A Stockton professor brings her students to Seashore Gardens Living Center and the results are magical.
From creative storytelling to Opening Minds Through Art, Associate Professor Megan Foti has been involved in memorable programs at Seashore Gardens Living Center (SGLC). The occupational therapy professor at Stockton University has been volunteering since 2015 and looks forward to getting back to SGLC.
“I teach the graduate level courses in the Occupational Therapy program and a couple of classes in the gerontology minor,” said Megan. “Seashore Gardens has been very supportive in helping to provide hands-on experience for my students. Whenever I had an idea, I’d call Missy Rundio, director of recreation, or Cindy Weinraub, assistant director of recreation. They were always so receptive.”\
The Stockton University Master of Science in Occupational Therapy Program is a two and one-half year entry-level professional program. As part of that program, Megan guides her students in exploring support for caregivers, telehealth/emedicine, adult learning and development, evidence-based practice. She incorporates community service learning at SGLC as part of the coursework.
Creative Engagement Through TimeSlips™
One of the first volunteer programs done by Megan and her students was TimeSlips™, a creative storytelling program for people with dementia. “You show them picture prompts and make up a story together,” she explained. “The stories focus more on imagination than on memory, which frees the residents to communicate.”
Megan became certified in the program and ran the first few groups. She surveyed her students afterward to see if their perceptions of the residents had changed. They had. As joy and laughter filled the room, connections were made and the residents ceased to be someone with dementia and more of a real person that students were getting to know.
Continuing Education at Seashore Gardens University
SGLC is filled with lifelong learners. That prompted a program called Seashore Gardens University, where Stockton University students share their knowledge in Friday afternoon “classes” that are fun and educational. Topics ranged from Women’s History Month to Therapeutic Benefits of Pets and Animals. Different student groups take turns presenting, and there is a graduation party at the end of the series.
Fostering Intergenerational Relationships
Megan teaches an undergraduate class called “Across Generations,” which is focused on intergenerational relationships. She challenged her students to come up with an activity that they would like to do with the seniors at SGLC. “In some cases, the students would plan an activity that was too juvenile and the residents would call them out on it,” said Megan. “It was a good learning experience. The students understand that it’s a two-way street in intergenerational programming.”
As part of this class, a group of first semester freshmen developed a program called Seashore Gardeners. The students facilitated the program at SGLC and did some planting with the residents. They also helped with another gardening project, ElderGrow. “This was so inspirational to the students that one, who was originally majoring in preschool education, now wants to work with older adults,” noted Megan.
Art, Crafts & Music
Many of the Stockton students do art and music with the residents. Some of Megan’s students have been involved with Opening Minds Through Art (OMA), a Scripps Gerontology Center intergenerational art program for people with dementia. OMA is aimed at promoting social engagement, autonomy and dignity through the experience of creative self-expression. These programs are so important in being able to engage the residents at SGLC, and the students are making a real difference.
The pandemic has put a damper on volunteering, but the Stockton students continue to stay involved. They run groups virtually on Wednesdays. “They’re craving as much real life as possible and want the real connections,” said Megan. “We’re eager to reconnect because I think we’ve formed such wonderful relationships at Seashore Gardens Living Center.”
“I think I spoil my students when they get to visit SGLC,” adds Megan, “because it’s just so clean and beautiful. The staff there is so great and always so involved. When things are normal again, I hope we can reconnect. I’m dying to see the residents again.”