Celeste Zeigler

Celeste Zeigler

Celeste Zeigler

Kent State University

2020

“The Ohio Scholars in Aging Program has guided me further into the field of gerontology, and I am so grateful with the experience it presented me and how I will be able to utilize it in both my future internships and my own career as a nursing home administrator.”

I am extremely humbled and honored to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the Ohio Scholars in Aging Program. This experience gave me insight about our aging population during the final semester of my college career and guided me toward moving forward to my professional career. It was a very invaluable experience meeting with the state legislators and hearing their perspective on our aging population. With this experience, not only did I listen and meet professionals that work with the aging population, but I gained knowledge regarding all the resources and services that are provided to older adults in Ohio.

I am also extremely lucky to have been able to do my Administrator In Training internship at Crown Center at Laurel Lake Retirement Community. I was able to learn the different aspects of customer care, supports, and services, human resources, finance, management and leadership, and the environment. This experience was extraordinary, and I am grateful to have been trained by well-experienced aging professionals. As I am working towards my professional career to be a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, I will value both of these experiences and utilize the information that I learned to be successful.

Madison Williams

Madison Williams

Madison Williams

Shawnee State University
2020

“The Ohio Scholars in Aging Program has guided me further into the field of gerontology, and I am so grateful with the experience it presented me and how I will be able to utilize it in both my future internships and my own career as a nursing home administrator.”

While I have only been in college for two years, I have devoted as much of my undergraduate career to working with older adults as much as possible. Due to my personal and professional experiences, I have seen the challenges the aging population faces, and it has motivated me to do my best with making a difference in the lives of older adults as a nursing home administrator. The Ohio Scholars in Aging Program has aided in my motivation and has supplied me with much-needed career skills.

During the first year of my journey with health care administration, I was given the opportunity working as an Ombudsman Associate with the Area Agency on Aging District 7 in Wheelersburg, Ohio. Through my internship with the Ombudsman, I witnessed problems and setbacks faced within long-term care facilities. One extreme situation I saw was the immediate shut-down of a nursing home, and residents of the home being forced to leave the night the closure was announced. Despite the closure, I was able to form bonds with residents and connect with them. By the end of the internship, I saw I helped solve a lot of problems with those living in long-term care facilities, and it empowered me to know I could assist them. The internship also allowed me to gain insight on how I could prevent issues as an administrator.

After my internship ended with the Ombudsman, I began another internship through the Give Back Go Forward program with my college, Shawnee State University, which I am completing. Through Give Back Go Forward, I have been able to meet and connect with low-income seniors living in Portsmouth, Ohio. Through our encounters, the main goal is to promote healthy eating and exercise by encouraging their attendance of a weekly congregate meal. In addition, I have bonded with the residents through bingo games, movie nights, holiday meals, etc. Being part of the program strengthened my desire to form emotional bonds with my residents and get to know them, which will be a crucial part of being an administrator; it is important for your residents to trust you as you are one of the main individuals responsible for ensuring they are happy in their final stage of life.

While I thought my experiences with the Give Back Go Forward program would be cut short due to the outbreak of COVID-19, I was able to challenge myself to continue finding ways to communicate with the residents I made bonds with. Currently, I am writing letters to residents and making weekly phone calls to check in with them, ask if there is anything they need, and, ultimately, be someone they can talk to and continue connecting with.

Similarly, my time with the Ohio Scholars in Aging Program has shown me how to overcome challenges, as well. When I was first accepted into the program, there was a set schedule to be followed to ensure we would learn and participate with as much as we could. The first meetings provided me with a better understanding of various facets of caring and advocating for the well-being of older adults. Further, the meetings presented with me opportunities to meet and speak with health care professionals through speed-networking, and I was able to connect with many of the individuals on the social media platform LinkedIn and communicate even more. Once the COVID-19 outbreak happened, our meetings changed to online, but, even then, I connected with those who shared the same desire for promoting the quality of life for older adults and their value in the world. The Ohio Scholars in Aging Program has guided me further into the field of gerontology, and I am so grateful with the experience it presented me and how I will be able to utilize it in both my future internships and my own career as a nursing home administrator.

Tasneem Shalash

Tasneem Shalash

Tasneem Shalash

Ohio State University
2020

“The Ohio Scholars of Aging Program equipped me with invaluable knowledge that I will use to the advantage of those with whom I will work throughout the duration of my career.”

