New Elizabethtown College program bridges gap between millennials, seniors

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ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. — A new nursing program at Elizabethtown College is teaching students that elder care is best done with a personal connection.

Through a partnership with Masonic Villages retirement community, students are learning how to care for residents firsthand through the school’s 40-hour certified nursing assistant program. If they pass, students are given a unique opportunity to work at one of Masonic’s 10 residential neighborhoods.

In order to pass, student’s must excel at direct interaction with residents, a major component of the program. Instructors say that means students are asked to strike up conversations with residents and check in on them more regularly during their visits. Because many residents are struggling will serious illnesses, the school says giving residents a chance to talk contributes to their overall well-being.

Maddie Hermann is training to be a certified nursing assistant at the school. She says she has plenty to talk about with residents who are ages 65 and older.

“It’s really easy. When you give people a chance and you just let them talk to you, it’s easy,” Hermann said.

For the last few months, she has been caring for Bill Althouse, who’s married to another resident, Gloria. They’ve been together for 69 years.

Gloria says her husband can’t speak much because of throat cancer. Still, she says they always find ways to laugh with Hermann and the staff.

“He’s not a complainer or a worrier. That’s why I have all the wrinkles – because I do all the worrying,” said Gloria.

Instructors say it’s important that students learn to directly interact with residents because it improves their quality of life.

Students are asked to keep journals that they use to express how they feel as they care for residents with serious illnesses like dementia.

“You connect with them and then sometimes that connection gets severed and you don’t necessarily get the closure of a goodbye,” Hermann said.

But Hermann says the thing she’s learned from residents like Bill and Gloria is to find the bright side — no matter what.

Click here to learn more about the program offered by Elizabethtown College. 

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