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Philadelphia Consortium Projects - 2020

Older Adults

Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly (CARIE)


Visitation Saves Lives


Student Intern: 

Preya Desai, Drexel University, Thomas R. Kline School of Law


Academic Preceptor: 

Susan L. Brooks, JD, Drexel University, Thomas R. Kline School of Law


Community Preceptor: 

Lori Walsh, Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly 


Community Site: 

The Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), located in Center City Philadelphia, serves older adults in Center City, South Philadelphia, Southwest Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia. CARIE is an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the well-being, rights and autonomy of older adults through advocacy, education and action. 



The Bridging the Gaps student intern at CARIE acted in a supportive role by assisting the long-term care ombudsman team with research concerning the loss of visitation rights and the impact of prolonged isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic on residents living in long-term care facilities. Additionally, the intern interviewed long-term care residents to listen to and capture their perspectives on their experiences during the pandemic. The interview notes were used to assist other CARIE staff members in their advocacy efforts with regard to visitation rights. The intern also researched and summarized best practices for a social media campaign about the creative methods that long-term care facilities have utilized to accept outside visitation. 


Intern Statement: 

Preya Desai: “My time with CARIE and Bridging the Gaps has been an immensely rewarding experience. Before this internship, I was unaware of the complexities of the nursing home system and the legal rights residents possess while living in long-term care facilities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitation rights were taken away, and advocacy efforts to restore visitation became the sole focus of my project. Because of BTG and CARIE, I have learned a lot about myself and the type of legal work I am interested in. This internship has taught me a lot about how to advocate for vulnerable populations, and I will utilize the skills I have developed from this experience in my future legal career.”  


Northeast Older Adult Center (NEOAC) 


A Glimpse into Senior Living: Importance of Community and Activity 


Student Interns:

Jonathan Jeong, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program

Lauren Williams, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program


Academic Preceptors: 

Robert Dustin, MA, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Meshonea Fox, BA, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine


Community Preceptor: 

Sierra Savage, MAHS, Northeast Older Adult Center


Community Site: 

The Northeast Older Adult Center is a community center for active, independent adults. It provides wellness and health programs as well as recreational, educational and cultural opportunities for individuals aged 55 and over.



The Bridging the Gaps student interns conducted telephone wellness checks and short surveys of center members. They asked each member how he or she was doing during the pandemic. If the member agreed, the intern then asked three brief questions about the cost and their personal interest in center activities and classes.


Intern Statements:

Jonathan Jeong: “In our society, it is easy to dismiss the elderly population as relics of the past or a burden that our generation now has to shoulder. While conducting wellness checks and surveys as an intern at the NEOAC, I saw a glimpse of how these older adults are in reality more similar to us than different. When speaking with some of the members, I was struck by their optimism and excitement for life along with their gratitude for the smallest details. It was also clear to me that social interaction and daily routines are integral in the well-being of this population, as many expressed desire to return to the center and restore a sense of normalcy. As a medical student, this was another reminder of the importance of lifestyle and purpose in promoting long-term health in addition to the diagnoses and treatments often provided to this age group.”


Lauren Williams: “As an osteopathic medical student who intends to work with the geriatric patient population as a future primary care physician, completion of these wellness checks reiterated how important it is for me to inquire about the daily routine and support systems of elderly patients. Holistic approaches to clinical care are already taught in my osteopathic medicine classes. But my direct interactions with community members about their current health and the role(s) NEOAC serves in their lives emphasized why a holistic approach to health can elucidate key information about a patient’s health. Many community members not only appreciated the wellness checks but also expressed an eager desire for the NEOAC to reopen since they missed the center classes, staff and camaraderie. Thus, I am grateful for the unique opportunity to gain insight on how vital support systems like the NEOAC can be to improving the quality of life for elderly community members, whether they attend the center daily or simply hold fond memories of their once active time there.”