The population of aging individuals is ever-growing. The need for competent practitioners in the aging field continues to increase as modern technology continues to advance. I am proud to say that I intend on serving the aging population throughout my career as a social worker in a healthcare environment. My experience as a social work intern at the Columbus Free Clinic (CFC) has fostered my interest to pursue gerontology as an area of focus. The CFC is an interprofessional healthcare, student-run free clinic that provides healthcare services for community members in need. Through my role, I was able to interact with a large population of aging individuals and assess their direct social and mental health needs. This unique opportunity granted me the experience of establishing close bonds with the patients I helped serve.

To ensure that patients, particularly older adults, received the resources they requested at the time of their visit to the CFC, another undergraduate social work intern and I established an assessment tool that allowed us to further connect individuals to resources and services provided outside of the clinic. To achieve this objective, we followed up with patients through a phone-call program to verify whether they had experienced any barriers that prevented them from accessing and utilizing local community resources. We tracked reported barriers and worked diligently to find alternatives for individuals who were unable to employ the resources provided or helped them navigate various challenges. Following up with patients after their visit provided the social work department with a valuable understanding of client challenges. Consistently, we have found that lack of appropriate access to resources often disproportionately impacted marginalized demographics and underprivileged communities.

This initiative has been extremely effective in identifying barriers and has improved our knowledge of client demands and concerns. Additionally, it increased the rapport we were able to establish with both patients, as well as our collaboration with the medical providers. Based on the feedback we received, this project has positively impacted individuals and helped improve the overall patient experience. This opportunity has been rewarding and allowed us to focus on the social determinants of health in addition to the unforeseen challenges of resource utilization within our community.

The Ohio Scholars of Aging Program equipped me with invaluable knowledge that I will use to the advantage of those with whom I will work throughout the duration of my career. I had the great opportunity to meet like-minded and goal-oriented individuals from different academic and professional backgrounds. The aging community requires special considerations and support. I feel more prepared to go forward with the new set of skills I have learned, which I plan to implement accordingly in my future endeavors. This program has empowered me with a heightened sense of personal responsibility for the quality of care older adults receive. I am optimistic and excited to be a part of the movement to address aging concerns on both a micro and macro scale.

Tasneem Shalash

Rachel Scrivano

Rachel Scrivano

Ohio State University
2020

“The connections I made through the Scholars in Aging program are extremely valuable as I continue working toward my career in researching ways in which older adults can be socially included in society.”

As a current PhD student in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University, one of my main research interests include tackling loneliness and social isolation within the older adult community. Although I had not participated in an internship or practicum like many of the other Scholars in this year’s cohort, I was privileged with the opportunity to work on a research project called Food for a Long Life under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Shannon Jarrott. The Food for a Long Life project allowed me to gain valuable research skills related to data collection, management, and analysis while learning how important it is for researchers to involve stakeholders, community members, and participants within all aspects of a community-level research project.

Closely related to my research interests, the Food for a Long Life project is a 5-year USDA CYFAR funded research project that uses intergenerational approaches to increase food access, consumption, and education within locations that have been found to lack access to healthy foods. Due to the project’s depth, I have been able to explore different avenues related to older adult wellbeing, including the opportunity the project provides for older adults to give back to younger individuals during nutrition programming in preschool classrooms. However, due to COVID-19, this aspect of the project has been put on hold due to social distancing, but more importantly because of the project’s main initiative to assist the current needs of the community related to healthy food access and consumption. This time in history has been a learning experience of its own; I am continually learning how community-level research projects can and should adapt to focus its efforts on assisting those who need it most.

The Scholars in Aging program itself has also been eye-opening. One of the most valuable experiences included learning about a community initiative called Village Connections, where volunteers strive to assist older adults to stay connected and stay socially active within their community. Similarly, through the program’s Speed Networking event, I was able to learn about other intergenerational programs in place within the community that aim to increase social opportunities for older adults. The connections I made through the Scholars in Aging program are extremely valuable as I continue working toward my career in researching ways in which older adults can be socially included in society. Moreover, this program allowed me to understand how important interdisciplinary work is; I was able to learn from the other Scholars in the program who had different experiences and knowledge than myself. The Scholars in Aging program provided us with a social community of our own, one that I hope to continue growing with future connections I plan to make.

Tasneem Shalash

Alec Rhodes

Alec Rhodes

Ohio State University
2020

“My experience in the Scholars in Aging program contributed to my professional development and supplemented my academic training as a sociologist.”

