Coe College and Heritage Area Agency on Aging team up for spring term

Students talk between Stuart and Cherry on a sunny dayCoe College and Heritage Area Agency on Aging (Heritage AAA) have partnered to provide nursing students an immersive and valuable hands-on experience this spring. 
Students in the Coe Nursing Department’s Wellness in Aging course are volunteering at Encore Café this term to learn about diners’ experiences with aging firsthand. Encore Café is a senior nutrition program in Marion and Cedar Rapids operated by Heritage AAA.
The partnership began when Kelly Siems, assistant professor of nursing and the clinical coordinator in Coe’s Nursing Department, learned her mom had been volunteering at Encore Café. Seeing a unique opportunity for Wellness in Aging students to engage with seniors and better understand their perspectives, Siems put on her coordinator hat and sprang into action ahead of the spring term.
“At Coe, we value getting out into the field and the real-world experience that comes with going off campus. It allows our nursing students to apply what they’re learning, but more importantly, connect with people who need their care and company,” Siems said. “When you have such a unique location with an urban campus in an actual medical district, students are surrounded by opportunities to make a difference, and this relationship with Heritage is another great example of what’s possible at Coe.” 
Heritage AAA has a proud history of working with local colleges and universities on various programs for seniors and caregivers. The agency hopes to leverage this new partnership to hone in on local seniors’ health and wellness.
“We always say Encore Café is great because it’s about more than the food: games, live music, friendly conversation and more,” said Barbara Werning, executive director at Heritage AAA. “This partnership with Coe College takes us a step further into the overall ‘wellness’ space where we consider diners’ social and physical health. That includes socializing with younger volunteers, getting to share their knowledge and hopefully adding health screenings down the road.”
Students volunteer two days a week on a rotating basis that accommodates their schedules for the spring 2024 term. Coe nursing students have other unparalleled advantages like three full terms of preceptorships, a campus located in the MedQuarter Regional Medical District near 500+ medical providers and within walking distance of two Top 25 teaching hospitals, and instruction from the #7 Most Accessible Professors in the nation according to The Princeton Review.

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