Philadelphia Senior Center Arts Branch 


Health Literacy Programs for Philadelphia Senior Center Members


Student Interns: 

Frances Calingo, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Occupational Therapy

Victoria Ramey, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Nursing 


Academic Preceptor: 

Maria Hervada-Page, MSW, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College


Community Preceptors: 

Mary-Ellen Bolden, Philadelphia Senior Center

Julie Nelson, Philadelphia Senior Center

Community Site:  

The Philadelphia Senior Center Arts Branch serves members aged 65 and over in the greater Philadelphia community. They provide prepared food pick-up, health-promoting resources and programing for physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, they provided a safe and cool space for members to congregate during the summer months and throughout the year.



The Bridging the Gaps student interns facilitated weekly health presentations for community and staff members on an array of requested topics, including cardiovascular health, oral health, sun protection, nutrition, COVID-19 guidelines and stress management. Presentations were prerecorded and uploaded to YouTube for members’ personal viewing. Slides and recordings were available via the Philadelphia Senior Center community preceptors and the site’s website. Interactive live presentations heavily engaged members in discussion about their own health beliefs and knowledge.


Intern Statements: 

Frances Calingo: “Working with the Philadelphia Senior Center this summer has been an illuminating and rewarding experience. I am passionate about breaking down barriers to health knowledge and literacy, especially in the age of COVID-19. The virtual environment has many benefits but is not accessible for many members of the senior center. I have welcomed the challenge of turning Zoom into a positive and easy platform for members. I walk away from this experience with valuable insights about telehealth group facilitation and strategies for increasing engagement on Zoom calls.”


Victoria Ramey: “The BTG CHIP program has taught me to be flexible. COVID-19 came into this world suddenly. It uprooted and changed many of our everyday activities and ways of living. The experience this summer has been challenging yet rewarding. I have discovered new communication strategies and new ways to use technology. This experience has broadened my communication skills, my learning, my teaching skills and my ability to engage with an audience.”            


Unitarian Universalist House (UUH) Outreach Program


Combating the Cardiovascular Effects of Social Isolation in Older Populations 


Student Interns:
Morgan Karcher, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions, Creative Arts in Therapy
Thomas Lucido, Drexel University College of Medicine


Academic Preceptors:
Barbara Hogan-Zarro, PhD

Vincent Zarro, MD, PhD, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions

Community Preceptor:
Roberta Balsam, MS, UUH Outreach


Community Site:
Unitarian Universalist House (UUH) Outreach helps older adults in Northwest Philadelphia remain independent in their own homes. The professional staff takes the time to fully understand each person’s situation and concerns and responds with tailored information and access to resources in the community. UUH Outreach’s key to success is its active collaboration with other service organizations, which expedites getting needed support to older adults.



The Bridging the Gaps student interns conducted a six-week program consisting of themed telephone groups involving UUH Outreach members. Discussion themes included current events, health, arts and healing, and humor and games. These groups were conducted during the global COVID-19 pandemic and the national and international social justice movement against police brutality. Topics of isolation, racial injustice and significant feelings of stress and fear, exacerbated by the COVID-19 restrictions and the public protests, emerged during these telephone groups, regardless of the planned topic or theme of the group. As social isolation, toxic stress and racism all affect overall cardiovascular health, the goal of this project was to build social connections as a way to promote physical, mental and emotional health. 


Intern Statements:
Morgan Karcher: “Working with the clients during my time at UUH Outreach has been both a fulfilling and enlightening learning experience. I was impressed by the groups’ ability to adapt to participating via the telephone, all while actively participating and building genuine connections. Facilitating these groups has highlighted the importance of conversation and active listening and helped me to further develop my skill set around prompting and facilitating difficult discussions. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of a project that has such a profound impact on those who are served, especially during this trying time in our country’s history.” 


Thomas Lucido: “I have grown so much in my ability to relate and converse with older adults. My experience with BTG has made me a better listener, something I fully intend on implementing in my future life as a physician. More than anything, I feel blessed to have been a part of a community of caring, empathetic individuals that have taught me countless life lessons.”

Philaelphia Senior Center
UUH Outreach Program
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