairman for the event at the county level, said the fair was originally designed for health services professionals, but with the growing geriatric population, it evolved to include seniors.

“It’s a natural bond because CHAMP has the intellectual resources and DAAS has the direct contact with the community,” Lum said.

Open University student Vesna Mardesic was positioned in front of the SJSU department of nutrition, food science and packaging booth, asking those who approached to identify the color of their urine based on a scale.

The assessment measured whether participants were dehydrated. Mardesic explained that darker urine typically indicates that the individual is not drinking enough water.

“It’s certainly a problem among the elderly population because they can become dehydrated earlier than younger people,” she said. “We do the assessment and then provide education.”

Mardesic said she was asked to volunteer with her nutrition 260 class led by Caroline Fee, a lecturer in the department of nutrition, food sciences and packaging.

Fee, who is also the chair of education and training for CHAMP, said the class, Multidisciplinary Health Promotion in Later Years, attracts a mixture of graduate health professional students. She said this event is perfect for her students.

“All the San Jose State departments here are doing health screenings,” she said. “Things like hydration, myths of aging, taking blood pressures, balance and risk of falls, and the kinesiology department is doing demonstrations. It’s a really rich experience for the students.”

Anne Crittenden, a master's student in social work, said this was her first year participating in the fair. Also a member of Fee’s health promotion class, Crittenden said she hopes to work with the elderly in the future.

“It’s been a really good opportunity to network with not only students but with community-based organizations,” she said.

Florence Schuster, who said she lives on the border of Los Gatos and Campbell, said she picked up a flier at one of her Older Women League meetings and was intrigued.

Schuster said she liked the massage tables and SJSU nursing students taking blood pressures at the fair.

Hoang said overall she was very impressed with the organization of the event.

“It’s a great way to expose people to the resources out there and if they don’t take any information away from this, it’s a good way to get people out of the house and talking to other people," Hoang said.


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