Hunger is a widespread and growing form of economic hardship experienced by older adults in the United States. In 2016 around 13.6% of the population aged 60 and older were food insecure, an increase of 27 percent since 2001. (1) Prior research indicates that lack of wealth is a key barrier to food security and is more strongly associated with food insecurity than income among older adults. (2) I spent my semester in the Ohio Scholars in Aging program investigating the causal mechanisms underlying the relationship between food insecurity and housing wealth, the primary source of wealth among older Americans.

I completed a research-based practicum at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University, under the mentorship of Drs. Cäzilia Loibl, Donald Haurin, and Stephanie Moulton. We used data from the Health and Retirement Study to document trends in food insecurity and housing wealth and debts among older adults from 2000-2016; to identify the causal effects of changes in housing wealth and new mortgage borrowing on food insecurity; and to simulate how realistic policy changes might impact rates of food insecurity in the older adult population. In addition, we examined whether inequalities in housing wealth and access to credit contribute to disparities in food insecurity by race. Our project was funded with a grant from the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research.

Our preliminary results suggest that older adults draw on housing wealth through new mortgage borrowing to address food insecurity. We find that new mortgage borrowing reduces the probability of food insecurity among older adult homeowners. However, the effects of new mortgage borrowing on food insecurity are stronger among white than black homeowners, likely due to racial disparities in income, home equity, and financial wealth. (3) The results underscore the critical role of housing wealth as a buffer against economic hardship in late adulthood, and highlight the importance of policies that promote access to housing wealth and credit.

My experience in the Scholars in Aging program contributed to my professional development and supplemented my academic training as a sociologist. First, my practicum offered opportunities to conduct myriad forms of statistical analysis, improve my data management skills, and learn how to participate in interdisciplinary research. My practicum also exposed me to innovative methodological approaches, including causal identification using instrumental variable approaches. The monthly sessions with aging professionals at the Ohio Department of Aging contextualized my research within the broader context of issues around aging, well-being, and public policy in the State of Ohio. I aim to incorporate these new perspectives on policy issues into my research on aging and economic insecurity going forward.

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1 Ziliak, J.P., Gundersen, C., 2018. The state of senior hunger in America 2016. Chicago, IL: Feeding America.
2 Ziliak, J.P., Gundersen, C., Haist, M., 2008. The causes, consequences, and future of senior hunger in America. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, Center for Poverty Research.
3 Rugh, J.S., Massey, D.S., 2010. Racial Segregation and the American Foreclosure Crisis. American Sociological Review 75, 629-651.

Tasneem Shalash

Claire Popovich

Claire Popovich

Ohio State University
2020

“As a Neuroscience major at Ohio State, everything I learned through the Scholars Program are topics I wouldn’t have otherwise discussed in the classroom. This emphasizes just one of the many things I love about the program: it elevates students who are called to and invested in the field of aging, regardless of academic background.”

My project was a retrospective of my ongoing volunteer work at Ohio Living Westminster-Thurber (OLWT), a life-plan community in Columbus, Ohio. In the spring of my freshman year at Ohio State I began volunteering at OLWT, where I was involved the launch of the Opening Minds through Art (OMA) program in the nursing home. OMA is an intergenerational art program, founded at the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, that aims to build relationships, and value elders with dementia through art. Because the OMA program was originally designed for the assisted-living level, my volunteer supervisor and I had to engineer modifications for our artists in total-care, such as purchasing larger brushes for easier grip, using alternative tools and pre-painting backgrounds.

We have a lot of fun at OMA sessions, laughing, painting, sculpting and singing Perry Como. It is always my favorite part of the day. The connections I’ve made with the elders, families and staff are unparalleled. As OLWT’s longest-standing OMA volunteer, it has been incredible to see the growth of the program and I’m truly moved by the impact it makes on elders’ days. Through this experience I’ve learned the importance of meaningful activities for elders, and how influential these activities can be on health and quality of life.

Being a part of Ohio Scholars in Aging has been one of the highlights of my undergraduate career thus far. As a Neuroscience major at Ohio State, everything I learned through the Scholars Program are topics I wouldn’t have otherwise discussed in the classroom. This emphasizes just one of the many things I love about the program: it elevates students who are called to and invested in the field of aging, regardless of academic background. I was able to quickly bond with the other scholars because our passions share the same central focus, in supporting and advocating for the needs of older adults.

Although all of our lives changed very quickly due to the coronavirus, there was amazing support and communication among the scholars, and I feel so grateful for them. I’ve definitely made some forever friends through this program. I highly recommend it to all students who are interested!